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USET Makes History at 2002 World Equestrian Games
A Record 8 Medals Brought Home

Jerez de la Frontera, Spain–September 24, 2002–The United States Equestrian Team (USET) made history at the 2002 World Equestrian Games in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, September 11-22. U.S. riders, drivers and vaulters won a total of eight medals, doubling the U.S.’s best previous performance.

The final tally for the U.S. was three Gold, three Silver and two Bronze medals, by far the best U.S. performance at any World Equestrian Games. U.S. teams won World Championship medals in six of the seven disciplines, doing better than any country, including France, who won seven medals in four disciplines, and Germany, who did win nine medals, but in only three disciplines.

“This is a proud moment for all Americans,” said USET President Armand Leone, Jr. “Not only does this record-setting performance speak volumes about the ability, dedication and hard work of our athletes and their support staff, but it is also a tribute to the many thousands of Americans whose contributions to the USET helped provide the resources needed to put our athletes in a position to get the job done.”

With a combined score of 657.5 points, the U.S. reining team of Shawn Flarida of Springfield, OH riding San Jo Freckles, owned by Michael Harper; brothers Tom McCutcheon of Pilot Point, TX riding Conquistador Whiz, owned by George Shifrin, and Scott McCutcheon of Whiteboro, TX riding Inwhizable, owned by Inwhizable partners; and Craig Schmersal of Menifee, CA, who rode Tidal Wave Jack, owned by B.S. Syndicate, won the first-ever reining World Championship and became the first reining World Champions in history.

Individually, Flarida emerged as the first-ever individual World Reining Champion with a score of 221.5 points. Tom McCutcheon won the Silver Medal after winning a run-off with Shawna Sapergia of Canada.

With pride and gratitude for the Gold Medal he wore around his neck, Craig Schmersal offered words of praise for the USET. “The support they gave was incredible,” he said. “They made the experience more than I could have ever expected. I never thought I’d be treated so well at a competition.”

Tom McCutcheon echoed Schmersal’s sentiment. “I can’t thank the USET enough for what they did for us. This was a great occasion for the sport of reining.”

Also emerging as World Champions were the members of the U.S. eventing squad who made their trip to the World Equestrian Games worthy of worldwide attention by winning the team Gold Medal. The members of the U.S. Gold Medal eventing team were David O'Connor of The Plains, VA riding Giltedge, owned by Jacqueline Mars, Christa Badger and Jonathan Ireland; Kim Vinoski-Severson of Scottsville, VA riding Winsome Adante owned by Linda Wachtmeister and Plain Dealing Farm; Amy Tryon of Redmond, WA on her Poggio II; and John Williams of Middleburg, VA, riding his horse Carrick.

After the dressage phase of competition, the U.S. stood in second place with a score of 111.80 penalties. However, the U.S. was second to the favored team from Great Britain for only one night. After the second phase of competition, the cross country, the U.S. had the top spot with a two-phase score of 147.40.

The Gold Medal came down to the final phase, the show jumping, where Sydney Olympic Gold Medalist and WEG Team Captain David O'Connor had the team’s only clear round. O’Connor was one of only eight out of the 47 who competed who went clear. He ended up with a score of 64.60 penalties which put him in tenth place.

Tryon showed true team spirit by participating in the final phase after a fall on cross-country that left her a bit sore. However, she did not show her pain, having only one rail down and giving the team a good head start as the first U.S. rider for the day. Vinoski-Severson knocked three rails down, but still finished a strong sixth overall with a score of 57.80. More importantly, she kept the U.S. team in the game.

Williams and Carrick entered the ring with more pressure than anyone should have at their first World Championship. As the leader, Williams performed last. The pair had two rails in hand, but the course of sixteen efforts was not easy. While Williams did have four rails for sixteen faults which dropped him out of the medals, he still finished an impressive fourth with a score of 53.00, and more importantly helped to give the United States the team Gold!

“I was thrilled,” Williams said. “We all came here thinking about team medals, not individual, and I am delighted to be part of the World Championship team!”

The U.S. dressage squad captured the team Silver Medal with a combined score of 5527 points. Germany won the team Gold with a score of 5642 and Spain took the Bronze with 5403. The finish marked the best finish ever for a United States dressage team in any World Championship or Olympic Games.

The U.S. squad consisted of Debbie McDonald of Hailey, ID on Brentina, owned by Perry & Peggy Thomas; Lisa Wilcox of Thousand Oaks, CA riding Relevant, owned by Gundula Vorwerk and Dr. Claus Crone-Munzebrock; Susan Blinks of Wellington, FL, riding Flim Flam, owned by Fritz Kundrun and Dressage Sponsor Corporation and Guenter Seidel of Del Mar, CA on Nikolaus 7, owned by Dick and Jane Brown.

Individually, the U.S. dressage riders also turned in this country’s best performance in history. McDonald and Brentina finished fourth by the slimmest of margins with a score of 233.460 (82.700). Wilcox, riding Relevant, was right behind in fifth place with a score of 232.530 (82.650). Never before has the U.S. placed two riders in the top five in a dressage World Championship.

McDonald felt that she and her teammates, in all disciplines, were able to perform so well because of the back-up and support provided by the USET.

“The USET was fabulous,” she said. “Jim Wolf, Jessica Ransehousen, Marilyn Adams – all of them were running like crazy doing everything for us. They were there for us every single minute. Never once did we have to go looking for them. They took care of all the details so we could focus on our goals, and they were key in our being able to come home with a medal. Quite simply, we couldn’t have done it without the USET.”

The United States Four-In-Hand team of Jimmy Fairclough of Newton, NJ driving a team owned by Fairclough and Jane Forbes Clark; Chester Weber of Ocala, FL, driving his team; and Tucker Johnson of Hobe Sound, FL driving a team he co-owns with Mr. and Mrs. James Johnson, also made history in Spain when they won the team Silver Medal. Prior to the 2002 World Equestrian Games, the best finish the U.S. had ever had at a Four-In-Hand World Championship was fourth place in 1984 and 1986.

At the conclusion of the opening dressage phase, the United States was in first place with 78.72 penalties. After the marathon, the United States drivers were in second place with a two-phase score of 286.52 penalties. All three drivers on the U.S. team went clear in the concluding cones phase to finish with a three-phase score of 286.52 penalties to give the U.S. its first-ever Four-In-Hand medal. In close contention for an individual medal, Tucker Johnson finished fourth individually and Weber was just behind in fifth.

Johnson, whose top finish by a U.S. driver earned him a record sixth USET Four-In-Hand Championship, credited the USET for the driving team’s best performance ever in a Four-In-Hand World Championship. “The USET made a huge effort to support us and that made a big difference,” he said.

Fairclough also acknowledged the USET’s role in the drivers’ medal-winning performance. “We owe a big thanks to the USET for letting us train at Gladstone prior to coming over here. That made a big difference in how well prepared we were at this event.”

While the show jumping squad of Leslie Howard of Westport, CT riding Priobert De Kalvarie owned by Higher Ground Farm; Nicole Shahinian-Simpson of Westlake Village, CA riding El Campeon’s Cirka Z owned by El Campeon Farm; Peter Wylde of Medfield, MA, riding Fein Cera owned by the Fein Cera group; and Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, NY, riding Judgement owned by Iron Spring Farm, just missed a team medal, Wylde did win the individual Bronze, the first individual World Championship medal by a U.S. show jumper since Michael Matz won the Bronze in 1978.

Wylde was the first U.S. show jumping rider to qualify for the Final Four since Greg Best and Gem Twist qualified in 1990 at the first World Equestrian Games held in Stockholm, Sweden. Qualifying to ride in the Final Four meant that Wylde had to jump the final course not only on his own horse, but also on each of the other three competitors’ horses as well. Wylde’s horse, Fein Cera, the only horse with no knockdowns with any rider in the final phase, was named the “Best Horse” of the Championship.
In the team show jumping, the U.S. finished sixth after an exciting Nations Cup which saw the U.S. still in medal contention when its final rider entered the ring. Had two-time Olympic medalist Leslie Howard gone clean, the U.S. would have won the team Bronze. Although Howard’s two rails dropped the team to sixth, the long-time USET veteran felt the team’s showing in Jerez was a good one.

“I think all our riders rode well,” she said, “and we showed that we’re right there with the world’s best. Peter’s medal meant a lot to all of us and we conducted ourselves as a true team in every way.

“We really owe a big thank you to Sally Ike and the USET who were there for us every step of the way. They provided great support for the athletes in all the disciplines.”

For the first time the USET had responsibility for vaulting and sent a team to the 2002 World Equestrian Games. Devon Maitozo of Acton, CA, won the individual Bronze Medal in the men’s division with a score of 8.612. The best U.S. finisher in the women’s division was Pamela Geisler of Diamond Bar, CA who finished in eighth position with a score of 8.209. In the team competition, the U.S. vaulting squad, F.A.C.E. of Moorpark, CA, finished in fifth place.

“I have never worked with an organization like the USET who was there to help – and really did help – the competitors,” said vaulter Eric Martonovich of Golden, CO. “It was wonderful! We couldn’t have done it without them. They were all just so helpful. I have never felt more supported in anything I’ve tried to do.”

In endurance, the U.S. squad finished in fifth place overall. The three U.S. riders that completed the race were Beverly Gray of Park City, UT, who placed 19th on her Regalidon in a ride time of 11:05:20; Cia Reis of Pennsdale, PA, who was 31st riding Catch A Wave, owned by Alex and Cia Reis, in 11:43:05; and Stephen Rojek of Woodstock, VT who finished 32nd on his Finally in a ride time of 11:43:06.

Overall, the 2002 World Equestrian Games showed that when it comes to equestrian sports, the United States is second to none. The U.S. was the only country to medal in six of the seven disciplines. In the team championships, the U.S. placed first in two, second in two, fifth in two and sixth in one. In the individual championships, the U.S. had an individual finish fourth or better in six of the seven disciplines including one first place, one second, two thirds, four fourths and two fifths.

As USET Chef de Mission Jim Wolf said, “Everyone came here believing in themselves. They felt they could do well and they did!”

The United States Equestrian Team is a non-profit organization that selects, trains, equips and finances equestrians of the highest possible standard to represent our country in major international competition, including the Olympic Games and the World Championships. To accomplish this, the USET seeks out and nurtures the development of talented athletes - riders, drivers and horses - and provides the support and guidance they need to help them attain their fullest potential. For more information on the USET, please call (908) 234-1251, or visit USET ONLINE at


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