September 25, 2002 -- The United States
Equestrian Team (USET) made history at the 2002 World Equestrian Games
in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, September 11-22. U.S. riders, drivers
and vaulters won a total of eight medals, doubling the U.S.'s best
The final tally for the U.S. was three Gold, three Silver and two Bronze
medals, by far the best U.S. performance at any World Equestrian Games.
U.S. teams won World Championship medals in six of the seven
disciplines, doing better than any country, including France, who won
seven medals in four disciplines, and Germany, who did win nine medals,
but in only three disciplines.
"This is a proud moment for all Americans," said USET President Armand
Leone, Jr. "Not only does this record-setting performance speak volumes
about the ability, dedication and hard work of our athletes and their
support staff, but it is also a tribute to the many thousands of
Americans whose contributions to the USET helped provide the resources
needed to put our athletes in a position to get the job done."
With a combined score of 657.5 points, the U.S. reining team of Shawn
Flarida of Springfield, OH riding San Jo Freckles, owned by Michael
Harper; brothers Tom McCutcheon of Pilot Point, TX riding Conquistador
Whiz, owned by George Shifrin, and Scott McCutcheon of Whiteboro, TX
riding Inwhizable, owned by Inwhizable partners; and Craig Schmersal of
Menifee, CA, who rode Tidal Wave Jack, owned by B.S. Syndicate, won the
first-ever reining World Championship and became the first reining World
Champions in history.
Individually, Flarida emerged as the first-ever individual World Reining
Champion with a score of 221.5 points. Tom McCutcheon won the Silver
Medal after winning a run-off with Shawna Sapergia of Canada.
With pride and gratitude for the Gold Medal he wore around his neck,
Craig Schmersal offered words of praise for the USET. "The support they
gave was incredible," he said. "They made the experience more than I
could have ever expected. I never thought I'd be treated so well at a
Tom McCutcheon echoed Schmersal's sentiment. "I can't thank the USET
enough for what they did for us. This was a great occasion for the
sport of reining."
Also emerging as World Champions were the members of the U.S. eventing
squad who made their trip to the World Equestrian Games worthy of
worldwide attention by winning the team Gold Medal. The members of the
U.S. Gold Medal eventing team were David O'Connor of The Plains, VA
riding Giltedge, owned by Jacqueline Mars, Christa Badger and Jonathan
Ireland; Kim Vinoski-Severson of Scottsville, VA riding Winsome Adante
owned by Linda Wachtmeister and Plain Dealing Farm; Amy Tryon of
Redmond, WA on her Poggio II; and John Williams of Middleburg, VA,
riding his horse Carrick.
After the dressage phase of competition, the U.S. stood in second place
with a score of 111.80 penalties. However, the U.S. was second to the
favored team from Great Britain for only one night. After the second
phase of competition, the cross country, the U.S. had the top spot with
a two-phase score of 147.40.
The Gold Medal came down to the final phase, the show jumping, where
Sydney Olympic Gold Medalist and WEG Team Captain David O'Connor had the
team's only clear round. O'Connor was one of only eight out of the 47
who competed who went clear. He ended up with a score of 64.60 penalties
which put him in tenth place.
Tryon showed true team spirit by participating in the final phase after
a fall on cross-country that left her a bit sore. However, she did not
show her pain, having only one rail down and giving the team a good head
start as the first U.S. rider for the day. Vinoski-Severson knocked
three rails down, but still finished a strong sixth overall with a score
of 57.80. More importantly, she kept the U.S. team in the game.
Williams and Carrick entered the ring with more pressure than anyone
should have at their first World Championship. As the leader, Williams
performed last. The pair had two rails in hand, but the course of
sixteen efforts was not easy. While Williams did have four rails for
sixteen faults which dropped him out of the medals, he still finished an
impressive fourth with a score of 53.00, and more importantly helped to
give the United States the team Gold!
"I was thrilled," Williams said. "We all came here thinking about team
medals, not individual, and I am delighted to be part of the World
The U.S. dressage squad captured the team Silver Medal with a combined
score of 5527 points. Germany won the team Gold with a score of 5642
and Spain took the Bronze with 5403. The finish marked the best finish
ever for a United States dressage team in any World Championship or
The U.S. squad consisted of Debbie McDonald of Hailey, ID on Brentina,
owned by Perry & Peggy Thomas; Lisa Wilcox of Thousand Oaks, CA riding
Relevant, owned by Gundula Vorwerk and Dr. Claus Crone-Munzebrock; Susan
Blinks of Wellington, FL, riding Flim Flam, owned by Fritz Kundrun and
Dressage Sponsor Corporation and Guenter Seidel of Del Mar, CA on
Nikolaus 7, owned by Dick and Jane Brown.
Individually, the U.S. dressage riders also turned in this country's
best performance in history. McDonald and Brentina finished fourth by
the slimmest of margins with a score of 233.460 (82.700). Wilcox,
riding Relevant, was right behind in fifth place with a score of 232.530
(82.650). Never before has the U.S. placed two riders in the top five
in a dressage World Championship.
McDonald felt that she and her teammates, in all disciplines, were able
to perform so well because of the back-up and support provided by the USET.
"The USET was fabulous," she said. "Jim Wolf, Jessica Ransehousen,
Marilyn Adams - all of them were running like crazy doing everything for
us. They were there for us every single minute. Never once did we have
to go looking for them. They took care of all the details so we could
focus on our goals, and they were key in our being able to come home
with a medal. Quite simply, we couldn't have done it without the USET."
The United States Four-In-Hand team of Jimmy Fairclough of Newton, NJ
driving a team owned by Fairclough and Jane Forbes Clark; Chester Weber
of Ocala, FL, driving his team; and Tucker Johnson of Hobe Sound, FL
driving a team he co-owns with Mr. and Mrs. James Johnson, also made
history in Spain when they won the team Silver Medal. Prior to the 2002
World Equestrian Games, the best finish the U.S. had ever had at a
Four-In-Hand World Championship was fourth place in 1984 and 1986.
At the conclusion of the opening dressage phase, the United States was
in first place with 78.72 penalties. After the marathon, the United
States drivers were in second place with a two-phase score of 286.52
penalties. All three drivers on the U.S. team went clear in the
concluding cones phase to finish with a three-phase score of 286.52
penalties to give the U.S. its first-ever Four-In-Hand medal. In close
contention for an individual medal, Tucker Johnson finished fourth
individually and Weber was just behind in fifth.
Johnson, whose top finish by a U.S. driver earned him a record sixth
USET Four-In-Hand Championship, credited the USET for the driving team's
best performance ever in a Four-In-Hand World Championship. "The USET
made a huge effort to support us and that made a big difference," he said.
Fairclough also acknowledged the USET's role in the drivers'
medal-winning performance. "We owe a big thanks to the USET for letting
us train at Gladstone prior to coming over here. That made a big
difference in how well prepared we were at this event."
While the show jumping squad of Leslie Howard of Westport, CT riding
Priobert De Kalvarie owned by Higher Ground Farm; Nicole
Shahinian-Simpson of Westlake Village, CA riding El Campeon's Cirka Z
owned by El Campeon Farm; Peter Wylde of Medfield, MA, riding Fein Cera
owned by the Fein Cera group; and Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, NY, riding
Judgement owned by Iron Spring Farm, just missed a team medal, Wylde did
win the individual Bronze, the first individual World Championship medal
by a U.S. show jumper since Michael Matz won the Bronze in 1978.
Wylde was the first U.S. show jumping rider to qualify for the Final
Four since Greg Best and Gem Twist qualified in 1990 at the first World
Equestrian Games held in Stockholm, Sweden. Qualifying to ride in the
Final Four meant that Wylde had to jump the final course not only on his
own horse, but also on each of the other three competitors' horses as
well. Wylde's horse, Fein Cera, the only horse with no knockdowns with
any rider in the final phase, was named the "Best Horse" of the
In the team show jumping, the U.S. finished sixth after an
exciting Nations Cup which saw the U.S. still in medal contention when
its final rider entered the ring. Had two-time Olympic medalist Leslie
Howard gone clean, the U.S. would have won the team Bronze. Although
Howard's two rails dropped the team to sixth, the long-time USET veteran
felt the team's showing in Jerez was a good one.
"I think all our riders rode well," she said, "and we showed that we're
right there with the world's best. Peter's medal meant a lot to all of
us and we conducted ourselves as a true team in every way.
"We really owe a big thank you to Sally Ike and the USET who were there
for us every step of the way. They provided great support for the
athletes in all the disciplines."
For the first time the USET had responsibility for vaulting and sent a
team to the 2002 World Equestrian Games. Devon Maitozo of Acton, CA,
won the individual Bronze Medal in the men's division with a score of
8.612. The best U.S. finisher in the women's division was Pamela
Geisler of Diamond Bar, CA who finished in eighth position with a score
of 8.209. In the team competition, the U.S. vaulting squad, F.A.C.E. of
Moorpark, CA, finished in fifth place.
"I have never worked with an organization like the USET who was there to
help - and really did help - the competitors," said vaulter Eric
Martonovich of Golden, CO. "It was wonderful! We couldn't have done it
without them. They were all just so helpful. I have never felt more
supported in anything I've tried to do."
In endurance, the U.S. squad finished in fifth place overall. The three
U.S. riders that completed the race were Beverly Gray of Park City, UT,
who placed 19th on her Regalidon in a ride time of 11:05:20; Cia Reis of
Pennsdale, PA, who was 31st riding Catch A Wave, owned by Alex and Cia
Reis, in 11:43:05; and Stephen Rojek of Woodstock, VT who finished 32nd
on his Finally in a ride time of 11:43:06.
Overall, the 2002 World Equestrian Games showed that when it comes to
equestrian sports, the United States is second to none. The U.S. was
the only country to medal in six of the seven disciplines. In the team
championships, the U.S. placed first in two, second in two, fifth in two
and sixth in one. In the individual championships, the U.S. had an
individual finish fourth or better in six of the seven disciplines
including one first place, one second, two thirds, four fourths and two
As USET Chef de Mission Jim Wolf said, "Everyone came here believing in
themselves. They felt they could do well and they did!"
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.