It’s the last Saturday at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon and it feels like the beginning of the end. My colleague Polly Bryan heads home tonight and our photographer Peter Nixon and I will be on the equivalent plane tomorrow night. The press room is starting to clear out. There are notices about final press conferences. I’ve read the check out instructions for our Airbnb.
I drove down to the venue at lunchtime today, having spent the morning writing my showjumping team copy at our WEG home. I called in at the supermarket and bought enormous bags of American sweets for the Fat Shelf in the office. And then I drove through the sun to Tryon, and parked in “lot C”, which is conveniently near the press room and arenas, even if parts of the terrain in it still resemble “the surface of the moon”, as Polly said yesterday.
And as I cruised down the freeway, or whatever they call motorways in the USA, I thought about my whole WEG experience and whether I’ll be sad to go home. And the answer is, undoubtedly, yes.
Championships are hard work — this is the 36th web story I’ve written since we’ve been here, 5000 words on the WEG eventing for the magazine and 2500 on the showjumping so far, with another 2000 to come tomorrow. But they are also a break from real life. I completely forgot for the first 10 days we were here that something on our car isn’t working properly and I need to chase up the garage about the spare part for it. Because I’m an organisation nut, I use an app for my to-do list, which allows you to put on regular tasks that need doing each week or month. Each day here I’ve gleefully ticked off the normal week to week tasks that have popped up — some I did before I came, some I passed on to colleagues.
Reporting a big championship is a huge buzz. You feel incredibly close to the centre of the action when you stand in the mixed zone and speak to riders when they are still high from a good performance or utterly deflated by a bad one. You make a million in-the-moment decisions about who to watch and who to interview, and it makes me feel… alive. And the writing is a buzz too. I write something pretty much every week of my working life, but it’s rare to get the luxury of writing 5000 words about a single class, to plan and execute and craft and tweak.
I like America. I know that can be an unfashionable view — and god knows, the country has its problems — but the people are generally friendly and welcoming, there is a lot of good, very reasonably priced food to be eaten and there is a sense of space and air. Our bedroom in our Airbnb (don’t worry, my husband is here, also working — I haven’t shacked up with a random stranger for a championship fling) is bigger than our entire flat in London.
I like Tryon. Yes, WEG has not been entirely smooth — boss Mark Bellissimo said last night he would give the venue a B, the execution of the event a C — but there’s no doubt that in the future this will be a beyond-amazing venue. They will level out the surface of the moon in the carparks, sweep up the construction dust, clear away the rubbish and finish the fencing. If you ever get the chance, go to Tryon. Maybe just give it a couple of more months.
It is hot. Sometimes it’s too hot. Standing in the showjumping mixed zone, sun burning down on the backs of our legs, sitting in the stands watching, broiling in somewhere around 30ºC. But I’m well aware I will regret every having said I’m too warm when I’m back home. Mum has given our sports pony his first clip and I know this is the the last outing my summer clothes will have this year.
And so, this is it for WEG 2018. I am here to help Polly finish up the para dressage today so she can dash to the aiport, then it’s back tomorrow for the individual showjumping final. And then home, farewell to medals and mixed zones. Back to real life.
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