January 15th, 2012 -- America's top-rated show jumper on the international rankings, McLain Ward, suffered a compound fracture of his patella in a fall during the $30,000 Surpass Grand Prix at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida last night.
His mount, Oh D'Eole,? swerved into a pillar on the left side of the second element of a combination and fell. The mare, with whom McLain won the WEF class on Thursday, is fine.
The news was doubly shocking because it happened a little more than three months before the Olympic trials. McLain, number three in the world and with two Olympic team golds to his credit, naturally is regarded as a major player and had been an odds-on favorite to make the squad for this summer's London Games. Ironically, his 2004 and 2008 Olympic mount, Sapphire, has returned to work after being off the circuit for most of last year. He also was planning to compete Antares F in the trials.
Don't count him out yet, though. He was operated on after the accident by team physician Craig Ferrell, a brilliant orthopedist who happened to be visiting in Wellington. That was a piece of good luck on a bad night for McLain. And the? 35-year-old rider is in great shape, which will help the healing process. He will pursue physical therapy with dedication.
If McLain misses the trials, he can still make the team with good performances in observation competitions that continue in the late spring.
Everyone at the U.S. Equestrian Federation annual meeting was stunned when word of the accident came during the Pegasus awards dinner.
However, those who know McLain believe he still has a shot at the Olympics.
"He's the ultimate competitor. He's not going to let this get him down. He's as disciplined a person as I know," said Sally Ike, the USEF's managing director of show jumping. "He will do whatever it takes to get back."