Tales from Tryon: gold medallist talks about the ‘battle to overcome my own mind’

Adrienne Sternlicht, who was a member of the US showjumping team which won gold at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) last week, talked about the mental struggles she has gone through to compete at the top level.

“For me, it’s been a battle to overcome my own mind,” said the 25-year-old championship debutante, who works with sports psychologist Peter Crone and is trained by her team-mate McLain Ward.

Adrienne’s strongest day was the second round of the team competition, on Thursday, when she finished with just one time-fault.

“I think I was crying after the round,” she said. “McLain always makes fun of me for how much I cry, but I said yesterday I was rubbing off on him. He teared up when I went into the ring.”

The rider explained she had to set an average performance in the speed leg on Wednesday behind her.

“I woke up this morning and had some sort of epiphany that I needed to relax, so that was exciting and I think that translated into my ride,” she said.

“It’s surreal riding here and I’ve had the whole array of emotions. Today I definitely knew that what I did yesterday —the intensity I was trying to channel, gritting my teeth when I went into the ring — wasn’t productive for me, so I took a new approach and tried to relax and trust my horse and the love we have for each other.

“Yesterday I was so exhausted when I got home — mentally preparing myself to jump, jumping and then being disappointed in myself — so I went to be bed at 9pm, slept, woke up refreshed and thought, ‘How can I handle this better today?’

“Cristalline picks up on my energy so much, we’re so close. My sports psychologist [Peter Crone] is here and he met her yesterday and he said he’s never seen two beings that love each other so much, so I just tried to think about that today — how grateful I am to have her and to be here riding in front of this crowd.”

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Adrienne also talked about her relationship with her team-mates Laura Kraut — who has also trained her in the past — and McLain Ward, her current mentor.

“Laura is a perfect example of a Nations Cup rider — she has so much grit in that capacity so I look up to her. She really seems to fight when it matters most and so I try to take that from her,” she said.

“McLain and I are really close so that means that at times it’s quite tense between us. He knows when to support me, when I need that love and also when I need to be yelled at honestly.”

Pick up this week’s magazine (dated 27 September) for H&H’s full report on the showjumping from WEG, including exclusive opinion from British team member William Funnell and Rio Olympic champion Nick Skelton.

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