Lexington, KY - The Combined Driving Championships came to an exciting conclusion today with the United States taking the Team Silver medal and Tucker Johnson winning his first ever individual medal, the Bronze. The Netherlands maintained their lead after yesterday's marathon to earn the Team Gold and Germany won the Team Bronze. Boyd Exell (AUS) took the Individual Gold and Isjbrand Chardon (NED) was the Individual Silver medalist.
It was a hard fought battle with only four drivers going double clear through the Cones. After a lengthy time delay due to technical problems with the timers, Chester Weber was first to go for the U.S. Team and set the bar high. He turned in the first double clear round of the day in just 200.42, a pace that could not be beaten. Driving his team of warmblood geldings, Weber made light work of the Richard Nicoll designed course and was foot perfect through all the Cones.
"It's a nice way to finish, if you leave the World Games with a Team medal you're going to be happy," said Weber.
Following right after Weber was teammate Jimmy Fairclough who also laid down a double clear round to finish second the Cones phase, just three seconds off Weber's pace. Fairclough's first World Championships was in 1980 and his experience showed as he guided his team through the technically demanding course. "After 12 D I was nine seconds behind the time I wanted so I really had to go from there to the finish to make the time allowed," said Fairclough.
Last to go for the U.S. was Johnson, who went into the ring with one ball in hand for an Individual medal. Known for his prowess in the final phase Johnson drove the course smoothly, although he had an unfortunate ball down at 17 he finished with no time penalties.
"The horses were easy and I regained my composure after that one little moment at 17. I've contributed to a Team Gold in 1991 and a Team Silver in 2002, it feels good to get the Silver again, they [Weber and Fairclough] made the job easy today," said Johnson.
This was Johnson's final appearance representing the U.S. as he has announced his retirement from driving competitively. Johnson is the first American to win an Individual Driving medal since the World Equestrian Games' inception in 1990.
"To be able to hold it together enough to take home a Bronze means everything to me as I've come to the end of my competitive driving career. It didn't end perfect, I had a ball down, but I think that makes my total ball count in 25 years of World Championships around five, all in all it felt good."
This marks the second Team Silver medal at a World Equestrian Games for Weber, Fairclough and Johnson, having accomplished the feat together at the 2002 Jerez, Spain Games.
Moving up two spots after the Cones, Josh Rector was the highest ranked U.S. Individual in 16th place. Also completing the competition for the U.S. was Gary Stover (18th), Mike McLennan (19th) and Cindy O'Reilly (20th). Casey Zubek and Bill Long were eliminated in the marathon.
Photos: U.S. Drivers. U.S. Driving Team Wins Silver. Photos by Shannon Brinkman for USEF.