FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
By Nancy Jaffer
Beezie Madden added another bronze medal to her collection at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games today by taking third place in the hotly contested "Final Four" for the World Championship show jumping title.
As a bonus, her mount, Abigail Wexner's Cortes C, was named Best Horse of the Finals. The 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood by Randel Z was the only horse who had no faults throughout today's competition, which involved each rider competing on their own horse over Frederic Cottier's abbreviated eight-obstacle course, then switching onto every other rider's horse to go over the fences again.
Although the winner, 2000 Olympic individual gold medalist Jeroen Dubbeldam of the Netherlands, had zero penalties, he enjoyed little margin for error, as silver medalist Patrice Delaveau racked up only a single time fault.
New show jumping world champion Jeroen Dubbeldam of the Netherlands, flanked by silver medalist Patrice Delaveau of
France and the USA's Beezie Madden, who won the bronze
Photo Copyright 2014 by Nancy Jaffer
Madden did not have it easy either.
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden, the fourth rider in the group, dropped a rail at the C element of the triple combination with his own horse, Casall Ask. When Beezie got on Casall Ask, the B element of the triple came down. She had a little breathing room, however, as in the second round, Bengtsson toppled C again, this time with Dubbeldam's ride, Zenith SFN, and added two time penalties as well.
In the third round, the triple continued to be troublesome for Madden, with a rail at the C element on Zenith. Bengtsson, however, toppled the last fence on Delaveau's Orient Express.
Going into the final round, Bengtsson had 14 penalties, while Madden had 8.
Delaveau finished his Final Four experience with a fault-free trip on Zenith. Dubbeldam was on Casall--would the horse drop a rail for him, too? The answer was no, and after crossing the finish line, Dubbeldam, who was part of his country's gold-medal team earlier in the week, celebrated his title by punching the air and galloping past the crowd as soon as he landed fault-free.
But the suspense remained even after the gold medalist secured his title. Bengtsson was fault-free on Cortes, leaving him with 14 penalties. Madden, starting off on Delaveau's Orient Express, had the B element of the triple down. With three more jumps to go, d'Ornano Stadium went quiet.
Would Madden keep her placing or wind up as the lone member of the Final Four who had to go home without an individual medal? Always cool, Madden just kept riding and made it through the finish with no more penalties. She had 12 faults to take the medal, making it a pair with the USA's team bronze that was earned earlier in the week.
Beezie Madden and Cortes C, who won the title of Best Horse in
the final four show jumping world championships at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games
Photo Copyright 2014 by Nancy Jaffer
Asked about her feelings when the rail toppled during her final tour, she replied, "Since the triple was my nemesis the whole time, I thought, `Well, that's over with.' And I just tried to bring it home clear. The horse gave me a great feeling over most of the fences, so I was just trying to keep it together. I knew he was a quick horse so I didn't have to worry too much about the time allowed, because even if I had a time fault, I would have been OK."
It was a special week for the United States because two riders finished in the top five. McLain Ward just missed the cut for the Final Four by 0.31 penalties with Rothchild, who had two clear rounds in the top-29 competition on Saturday. To recognize his efforts, he was given a ribbon in a special presentation for the double-clears, a group that included Dubbeldam, Irish teen Bertram Allen on Molly Malone and Delaveau.
That award didn't quite make up for not being part of the Final Four, of course, something that has eluded Ward during his stellar career.
Interestingly, the four horses involved basically were similar and rather orthodox, a word that couldn't be used to describe Rothchild. Ward noted that the plucky chestnut can be quirky and might have added another wrinkle to th e Final Four contest. Despite his foibles, Rothchild is special to Ward.
"Rothchild has taught me a lot of lessons," he said. "He's taught me about meeting a horse in the middle, about believing in a horse and seeing the best and then it comes up. I really like this horse, aside from the ring. If he were a person, I'd go have a beer with him."
The Final Four was the last competition of the WEG, which drew 560,000 people from Aug. 23 through today. Though there were a number of logistical problems, the sport itself was top-notch. It showcased the best performance by a U.S. show jumping team at a global championship since the squad earned the 2008 Olympic gold medal in Hong Kong.