Sunday at an eventing championship is always a rollercoaster of emotions. Except of course, at this World Equestrian Games (WEG), it wasn’t Sunday. Because of Hurricane Florence delays, Sunday turned into Monday.
This left us all very confused. All the shorthand we like to use had gone. Was “the overnight leader” now the “the overnights leader”?
Anyway. We had a Hurricane Sunday — as it will now be known — and then we went back to Tryon to “finish this thing”, as discipline director Jim Wolf put it.
I was feeling fairly confident. The Brits had two in hand for team gold and they were all riding good showjumpers. I was thrilled for the Irish too — I may be British, but I’m married to an Irishmen. Sadly, I’d had to rip off my WEG nails during Hurricane Sunday as they were driving me nuts, but the allegiances were still there.
Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul’s three down were disappointing, but shouldn’t matter if everyone else did their jobs. Tom McEwen’s Toledo De Kerser is an exceptional showjumper and Piggy French’s Quarrycrest Echo also has a good record. I hoped for two clears, expected maybe one of them might have a pole. That would leave Ros Canter and Allstar B one in hand to secure team gold — she shouldn’t need it, but any horse can have four faults.
I did not expect both Tom and Piggy both to have a fence down. This is my sixth senior eventing championship as a reporter and I’ve never been one of those who says, “I just can’t watch.” It’s my job to watch and to stay cool enough to write down who has what fences down, how the horses are going. But there was a moment when Quarrycrest Echo started giving Piggy a tricky ride when I had to look away from the screen because I thought I might be sick.
Tom and Piggy were both obviously and understandably gutted when they came into the mixed zone; Piggy couldn’t even speak. I led off both interviews by saying I didn’t know whether to say well done or bad luck. Four faults is hardly bad, but it wasn’t what Britain wanted at that moment.
Sarah Ennis’ single fence down for Ireland gave Ros a fence in hand to secure the team gold, which made watching her slightly less stressful. Ros’ ride was incredibly assured and once it was over, the relief came in waves.
I was totally relaxed watching Ingrid Klimke, “the overnights leader”. Team gold and individual silver for Britain, team silver and an individual medal for Ireland was more than I had ever hoped for from Tryon.
And then Ingrid had the last down. I was stunned. Ros Canter, world champion? We’ll take that.
I looked along the line to see if any riders were there. New Zealand’s Tim Price. I hadn’t seen him jump as he had gone while I was interviewing Tom and Piggy. What had happened? Had he gone clear? If so he was probably an individual medallist. I stumbled along the railings to him.
Tim saw me, presumably took in my shellshocked face and the fact I was shaking so much I could hardly hold my notebook, put an arm out and gave me a giant hug. It was that kind of moment. Everyone needed a hug from someone. Thanks Tim.
I pulled myself together, asked how he’d got on, started asking questions. After a couple, he stopped me. “You’re very excited, aren’t you, Pippa?” “Tim, I’m so excited I can hardly speak!”
Everyone asks if you celebrated, if you partied with the riders and got a selfie wearing a medal. It’s not really like that for journalists.
H&H goes to press on a Monday, so the Hurricane Florence delays gave us a nightmare situation. Fortunately, I had predicted this scenario the previous Wednesday and we’d asked our production manager whether we could get a late-night deadline to allow us still to cover the full eventing in this week’s magazine. And we have practised going to press through the night at the past two Olympics.
So I wrote my web story during the medal ceremony, went to the press conference, and then it was head down as fast as possible to deliver my showjumping and summary magazine copy, the dressage and cross-country having been filed during Hurricane Sunday.
The valiant team at home battled on through the night, laying out pages, writing captions, making checks, typing in the scoreboard, choosing final pictures. We finished at just after 4am British time. All the shout outs to them — it was only 11pm for me, so I had much the best of it.
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Keep up to date with all the latest from Tryon at horseandhound.co.uk
Full report on the dressage and eventing from WEG in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine (out Thursday, 20 September).