EN: John’s thoughts on the team

You can always count on John’s voice of reason. I imagine him standing up in his grade school cafeteria in the middle of a food fight, saying,”Hey guys, let’s talk this thing out.” (In my fantasy, that’s when he gets pelted in the face with airborne tater tots.)

In any case, take it away, John:

Top: Will it be gold again for the USA in London?

You might think that getting selected for the US Eventing Olympic Team would mean jubilation for the selected riders.  But when I spoke with a couple of riders yesterday afternoon their mood was much more sedated and their thoughts were very much directed toward their fellow short listers who had been left off the team.  Boyd said that he was “gutted” for the riders who had to sit through the team announcement meeting after being left out, and you can imagine just how tough it must have been for everyone from reading Sinead’s account of the meeting.  The selected riders know more than anyone how hard the alternates worked for their 2012 Olympic dream that, as of now, is unfulfilled.

The lucky few:
Will Coleman and Twizzel
Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott
Phillip Dutton and Mystery Whisper
Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister
Boyd Martin and Otis Barbotiere

Most of all, I want to stress how hard this selection process was.  Every rider on the short list (and probably some not on the short list) deserve to ride for the US ten times over.  The riders were told by the selectors in Monday’s team announcement meeting that selecting this year’s team was the toughest selection that any of the selectors had ever made.  I completely agree–for every argument why one rider or horse should have made the team, there was another argument why another pair should make it.

As for my opinion on the individual selections, 4 of the 5 horses picked matched my predictions, so I suppose you could say that I am only 20% surprised.  However, I am shocked that Sinead did not make the team–she was my third pick.  Sinead did everything that was asked of her this spring except, perhaps, scoring well in the Barbury dressage.  One fact of selection that I think most of us eventing fans underestimate is the fact that the selectors know things that we don’t, particularly with respect to veterinary information.  We got some insight into this yesterday when Sinead explained that Manoir De Carneville finished the Barbury cross-country with a bit of a nose bleed due to allergies.  I can’t begin to evaluate the veterinary implications of that, but I have heard that, for right or wrong, that was the reason given by selectors as to why Sinead did not make the team.  Sinead owned 2011 and produced a consistent spring this year and I certainly thought that would be good enough to make the team.

The hard thing about saying that Sinead, Will Faudree, or Allison should have made the team is that it implies that Karen, Will Coleman, or Tiana didn’t deserve to make it and I don’t think that is the case at all.  Tiana is a great high risk, high reward pick–she could conceivably win a medal and if she picks up a stop on the cross-country we will still probably finish with 3 clear XC scores.  Karen and Mr. Medicott are terrific, although I do think it will take all of Karen’s experience to make the time at Greenwich.  Will Coleman is ready to deliver for the US in the big time and after some incredibly bad luck over the past few years I couldn’t be happier for him.

As for Phillip, let’s keep this simple.  P Dutty is insanely good, Mystery Whisper is insanely good.  Phillip’s selection was never in doubt and that just makes the achievement all the more incredible.  #MysteryWhisperForGold

Changing tones a bit, Boyd’s father passed away one year ago to the day that he was named to his first Olympic team.  The resiliency that Boyd has showed to go from absolute rock bottom at this time last year back to the top of eventing is a tribute to his spirit and his incredible team of supporters.  I couldn’t be prouder of Boyd and although I am sad that we likely won’t be seeing Neville compete in London, I think Otis was the correct choice because of his superior show jumping.  Click here for Boyd’s thoughts on being selected.

Having gone through the hardship of selection, the US Eventing Team brings a good balance of experience, youth, and talent to London.  I don’t consider the US Team favorites to win gold as of right now, but I think they absolutely could win gold with a good cross-country day.  Phillip and Boyd need to finish on two very solid scores and then Tiana, Karen, and Will need to have at least one brilliant performance, ideally two, among them.

The excitement will continue over the next few weeks as a strong contingent of US riders and the entire Canadian squad heads to Gatcombe.  The key now for the alternates is to stay positive and stay ready–anything can happen.  Team riders are already dropping from other squads and Lynn Symansky learned last year that staying on form as an alternate can lead to a spot on the US team.  Go eventing.

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