September 22, 2002 -- The show jumping "final four" competition for the
individual medals was as exciting as ever. Three mares against one stallion,
three men against one woman. Helena Lundback, the bubbly Swedish rider who
couldn't believe she made the cut, wound up where she probably figured she
would. Although Helena was out of the medals, her mare was a key player in
how the prizes were distributed. Every rider -- including Helena -- had a
knockdown with the 15.3-hand bay, a plucky thing whose spring off the ground
belied her stature.
By the second round, Helena was sunk by three knockdowns on Liscalgot, the
ride of Ireland's Dermott Lennon, while France's Eric Navet and Peter each
had a rail. Everyone but Dermott added to their tab in the third round, so
the destination of the gold was a foregone conclusion. Dermott was second to
go in the final round, and with only the one knockdown on Mynta, he had
secured the top prize event before Helena and Eric took their turns.
The 10-obstacle course was just testing enough to get the measure of the
riders' abilities, without overtaxing obviously tired horses. Peter's
knockdown in the final round with Liscalgot relegated him to the bronze after
Eric Navet ended with no faults on Fein Cera, who was named Best Horse of the
final. She had no jumping faults with any rider, actually, and just three
time penalties with Helena.
"I'll take some of the credit that she's really well-trained, but she's a
beautiful horse," Peter said proudly. This week, he expects to know whether
the 22-year-old American amateur (identity being witheld) who is interested
in buying her will close the deal. He's been told he can ride the mare
through the World Cup finals in Las Vegas next spring, but he's also looking
for a way to find someone to buy Fein Cera for him.
Dermott drew on his background (and a morning viewing of videos of the other
horses) to earn his title.
"I rode a lot of young horses at home. It's only three years ago that I had
one for bigger classes," said Dermott, who grew up in Northern Ireland. "So I
learned to ride on all sorts of horses. At the shows in Ireland, we used to
take a lorry-load every week, and also, going and trying horses and trying to
buy from different yards."
It's a story I've heard many times before from successful horsemen; you have
to ride a lot of horses to learn everything it takes to do well on the
Irish team spokesman Colin McClelland noted the Irish (like the U.S. team)
did not qualify for the 2004 Olympics on the basis of their performance here,
but said, "We are absolutely delighted that Dermott has won the Gold Medal,
and also that three Irish riders made it through to the Top 10 in the world."
They're confident of obtaining qualification "but at the moment, Ireland is
extremely proud of Dermott, the first rider in our long history ever to have
achieved World Championship gold."
The U.S. Equestrian Team had its own distinction here. It medaled in six of
seven disciplines and got eight medals for its biggest international haul
ever. "Everyone gave 110 percent, not just the riders, drivers and horses,
but also the owners, grooms and staff," said Jim Wolf, the team's chef de
mission at the WEG. "Everyone came here believing in themselves, that they
could win medals, and they did it."