A thrilling five days of competition at the 2018 World Equestrian Games was packed with memorable moments that cannot go unnoticed from Tryon, USA.
As the competition wrapped up on 22 September, here are highlights that deserve – if not medals – an award:
1. ‘I was not expecting that’ award
Japan’s Tomoko Nakamura came away with the bronze medal in the grade I freestyle. The nation had never won a Para dressage medal in global competition before and, with two years out from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, the medal was a nice surprise.
2. ‘I’m here but no one knows’ award
Belgium’s multi-world and Paralympic champion Michele George was in Tryon but not as a competitor. Instead, she stayed behind the scenes training members of team Brazil.
“As I wasn’t competing here myself, I thought this would be a really good opportunity to share my knowledge and help each other,” she said. “I think for sports this is very interesting. It’s what it’s all about.”
3. ‘Really, you misplaced your medal?’ award
The Netherlands’ Sanne Voets picked up the first of her three golds in the grade IV individual test, making her the standout performer in Tryon.
But with all the hardware, she was bound to lose track of at least one.
“I misplaced it (at home),” she said. “I was at the apartment and went to find it and couldn’t. I looked everywhere and eventually found it on top of the fridge.”
Voets joked she made sure she did not put her other two golds in the microwave.
4. ‘It happens to the best of us’ award
Great Britain’s Natasha Baker rode her new horse Mount Saint John Diva Dannebrog, and picked up two silvers (individual grade II and team event) heading into the final day’s freestyle, which she was a favourite to win.
However, seconds into her performance, something upset her horse Diva, and Baker was dumped unceremoniously on the ground. Shaken but fine, she smiled and waved to the crowds as she left the arena and then said:
“My ego’s bruised and so is my backside, but at least I landed on the centre line.”
5. ‘We changed the face of Para dressage’ award
The Netherlands were the stars of the World Equestrian Games.
The team consisting of Voets, Rixt van der Horst, Frank Hosmar and Nicole den Dulk became team champions, breaking the runner-up status behind Great Britain, who had held on the team title at every European, World and Paralympic Championships pretty much since the sport was created.
6. ‘Does anyone have a tissue?’ award
The Netherlands’ Chef D’equipe Joyce Heuitink was emotional after her team won a stunning five golds, two silvers and two bronzes at the Games, comfortably topping the medals table.
Heuitink was regularly seen in floods of tears, overwhelmed by the emotion of the week.
“I think I’ve broken in two with so much crying,” she laughed.
7. ‘Hello, what are you doing here?’ award
Brazil, Japan and the USA left with medals, slowly chipping away at the dominance of European riders and horses in the sport.
Team USA picked up an incredible four medals at their home Championships (three bronzes and a silver), as well as finishing fifth in the team competition, the highest placing of a non-European team.
Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla also picked up two silvers medals just two years after picking up Para dressage.
8. 'Best lucky charm of the Championships’ award
Voets rode every competition with a golden Rio 2016 Paralympic logo pinned to her jacket.
“I saw it in the shop in the athletes’ village and thought it was beautiful,” she said.
“But I went to Rio to get gold so I told myself I wouldn’t buy it until I had done that. Then, when I got the gold in the freestyle, the shop had run out. I was so disappointed. But on the day I flew home I saw one in the airport shop – it was the last one they had so I bought it quickly and now I wear it all the time.”