Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2024

We Should Be Proud Of These Athletes

The 2008 FEI World Cup Dressage Final will not go down in history as a great U.S. triumph (p.8). Although Courtney King-Dye and Jane Hannigan put in strong performances, events conspired to place them near the bottom of the results.

There’s more to the story than simply their placings, however.
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The 2008 FEI World Cup Dressage Final will not go down in history as a great U.S. triumph (p.8). Although Courtney King-Dye and Jane Hannigan put in strong performances, events conspired to place them near the bottom of the results.

There’s more to the story than simply their placings, however.

Courtney has represented the United States just once before in a senior international championship, while it was Jane’s debut in the international spotlight. But you never would have known how new the experience was for them—they both conducted themselves as world-class competitors.
   
Courtney’s mount, Idocus, and Jane’s mount, Maksymilian, had their hay removed in quarantine after they landed in Europe, leaving both horses bored and uninterested in drinking. The horses arrived at U.S. Dressage Team Coach Klaus Balkenhol’s stable hours later dehydrated and ill. It was a rough start to an already difficult journey, but neither rider used this misfortune as an excuse for their performances.
  
We could all learn from the positive outlook both women took throughout the competition. Courtney was understandably devastated when she made a mistake in her freestyle routine that dropped her from a probable sixth or seventh down to last. Despite her personal disappointment, however, she put on a brave face and owned up to her mistake while praising her horse extensively. Her first concern was the health and happiness of her partner, Idocus.

Jane, too, was disappointed in her performance. But she immediately focused on the positive aspects of her experience and identified all the things she’d learned after traveling to Europe and competing with the best dressage riders in the world.

Elite riders rise to the top of their sports by working, focusing and sacrificing for their riding. They set goals, such as qualifying for and competing in National Championships, World Cups, World Championships and Olympics. To be a top rider you have to single-mindedly pursue your ambition for years, and when all goes awry just as you’re finally realizing your dream, it would be easy to act ungracious.

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These two riders didn’t necessarily sign up to be public figures—although it’s certainly a part of the game—all they wanted to do was take their love of horses and competition to the highest levels.

I never saw Jane or Courtney show anything but their best at the World Cup Final. Yes, there were private tears in the barn, I’m sure, but when it was time to show a public face, both riders steadfastly put themselves out there for the world to see with smiles on their faces.

Despite the results, I think those two young professionals impressed their European counterparts. The judges praised Courtney’s elegant seat and said that Maksymilian could hold his own with any of the horses at the competition. The World Cup highlights the top 15 dressage horses in the world, and Idocus and Maksymilian absolutely deserved to be there.

You’re always on stage when you represent your country, and Courtney and Jane never once let us down. They conducted themselves with grace and aplomb, and others could certainly learn from their example. I look forward to seeing these two talented riders represent our country again.

Sara Lieser, Editorial Staff

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