Wednesday, May. 22, 2024

An Extremely Good Day Will Help Us Defend Our Gold Medal

Our columnist recaps the path to choosing the Olympic show jumping team, including his wife Beezie.

Even though the team has been selected and there are just a few short weeks before the Olympic Games begin, the road to Hong Kong is still very long.
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Our columnist recaps the path to choosing the Olympic show jumping team, including his wife Beezie.

Even though the team has been selected and there are just a few short weeks before the Olympic Games begin, the road to Hong Kong is still very long.

There’s a lot of work to be done and not without risk, but we should recognize the great accomplishments of the five riders who have made the team—Beezie Madden, McLain Ward, Laura Kraut, Will Simpson and reserve rider Anne Kursinski. Their horses, owners and their mini teams contributed to the task and helped them to be where they are today.

We should also recognize the effort, dedication and commitment of all of the other combinations that worked so hard, many of them for years, who didn’t make a slot for this team. We have a strong foundation in place for the future.

The Journey

The final preparation for Hong Kong has just begun for these five athletes and their partners. While just beginning, it really started all the way back at the Olympic Selection Trials, held in Wellington, Fla., between Feb. 27 and March 9 over five rounds.

Prior to the trials, the selection committee granted byes to Beezie and Authentic and McLain and Sapphire. After jumping extremely well in the first half of the trials, Jeffery Welles and Armani were also given a bye. This decision left seven spots for the remaining riders to attempt to make the short list of 10 horse/rider combinations that would compete in Europe and ultimately determine the Olympic team. The selection process has evolved over the past 18 years, dramatically in the past few, and what we now have works extremely well.

Two distinctly separate teams were formed to represent the United States at Super League competitions. While the 10 combinations didn’t compete head to head, the two tours put each combination’s results into context for comparison.

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The first team of Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and SRF Dragonfly, Charlie Jayne and Urbanus, Kate Levy and Vent Du Nord, Anne Kursinski and Roxana 112 and Will Simpson and Carlsson vom Dach, competed in La Baule (France), Rome (Italy) and St. Gallen (Switzerland), all Samsung Super League shows. These combinations were tested in the competition ring and their performances considered carefully.

The second team of Beezie with Authentic, McLain with Sapphire, Laura with Cedric, Jeffery with Armani and Anne with Champ 163 was named to go to Rotterdam (the Netherlands) and Aachen (Germany), the next two Super League shows.

The first tour by all measures went extremely well, with the U.S. team in a three-way tie for second at La Baule, second at Rome and fourth at St. Gallen, leaving the United States in second place in the Super League standings. In addition to great team success, Charlie Jayne made great strides in his career and Will Simpson distinguished himself as a real contender for Hong Kong. Will had very strong Nations Cup results.

The second tour started with Rotterdam, where our team suffered its first major blow, losing one of our top
contenders, Armani and Jeffery Welles due to injury. Armani will be back, and we all hope the best for Jeffery and his horse.

Things as a team didn’t go particularly well at Rotterdam. As individuals, the show was quite good. McLain won three classes, Laura and Cedric were third in the grand prix, Beezie placed consistently and, due to a complicated point system, was leading rider. Chef d’Equipe George Morris used Jeffery with Armani, Anne with Champ 163, Laura with Cedric and McLain with Sapphire in the Nations Cup, leaving Beezie and Authentic on the sidelines.

Explaining his rationale for this strategy, he wanted to observe as many team members as possible. The next blow to our veteran team was finishing last out of eight teams in the Nations Cup. I think we will be better for it. As a group, the riders reacted well, praising each other’s successes, while addressing each other’s weaknesses. It was a team building experience. Now George and the selectors had the question of Aachen and who would compete there and who would replace Jeffery.

Action At Aachen

Aachen had always been meant to be a bit of a dress rehearsal for the Olympic Games. Will Simpson was named as the reserve in order to fill Jeffery’s place. Thankfully, Aachen went significantly better than Rotterdam.

Individually, our team members were fabulous. The national anthem was heard three times for three victories on Saturday, twice more during the week and we had three of the top 12 in the grand prix—Beezie fourth, McLain sixth and Anne 11th. While we finished in a tie for third place with Great Britain in the Nations Cup, the horses and riders all performed very well in the first round. To improve our finish going forward, we’ll need to rally in Round 2.

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What we learned at Aachen is that the Germans are very strong, but if all goes well, with an extremely good day in Hong Kong, we can compete with any country in the world, including the Germans. But that’s what it will take, an extremely good day.

In order to attain that performance, the horses’ schedules are being carefully monitored from now through quarantine and eventually flying to Hong Kong. It’s the goal of each of these riders and their mini teams (staff) to have their horses game ready, fit and fresh.

The schedule designed by George Morris has been well thought out, and with a good dose of luck, we hope we can attain these goals. For now, there’s a lot of paperwork, logistical details. We had one small prep show before we entered quarantine on July 28 and shipping to Hong Kong on Aug. 5. Until then, veterinarians, blacksmiths, grooms and riders will all be on high alert.

For success in Hong Kong, we will need perfect preparation, tremendous financial support, unwavering dedication and a whole heap of luck. Wish us luck!

Finally, I want to thank my and Beezie’s supporters and the supporters of all the riders, thanks to all of you who support the team, thanks to everyone who makes our sport what it is, but most of all, thanks to our majestic partner, the horse. It is a great honor to be even a small part of representing the United States and all of you. 

John Madden



John Madden, Cazenovia, N.Y., is married to international grand prix rider Beezie Madden. Together, they operate John Madden Sales Inc., where they train horses and riders. The horse business has encompassed John’s entire life, and in addition to his business he’s the Organizing Committee Chairman for the Syracuse Sporthorse Tournament (N.Y.) and on the USEF High Performance Show Jumping Computer List Task Force. He began contributing to Between Rounds in 2008.

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