September 23, 2002 -- The United States
Equestrian Team became the first in the history of the World
Championships to win a Gold Medal in the sport of Reining on Sunday, the
final day of the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.
The U.S. squad received a combined score of 657.5 points in the final
round. Canada captured their first WEG Medal with Silver scoring 650
and Italy took the Bronze with 646 points.
Individually, Shawn Flarida of Springfield, OH, riding San Jo Freckles,
owned by Michael Harper, was crowned the first ever World Reining
Champion with a score of 221.5. The Silver Medal was won in a run-off
by Tom McCutcheon of Pilot Point, TX, riding Conquistador Whiz, owned by
George Shifrin, and the Bronze went to Shawna Sapergia of Canada, who
also became the first and only woman to win a World Championship medal.
The other two U.S. riders performed well enough to finish in the top
ten. Craig Schmersal of Menifee, CA riding Tidal Wave Jack, owned by
the B.S. Syndicate, just missed the Bronze for a fourth place score of
217. Scott McCutcheon of Whiteboro, TX, and Inwhizable, owned by
Inwhizable Partners, finished in eighth with 216.
The top five teams from the Qualifier, plus five additional individuals,
moved on to Sunday's World Championship final with a clean slate. The
U.S. went last as the highest place team.
By the time the first U.S. rider entered the arena, Canada was in first
and Italy stood second with impressive team scores. The pressure was on
for the Americans.
Craig Schmersal bested his ride from the qualifying round to give the
U.S. team a good start.
"It felt awesome," said Schmersal. "I felt little pressure because I
knew the team would back me if something went wrong, but my horse went
great today. This experience was so much more than I expected. We were
treated so well and the support team was awesome."
Scott McCutcheon was second in the line-up and had a little trouble when
Inwhizable pulled a shoe early in the pattern, but still received a good
enough score to take some pressure off the remaining two riders.
"I wanted to turn Inwhizable loose and let him go," said McCutcheon.
"If he was on he would win a medal, if not I had three great mates to
carry me. It didn't work because my horse pulled a shoe and wasn't
confident with his stops after that, but it was fine. It was fun to see
my brother do so well.
Scott's younger brother Tom went last for the U.S. as the highest place
rider but had a little mistake that cost him.
"I went a little hard and made a mistake," said Tom. "If I went softer
I would have had second anyway and I would rather go down trying. I had
to push because Shawn just put in a great run."
Shawn Flarida went third for the team and could not believe his good
fortune. San Jo Freckles gave an outstanding performance to give them
"It still hasn't sunk in yet," said Flarida. "I was really pleased with
my horse. It was a lot of fun out there. I have been riding since a
little boy, so something like this is really special."
USET Chef d'Equipe Jeff Petska was pleased with the team and with his
experience as a USET representative.
"The guys were a pleasure to watch," said Petska. "Each one did what he
had to do and rose to the occasion even when the pressure was on. I am
so happy to be here to represent the U.S. It's an honor to be a part of
the experience, to see the U.S. flag raised and to hear our anthem."
The United States Equestrian Team is a non-profit organization that
selects, trains, equips and finances equestrians of the highest possible
standard to represent our country in major international competition,
including the Olympic Games and the World Championships. To accomplish
this, the USET seeks out and nurtures the development of talented
athletes - riders, drivers, vaulters and horses - and provides the
support and guidance they need to help them attain their fullest
For more information on the USET, please call (908)
234-1251, or visit USET ONLINE at www.uset.org.