Aachen, Germany, August 27, 2006 -- Sometimes people do get what they deserve, and it finally happened to eventer Amy Tryon today at the World Equestrian Games (WEG), where she moved up from seventh place to claim the individual bronze medal after putting in a perfect show jumping trip.
Often unsung, Amy has been a true team player, always just a step or two outside of the spotlight. She's gotten a bunch of medals, including the gold at the 2002 WEG, but they were all team awards.
This one was just for her. True to form, however, she said she missed her teammates and felt lonely at the medal ceremony after they had one too many rails down and lost the team bronze to Australia by a mere 8/10ths of a point.
Amy Tryon's feelings on winning an individual medal.
Amy was the only American who could manage a clear trip over Frank Rothenberger's long and demanding course that took its toll on even such top riders as Bettina Hoy, who dropped out of the silver medal position with two rails dislodged by Ringwood Cockatoo, but that didn't affect Germany's team standing.
The home nation was favored for the team gold won by the U.S. at the 2002 WEG, and it didn't disappoint its many supporters in the main stadium, who got to hear yet another rendition of the German anthem. Germany was 24 penalties ahead of silver medal Great Britain, which in turn was 17.3 in front of Australia.
Mark Phillips, the U.S. coach, noted that for his squad, losing by less than one penalty point is "tough, really really tough."
"I'd rather get beaten by 20 or 30 marks (penalty points) because then you've been beaten by truly a better outfit on the day," said Mark, as the German national anthem played (again) in the background. "I'm starting to think it's their Muzak."
"You've got a lot of competitive riders here and young athletes. They will be going home and saying, 'Where could I have saved one mark in this competition?'" he said. "Trust me, all of them will have one place where they could have done, and they'll all be beating themselves up because they could have made the difference."
Mark, as he has been recently, is not cheery about our prospects in other championships if things stay as they are.
"When you look toward Lexington 2010 (the next WEG) and London 2012 (the Olympics); when you see the horses we've got at the moment, our cupboard is bare," he warned. "And when you see the standard of some of the horses here and see what we've got, the USA has got to get shopping big time if Lexington 2010 is not going to be a huge disappointment."
But let's enjoy the moment, Mark. Someone who is very special got an individual bronze. Amy, the pathfinder for the team here who finished on her dressage score of 50.7, is a humble soul who doesn't like to talk about what she's done. Recently retired as a firefighter, she used to bank vacation by working holidays for the others in her crew so she could get blocks of time to take off for competition.
I saw her husband, Greg, after the medal presentation and asked for his view of what happened today.
"It's fairly amazing," he told me. "This is the little horse that could. Today was kind of strangely calm, she was calm and he was calm and they went out and did their jobs. We were disappointed in the team score. We wish we'd done better but I know she's excited that Poggi's by himself now. It brings tears to my eyes when I talk about him."
During the medal ceremonies, it poured rain, but then the sun came out. I draw a parallel between sorrow over the loss of the team medal and joy that Amy finally was recognized in a big way.
Although the team would have liked to take home a medal, Mark was happy that fourth place qualifies the U.S. to compete in the 2008 Olympics.
"Now Poggi doesn't have to go to Brazil," said Amy, referring to the Pan American Games in 2007, the last qualifier for the Hong Kong Olympics in 2008.
The individual gold went to Zara Phillips of the British squad, and there was quite a story behind that. A week ago today, her friend, former World Young Riders Champion Sherrelle Duke, died instantly when her mount fell on her at a fence in a British horse trials.
Sherrelle, an Irish eventer, introduced Zara (who, like Cher, is known by one name) to her boyfriend, British footballer Mike Tindall, and the two were quite close. Zara--and indeed, the entire British and Irish teams--wore red and white ribbons, Sherrelle's stable colors, on their jackets in remembrance of her.
Zara said she wanted to win the gold for her late friend, and dedicated the effort to her.
"To do what she did with that eating away inside her was quite an outstanding achievement in my book," said family friend Mike Tucker, an eventing official and commentator who had talked previously with Zara about the loss.
Zara (who has a reputation for being late) nearly missed her medal by being tardy. She entered the arena as the mostly German crowd erupted for one of their own, Bettina Hoy, who had just finished her round. So Zara didn't hear the bell, and the 45-second clock that goes when the signal to start is given was already ticking. People started yelling at Zara to ride through the start line. The group of prompters included her mother, Princess Anne, and Mark, her father. Finally, she got going two seconds late. She also was being careful, and wound up with a time penalty as a result. But she still had a 2.8-penalty margin over Clayton Fredericks of Australia, clean on Ben Along Time, who was just 1.9 penalties ahead of Amy.
Bettina seems to be cursed when it comes to individual medals. She lost both the individual and team gold at the 2004 Olympics when she went through the starting line twice, and here, she lost an individual medal because of those two fences.
Switching trains of thought, I meant to mention at some point in my eventing write-ups about Glengarrick, a 20-year-old horse whose 53.8-penalty score was the best on the sixth-place New Zealand team (I told you they wouldn't get a medal...). Isn't it amazing that he has hung in there so long? That's a thoroughbred for you, and as the owner of an older horse, it makes me feel great!
Tomorrow is jumper training day, so I won't be sending you an article. Don't worry, I'm not going to be vacationing; I have plenty to do. So just check back with me on Tuesday when show jumping gets under way, and I'll fill you in.
Visit EquiSearch's WEG section for more stories, blogs and online diaries, and chat about the WEG with fellow fans in the EquiSearch Forum.
Plus, don't miss Jim Wofford's entertaining online diaries as he follows the WEG eventing action.