Boyd Exell accomplished something today that no other Australian has ever done at a previous Driving World Championships—he won the individual gold medal, at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
With one ball down in the obstacles phase, held in front of a packed Driving Stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park, Exell (134.04) edged Ijsbrand Chardon of the Netherlands (135.24) and Tucker Johnson of the United States (150.06).
Johnson is the second four-in-hand driving medalist in the history of the U.S. team, and he led teammates Chester Weber (who was the first U.S. individual medalist, winning individual silver in 2008) and James Fairclough to the team silver medal (330.92). This is the second team silver medal this trio has won at the World Equestrian Games. (The first was in 2002.)
Chardon, a four-time individual world champion, led the Netherlands to the team gold medal (279.77), the third time they’ve won the team gold medal in the World Equestrian Games. Germany moved up to the bronze medal (322.20) when Tomas Eriksson of Sweden was eliminated for going off course and took his third-placed team with him.
Exell closed out these World Games as the only Australian gold medalist. “I know it sounds like a cliché to say this, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” said Exell, who drove these championships with a broken left hand, suffered in a riding accident the week before they began.
In 2008, Exell won the individual bronze medal at the Driving World Championships, behind Chardon and Weber. “To get five horses and all the people and your equipment just right for one weekend is a huge task, and we’ve been trying to do it for 10 years. You get to the point where you can do it regularly, like we have, and then you have to be lucky to win.”
Exell, 38, added, “I left Australia at 21 and said I wasn’t coming home until I won the World Championship.”
Johnson, 46, said again that this would be his final world championship, that he is retiring from international competition.
“I won’t change my decision. We’ve all three been doing this for a long time, and it’s time for me to move on,” Johnson said. “This felt good. Not everyone gets a chance to end something on such a high note. It was a grand end to a lot of experiences.”
All three team members said that the World Equestrian Games being in Lexington had spurred on the team’s performance.
“Our program and our team—along with the program at the U.S. Equestrian Federation—all came together for this medal here,” said Fairclough.
“It’s been a whole group effort, and you feel like the whole nation is behind you here,” said Johnson.
Weber believes that the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games will have a lasting effect on driving in the United States. “There’s a future of driving in the U.S. because of these games,” he said. “Having the WEG here really got us going, and now, with Tucker leaving, Jimmy and I are looking forward to being the foundation of our team in the future.”
The attendance on this final day of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games was 38,682. The total 16-day attendance was 507,022.
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