The greatest two weeks in sports is upon us. Yes, I’m talking about the Olympics. I’m sorry if you were trying to get away from all the Rio coverage by coming to your equine safe place, but yes, it’s here too. Meet your equestrian Olympians!
What’s that? You didn’t know dressage, eventing and jumping were still Olympic sports? You thought the only important thing at this year’s games was Michael Phelps retirement tour? I don’t blame you. Sport media tends to really zero in on his story, and with good enough reason. It would just be nice if some other athletes got a little bit more credit for what they’re doing.
That’s what I’m going to try to do here. The United States Olympic Team will have 12 riders marching alongside their fellow athletes in Friday’s opening ceremonies – four each event. Each deserves to be there, but few will find their name on “SportsCenter.”
We’ll see if I can do them justice.
– Allison Brock – Brock, 33, started riding at the age of 7 in Hawaii. When she was 17, she left Hawaii to pursue a career in dressage, studying under former Olympian Sue Blinks and others. Brock credits Blinks as being instrumental in the formative years of her career, teaching her horsemanship, training techniques and stable management. Brock’s career includes several first-place finishes at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival. Brock will ride Rosevelt.
– Laura Graves – The media has described Graves journey to the Olympics as something of a fairytale, and rightly so. Graves, 29, got her first horse at a young age when her parents traded an old washing machine and dryer to a family friend for a pair of ponies. She took to them like peanut butter to jelly.
At 14, her parents decided it was time the fledgling Olympian had a dressage horse of her own. Enter Verdades, or Diddy for short. Diddy is wild, unpredictable, borderline untrainable, the antithesis of Graves’ skilled hand. But the two are inseparable, and now they stand on the precipice of Olympic glory.
Graves won a gold medal in the team and a silver medal in the individual dressage competition at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada.
– Kasey Perry-Glass – Perry-Glass affair with the equine world began at 5 years old at a small community barn near her hometown in Northern California and has flourished in the years since. Today, Perry-Glass works closely with her family and former Olympian Debbie McDonald in Wellington, Florida. Perry-Glass’ record boasts six top-two finishes in her past six events dating back through 2015. Perry-Glass will ride Dublet.
– Steffen Peters – Peters, 51, is a mainstay on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team; he has competed in or been an alternate for every games since 1996 where he won his first and only bronze medal. Rio marks his fourth appearance as a member of the starting lineup. Born in Wesel, Germany, in 1964, Peters was granted U.S. Citizenship in 1992. Peters was the first person to be named as USEF’s Equestrian of the Year three times, winning in 2008, 2009 and 2011. Peters will ride Legolas.
– Philip Dutton – Like Peters, Dutton, 52 is a veteran on the Olympic stage; Rio will mark Dutton’s sixth Olympic appearance. Unlike Peters, Dutton has done it for two teams. Born in New South Wales, Australia, Dutton broke onto the Olympic scene in 1996 for Australia earning a gold medal in team eventing. Dutton would take home a second gold with the Australians in the 2000 games. In 2006, Dutton earned his American citizenship and jumped ship to Team USA, helping the Americans win gold medals in team eventing at the 2007 and 2015 Pan American Games. Dutton will ride Mighty Nice.
– Lauren Kieffer – Kieffer, 29, is making her Olympic appearance in Rio and can thank her parents for a spur of the moment decision to get her riding lessons for her sixth birthday. She, too, helped the USA to a gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games. Kieffer served an apprenticeship under former Olympians Karen and David O’Connor. Kieffer will ride Veronica.
– Boyd Martin – Martin, 36, is the son of two Olympians, speed skater Toy Dorgan and cross-country skier Ross Martin. Martin grew up in Terrey Hills, New South Whales and was long-listed for the Australian Olympic team in 2000, 2004 and 2008. In 2007 Martin moved with his wife to the U.S. in hopes of gaining a better shot at international competition. Martin spent his fist three years in the U.S. working for and training under Phillip Dutton. In 2009, Martin joined the U.S. National team thanks to his dual citizenship. He was also a member of the gold-medal-winning team at the 2015 Pan American games. Martin will ride Blackfoot Mystery.
– Clark Montgomery – Montgomery, 35, is a hometown boy from Bryan, Texas. What more could you ask for. Montgomery made the short list for the 2012 games and has been a fixture in FEI competition since 2001. Most recently, Montgomery has trained with David and Karen O’Connor. Montgomery will ride Loughan Glen.
– Lucy Davis – At 23, Davis is the youngest of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean she’s inexperienced. Davis was riding from the time she could walk and taking her first lessons at 5 years old. Davis is the granddaughter of Robert Barron Frieze, who worked as a jockey’s agent in the horse racing industry. Davis missed the cut for the 2012 Olympic team, placing 10th in the trials, but went on to win a bronze medal at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Davis will ride Baron.
– Kent Farrington – Farrington, 35, started showjumping professionally in 1999 after he spent his youth in Chicago racing ponies and re-training former racehorse. Farrington earned more than $1 million in prize money and received the Maxine Beard Award in his first three years as a professional. Rio will be Farrington’s first Olympic games. He will ride Voyeur.
– Beezie Madden – Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden, 52, is arguably the most accomplished Olympian of the bunch; she secured a gold medals in team jumping at the 2004 games and the 2008 games and a bronze medal for individual jumping in 2008. Madden’s success comes from her marital partnership with her husband and coach, John Madden. And no, it’s not the John Madden who coached the Oakland Raiders. Trust me, I checked. Madden will ride Cortes ‘C’.
– McLain Ward – Ward, 40, was a part of the U.S. gold-medal-winning teams at the 2004 and 2008 games, and has been a mainstay on the roster since. Ward will ride Azur this year in Rio, as his former horse, Sapphire, was retired in 2012.
And there you have it. The 12 represent the best Team USA has to offer. If you want to tune in to the NBC live streams I’ll leave a link down below. I hope you enjoy the next two weeks as much as I do.
Until next time.
NBC Live Stream Schedule: http://www.nbcolympics.com/live-stream-schedule/equestrian