"We did it," said an elated Lisa Wilcox, as word came of a historic moment
for the American dressage team -- it had clinched the silver medal at the
World Equestrian Games.
The pressure was on anchor rider Lisa for this one, because Guenter Seidel
had difficulties with the temperamental Nikolaus 7 and couldn't break 70
percent during his appearance this afternoon.
Spain was threatening U.S. efforts to move up from its usual bronze, so Lisa
had to produce with the stunning chestnut stallion Relevant. Produce she did,
though Relevant tried so hard he got off balance in two piaffes, which
dropped his score to a mere 74.200 percent. Remember the era (not so long
ago) when U.S. dressage riders were thrilled at the thought of getting 70 per
I was reminiscing with U.S. Chef d'Equipe Jessica Ransehousen and show
jumping team leader Sally Ike about the first time a post-World War II U.S.
team got a dressage bronze medal, in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. We all
remembered Fiona Baan, the U.S. Equestrian Team's director of dressage
activities who had worked so hard to see the medals around the necks of her
team members, and was so proud when it actually happened. Fiona died of
cancer after that, but her spirit is still with the team she loved so much.
"Fiona's watching today," Sally said, and I agreed. She would have been
enraptured by the elaborate medal ceremony. Winners were led into the ring by
a mounted troop in 19th-century military regalia, followed by horses each
bearing two riders, a man in the saddle and a woman wearing colorful flounced
dresses seated sideways behind him. A pretty picture, but I was hoping their
horses weren't the same ones we saw in the afternoon exhibition, who were
trained to rear side-by-side in unison. I'd hate to see the gals in their
pretty outfits go sliding off.
As I continue telling you about the dressage, I want to briefly introduce
Lisa, because you may not be as familiar with her as with the other team
members, all of whom went to the selection trials in the U.S. Lisa skipped
them because she's based in Germany and shows there, where she trains with
her boyfriend, Ernst Hoyos of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Today, she
spoke of how he much he has helped her, and couldn't help shedding a tear
when she thought of his contributions to her efforts.
Lisa, by the way, looks like a fashion model. I noticed that her eye makeup
somehow was still perfect after her intense ride in the heat before thousands
of fans knowledgeable enough to gasp at Relevant's piaffe bobbles. She could
do a mascara commercial.
Her turn in the arena came right after European Champion Ulla Salzgeber, who
was the favorite for the individual title with the reliable Rusty. However,
Ulla was scored below her teammate, Nadine Capellmann, and the fabulous
Farbenfroh, my white-stockinged chestnut favorite who went before the judges
yesterday and earned 77.960 percent.
Ulla thought her horse did very well to be marked at 75.640 percent,
considering he had a high fever earlier this week and missed several days of
training. Impossibly slender, with smartly cropped black hair and a very
positive approach, Ulla said she prefers being in a come-from-behind position
and does better that way.
We'll see how she fares tomorrow in the Grand Prix Special, where she'll also
face competition from the highest-scoring American rider, Debbie McDonald,
who stands third on Brentina (74.640). Going into these Games, no one was
thinking about an individual medal for the U.S., but it's a real possibility
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