Mclain Ward: why hosting WEG in America has its pros and cons

  • We caught up with the world number two showjumper at Tryon International Equestrian Centre in North Carolina, the venue for 2018’s World Equestrian Games (10-23 September), to talk about the advantages — and disadvantages — of a home games

    What did you make of the announcement last year that Tryon International Equestrian Centre would host the 2018 World Equestrian Games (WEG)?

    “When I found out that WEG was coming here last year, I was so excited. To be able to allow my supporters in my own country to really have an up-close-and-personal view of the sport at that level is fantastic — it builds excitement and it builds enthusiasm. It’s great for the sport here.”

    What are the advantages of it being on home turf?

    “I like to go to Europe to compete at the major venues, not only because they’re great events, but also to see where I am in the sport against different riders. But my life is in America. My business is here and my family is here — I can’t just pick up for eight months and camp out in Europe, it’s just not a reality. So to be able to have high end sport here in the United States, and throughout North America, is brilliant for me personally and I think it feeds the level getting better and better internally. I’ve always believed that for the United States to be successful on the world stage, you have to have good internal sport.”

    And how about the disadvantages?

    “Having the championships in our own country is wonderful for the promotion [of the sport], but as a team, there’s on the one hand the home court advantage and there’s also distractions. We have a lot of friends and family here, and owners and clients, and so you have to find that balance, and that comes with maturity.

    “I think that was something in Lexington [WEG 2010, when America finished outside the medals] that we as a team didn’t handle well. So as an athlete you have to find that balance.”

    How do you cope with the distractions of a multi-discipline championships like WEG?

    “With my experience level it doesn’t impact me so much. Obviously the logistics for everybody is much more difficult but as individuals we have to concentrate on what our job is and everything else gets pushed to the side, and I think that’s something you learn.

    “We’re here to do a job and the Olympic experience has been phenomenally helpful in that because they do a lot of seminars and tutorials on how not to get distracted. They talk in the Olympics that 80% of athletes that have disappointing performances come about because of outside distractions.

    “At any championship, you set the schedule for what’s best for you. For some people that might be coming out and watching the three-day eventing and for some people that might be spending two hours in the gym in seclusion — so you have to find what works best for you. And for me it’s the gym. That’s why Kent [Farrington], Beezie [Madden] and I are good team mates because we all just seclude ourselves somewhere.”

    Continued below…

    How do you rate your chances for a spot on the podium next September?

    “Of course I want to be on the podium next year and I’m lucky enough that HH Azur (who Mclain won the 2017 World Cup final on in April) is young and fit. Our first goal over the next year is the World Cup final in Paris (April 2018) and then there’s a nice break period before WEG which works out very well for us, and it’s reasonable to think that a horse can do both.

    “This is a beautiful setting at Tryon with spectacular conditions, the weather I think is going to be very good at that time of the year and you have a community not only locally but in the United States [as a whole] that is going to rally behind it.

    “If you look at WEG in Kentucky or the World Cup finals in Omaha, the American fans come out to support.”

    The World Equestrian Games will run from 10-23 September 2018 at Tryon International Equestrian Centre in North Carolina, United States. Book your tickets here

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

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