October 4, 2010 -- Oh, my. Mild headache here. I went to the International tent after the eventing medal ceremonies. I had a sip of champagne and congratulated the British team. and spent the rest of the night sitting at a table with some of the U.S. contingent, drinking a horrible bourbon-flavored beer and basically playing "what if?" No matter how many times we watched the replays on the big screen in the tent, we couldn't make it come out differently. didn't matter how much we drank. (Did I mention I tried a bourbon-flavored beer last night? Umph.) The Brits won their team and individual medals fair and square, and they looked like a million bucks doing it.
Gina Miles was at the party, and told me that she has a new 3*** horse. I told her I was thrilled at the news, but not to lose sight of Michael Jung's performance here. Michael and Sam have created the new paradigm for 21st century eventing.
When I teach clinics I tell people how to win every event they ever go into. You can bet they perk up at the news. "It's simple," I say, "all you have to do is get the lowest dressage score, go clean and fast across country, then leave all the show jumping rails up and cross the finish line inside the time. If you do that, I guarantee you will win." The crowd always laughs, but they get pretty quiet when I add "and there are riders around the world who are capable of that, and there's no way to beat them." That's right folks, all you have to do is win every phase, and the next gold medal is yours. I promise.
What we have to do is wake up this morning and make a commitment that we are going to improve our sport, and our international program. I am not saying everything is OK right now. The U.S. team is at a low point--we have to admit it. My heart goes out to all our riders, and to coach Mark Phillips. The looks on their faces last night were enough to make you cry.
Vince Lombardi said, "The quality of a person's life is determined by their commitment to excellence in their chosen field of endeavor." On that basis, I can see the future, and it looks good to me. No doubt things are bleak right now, but I have been here before. I am telling you right now we will be back, and we will be better than ever.
I hope you have enjoyed these blogs as much as I have enjoyed writing them. I will see you at Fair Hill, but in the meantime, goodbye from Lexington.
Jim Wofford has represented the U.S. in eventing at three Olympics and two World Championships; he has won the U.S. National Championship five times on five different horses. As a coach, he has had at least one student on every U.S. Olympic, World Championship and Pan American team since 1978. He is a regular columnist for Practical Horseman magazine.
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