WEG blog: interviewing eventers in the “playpen for journalists”

  • I’ve been bouncing up and down like a jack-in-the-box this morning. We’ve got wireless internet here in the stands of the main stadium at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, so I’ve mostly been watching the eventing dressage from behind my computer while swapping emails with the office and testing my maths working out the medal table.

    When the Brits go, I move forward to a prime position and if I want to interview anyone, it’s a quick walk after their test out the back of the stand and down a path to the “mixed zone”. Thing is, so many people have done well this morning I’ve wanted to speak to lots of them, so it’s been a busy few hours.

    The “mixed zone” is basically a playpen for journalists. We’re confined behind a crowd barrier and then the riders are brought to us for interview after their tests. The idea is to prevent us from roving about at large and causing trouble by quizzing riders at inappropriate moments.

    You have to admire riders’ patience. The form for the mixed zone is that TV goes first, then radio with us print/web journalists listening in, then we get to chat further. Yesterday afternoon there were two different TV stations present, plus two radio journalists, which means the top riders have to give four full interviews, starting again each time and trying to remember what they’ve said in each one.

    Some of the riders even manage to talk in several languages. William Fox-Pitt was giving interviews in fluent French yesterday — that man makes me feel like such an underachiever — while the German and Swedish riders are obliging about answering questions in English. Our new leader, Italian Stefano Brecciaroli, has passable English, with a little help from his chef d’equipe, British-born Katherine Lucheschi.

    The Brits are in team bronze after three riders, and I’m happy enough with that. We’re biding our time. I always expected the Germans to lead the dressage and before the start I feared the Australians as our other main contender for gold, although they are weakened by the loss of Megan Jones’s Kirby Park Irish Jester.

    Swede currently holds the silver and I have to admit this has surprised me. When Linda Algotsson went yesterday, I thought they’d sent their big gun out first and would drop back as time went on, but Niklas Jonsson and Niklas Lindbäck have both impressed too. The question now is, can they stand up to the weight of the leading nations on tomorrow’s cross-country? I’m going to stick my neck out and say no — go on Sweden, prove me wrong!

    Despite Britain’s European dominance — last year was Britain’s eighth team gold in a row at that championship — it’s 16 years since our last world team gold, with the victory of the golden girls at The Hague. Tina Cook and Mary King were both in that team too — can they, Nicola Wilson and William Fox-Pitt reproduce that medal? I’ll be cheering on Mary and Imperial Cavalier (quietly, obviously, there’s no whooping during dressage, unlike reining…) this afternoon for everyone back home.

    Log back on for more updates on the eventing, full report in H&H out 7 October.

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