September 21, 2002 -- I have been writing about the possibility of a U.S.
four-in-hand medal for years, a period in which it has been as elusive as
Bigfoot, and, I feared at times, just as unlikely ever to appear.
But the team of Tucker Johnson, Chester Weber and Jimmy Fairclough made
everyone into believers today at the World Equestrian Games as they took
America's first medal in their sport. And it was a silver, yet
The stars were lined up right from the beginning here, when the team led in
dressage. Some hiccups on the marathon put the Americans second, behind the
Dutch, but luckily, the standings didn't change today in the cones as all
three U.S. drivers delivered perfect trips.
As the morning wore on, it was obvious the cones course was not going to be a
factor in the placings. The level grass field meant there was no terrain to
cope with, as Jimmy pointed out, and 12 of 40 drivers went double clean, like
all our guys.
So everything was status quo. Ijsbrand Chardon of Holland, a former world
champion, took the individual gold again, and his nation has won more gold
medals in the sport than any other.
Chardon was incredibly emotional after clinching his medal, putting his head
in his hands at first, then sharing his joy with everyone on the carriage,
and after that, with the crowd. He must have thought he'd never get here,
having lost a horse at Aachen when it broke a leg during the vet inspection,
and had a horse in his team hurt in Breda. But he borrowed a horse from Dutch
driver Ad Aarts to compete here.
The secret of his success?
"No secret," he said. "It's extremely hard work."
And as for the cones course being too easy, he disagreed. "It was not so
simple to go in as the last competitor," he said. "It was difficult enough to win."
Tucker, who wound up fourth, just shy of an individual medal, said he had
hoped the team could win gold. "I feel like I didn't live up to what I had to
offer to provide that, but I did the best I could," Tucker said.
Still, he and the others were thrilled with silver, and hope it can do good
things for the sport in this country.
"Hopefully, it will inspire others to make the transition to four-in-hand
driving from either other disciplines or from the more beginning levels of
singles and pairs," said Tucker.
"It is possible. It just requires a measure of commitment."