It's easy to find 2010's highlights, they're all over the web. But what about the lowlights? Fewer moments were more painful than witnessing the USA Eventing Team on show jumping day at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in September. The weight of the world was on their shoulders and everyone expected they'd be on the podium.
When they didn't "medal", to use the WEG-allowed lingo-verb, national mainstream press coverage of WEG shriveled. Without Americans on the podium, news crews were off to cover the World Series or the Ryder Cup. WEG wasn't newsworthy or cost effective to the editors back home in Chicago or Seattle or Atlanta if there were no gold medals around American necks in the pictures. Coverage by the Louisville and Lexington press, excellent as it was, was syndicated by Associated Press but the Steffen Peters/Ravel bronze USA dressage coup, the US Vaulting Team's gold medal and the fantastic para-dressage and driving efforts brought little fanfare outside Kentucky.
"Does anyone know we're here?" I pleaded in a blog post. The big Kentucky Horse Park suddenly seemed like an island, cut off from the real world. We did have Hamish and Dave, two freewheeling Australians with a Borat-meets-ESPN storyboard, a great video editor, and an uncanny sense of how Georgetown, Kentucky's fast food and Walmart fit right in with the excesses of WEG. They were actually providing the best daily video coverage, albeit via YouTube. We were watching their tongue-in-cheek WEG coverage on our iPhones, even as they were being sent up in turn in a YouTube WEG parody for being more popular than Totilas.
While my heart broke for Team USA in eventing, it was the failure of USA individual rider Becky Holder's Courageous Comet to pass the vet check on the morning of the show jumping that left me stunned. The pair had just won the national championship in Georgia and the horse, a retired New York bred Thoroughbred, is the most popular American event horse since Karen O'Connor's late great Teddy. After cross-country, they were right behind Germany's Michael Jung, the amazing eventual individual gold medalist. Courageous Comet was led back to the barn that morning and spent the day in a stall.
At the US Eventing Association convention in Arizona last month, Becky Holder said a few words about her WEG experience, and here they are shared with all of you. Just like with Zenyatta, my respect and admiration for the horse is undiminished.
Just file it under "what if", right next to "should have been".
Thanks to Ecogold for providing the tape of Becky's brief, brave speech.