Sunday, May. 26, 2024

Chardon Survives Scandal And Exell Keeps Overall Driving Lead In WEG Driving Marathon

Lexington, Ky.—Oct. 9 

At yesterday’s press conference, Ijsbrand Chardon was asked about his thoughts for today’s marathon and he responded simply, “Anything can happen.”

Was he ever right.           



Lexington, Ky.—Oct. 9 

At yesterday’s press conference, Ijsbrand Chardon was asked about his thoughts for today’s marathon and he responded simply, “Anything can happen.”

Was he ever right.           

After a marathon full of surprises, Boyd Exell managed to keep his perch on top the driving standings at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games for Australia. But the Cinderella story of the competition came from Chardon, who topped today’s marathon to move from a tie for second into second overall in the competition. All that despite the last-minute discovery just before the start of marathon that his carriage had been damaged overnight.

Upon uncovering his carriage at 12 p.m., an hour and 20 minutes before his start time, Chardon’s son discovered that it had been tampered with. Both the grooms’ seats had been slashed, and there was brake fluid spilled on the platform between them.

After a frantic consultation with the ground jury, Ian Williams—the Fédéracion Equestre Internationale official in charge of the Field of Play for non-Olympic disciplines—and the chefs d’equipe of the other nations’ teams, Chardon received permission to drive last. But he’d drawn a late starting position anyway (21st of 25) so that only gave him an hour to inspect the carriage for safety.

“We were checking and double-checking everything,” said Chardon. “If the carriage didn’t look ready, I wasn’t going to start. I didn’t want to use another carriage because I’m so used to mine. But I was very worried that we’d get going so fast and the brakes wouldn’t work. I wanted to empty out the brake lines, but there wasn’t time. The only thing the organization could do was put me last, so I was definitely nervous.”

With his wife Pauline navigating, Chardon entered the start box with a clear head and never looked back. While the braking did feel a little strange and the carriage a touch unstable, he scored the best times on the first three hazards and pushed on from there to top the day.


Back To Business

Tucker Johnson made the final marathon of his career one to remember, finishing seventh in that phase to stand third overall. Sweden’s Tomas Eriksson drove a second-placed marathon to move up to fifth.

In addition to tackling Richard Nicoll’s galloping course, Exell also had to battle a broken left hand to stay on top of the leaderboard, incurred while jumping a cross-country fence while riding.

“With my broken hand, [navigator] Lisa [Banks] had to tell me when there was a tight left coming up,” said Exell. “Most of her navigating was protecting my hand. I was happy with the marathon. There were a couple direct ways to obstacle 8, but we thought we should be a bit secure so we took a safe route. Still, I heard it was the fourth fastest time.”

The 100.44 penalties he accrued left him third in the phase, but coupled with yesterday’s record-breaking dressage test he maintained his lead by less than 2 points.

After U.S. teammates Chester Weber and Jimmy Fairclough had a disappointing day, Johnson felt the pressure to drive to the best of his ability to keep U.S. in medal contention.

“The leaders weren’t as forward as I anticipated, and I had to stop and make an adjustment,” said Johnson, Hobe Sound, Fla. “The wheelers were amazing, and they wanted to go on. Overall I thought the course was a flowing speed, and it worked well.”

Weber, who earned individual silver two years ago in the Netherlands, had been the U.S. team’s strongest hope for an individual medal, but he fell out of top contention after a mistake in Hazard 7. One of his wheelers stepped over a lead trace, and a groom had to hop out to correct the problem. Coupled with knockdowns at 1 and 5, Weber finished a disappointing 16th in marathon, overall ninth.


“It’s a bit disappointing, but that’s the sport,” said Weber, Ocala, Fla. “I tried my hardest, and there’s nothing more you can do.”

Fairclough’s groom, Peter Lipinski, took a tumble out of the carriage at Hazard 3 when the horses hit a post.

“I whistled for the horses to go, and the footing was so soft the carriage just slid into [the post] and he got thrown out,” he said. “I’m lucky I stayed in. I hit hard! That’s inertia—people don’t understand the strength of four horses. When that hits a post, it’s more than you can imagine.”

Fairclough said Lipinski didn’t seem seriously injured but traveled to the hospital for X-rays.

As of 8 p.m. this evening, team standings have not been released as the ground jury is reviewing several obstacles. Individual results are available at the official Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games website.

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