The USA secured a stunning victory on home soil in the driving team competition, sponsored by Polaris Ranger, to bring the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon to a close. But Australia’s Boyd Exell proved he remains in a league of his own within the sport of four-in-hand driving by securing his third successive individual WEG gold medal.
Despite the valiant efforts of crowd-favourite Chester Weber, who lead Team USA to gold and claimed individual silver, no one was able to rival Boyd from the moment he entered the dressage arena on day one.
First in the dressage, third in the marathon despite being hampered by broken brakes on his vehicle and second in the closing cones phase, Boyd finished on an overall score of 154.14, almost 10 points clear of Chester. Edouard Simonet, the 29-year-old Belgian who was once a back-stepper for Exell, took the bronze medal with a final score of 174.15.
“I love training horses,” said Boyd. “It is a relief to win. I have a huge team of people who have been with me 20 years.”
Chester, who also finished second to Boyd at the 2014 WEG in Normandy, France, was overjoyed to take an unexpected team title in front of the delighted home crowd.
“I can tell you it was a surprise, I thought we came here with a chance of a medal but if you had asked me if I was going to have a bet on whether we were going to be world champions, I would have said I am not sure,” said Chester, whose USA team finished with a winning score of 353.39.
Teammate James Fairclough, who introduced Weber to the sport as a young teenager, already has an eye on the future after the USA beat the Netherlands, the 2010 and 2014 champions, into second. Belgium finished in third.
“I hope it’s going to inspire a lot of people to come forward and try the sport. It’s a great boost for us,” said James.
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Basking in the glow of winning a World Games bronze medal to go with their 2017 European team bronze, the Belgium team also made clear their intention to change driving’s established order.
“We are the future not only of Belgium driving, but of international driving,” said Glenn Geerts, who like individual bronze medal winner Simonet is 29 years old, while Dries Degrieck, the third member of the team, is just 23.
In comparison, traditional driving powerhouse the Netherlands finished Tryon lamenting unexpectedly disappointing marathon performances from their often all-conquering father and son duo Ijsbrand and Bram Chardon. The pair did come out firing on the final day, with 25-year-old Bram Chardon producing the only double clear round in the cones, but it was not enough to deliver a third successive team gold, leaving them in silver.
Britain did not send any representatives to Tryon to compete in the combined driving world championships due to costs.
World Equestrian Games driving results
Gold: USA (James Fairclough, Misdee Wrigley-Miller, Chester Weber) 353.39
Silver: The Netherlands (Bram Chardon, Koos De Ronde, Ijsbrand Chardon) 356.79
Bronze: Belgium (Dries Degrieck, Glenn Geerts, Edouard Simonet) 364.09
Gold: Boyd Exell (AUS) 154.14
Silver: Chester Weber (USA) 163.38
Bronze: Edouard Simonet (BEL) 174.15
Full reports and analysis of the World Equestrian Games action from Tryon, USA can be enjoyed in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 20 and 27 September.