September 22, 2002 -- It was raining reining medals for the U.S., which took
not only the team and individual golds, as expected, but the individual
silver as well.
Chapin III, a short walk from the main stadium here, hosted a wow of a
reining final before a packed house. There were supporters in each section
with their national flags, waving them at the appropriate moments. You heard
encouraging words shouted during the runs in several languages, as opposed to
just the usual western twang.
To set the mood, they played country music ("Another Tequila Sunrise") while
harrowing and watering the arena. And of course, there were lots of folks
walking around in cowboy hats, folks who weren't riding but are part of the
reining crowd, where 10-gallon headwear is the epitome of the dress code.
It's obvious reining is still in its infancy in most of the rest of the
world. Though riders from 11 countries took part in the first round last
week, with five national teams coming through to today, few looked as if they
were playing the same game as the Americans and Canadians, who were awarded
the team silver and individual bronze.
Italy took the team bronze, and that squad was not discouraged by North
America's near-monopoly on reining medals.
"Being third, following the U.S. and Canada, is like winning the
championships," said Italian reiner Adriano Meacci.
I felt a bit sorry for Tom McCutcheon, who was favored to win the individual
gold with Conquistador Whiz. He tried to put a good face on it, but he looked
blue this afternoon.
His horse popped a lead in his first run and lost three points doing it, so
he wound up with a score of 219 while teammate Shawn Flarida got a 221.5 to
win the whole thing. Tom's silver didn't come easy, either. He tied with
Canada's Shawna Sapergia, a stunning woman who looked like a crimson flower
in her team's long-sleeved red shirt with the maple leaf patch.
He and Shawna had what I've decided to call a "rein-off," where they ran the
pattern again. This time, Tom's second 219 score was good enough for silver,
while Shawna's 216.5 put her third.
Tom admitted to a little disappointment, but said the individual medals
weren't the main goal. "We came here to win the team gold and expose the
sport to a whole new group of people and try and get it to the next level, so
we have many opportunities to come and win another gold," he explained.