Canada’s chef de mission Jon Garner, a first-timer in this role, says he wasn’t traumatized at the unfinished state of the Tryon International Equestrian Park when he arrived a week before the fun began on September 12. “We’d heard rumblings so we weren’t overly shocked. It was more being surprised that planning wasn’t in place for the grooms. Okay, construction delays happen; I’ve been involved in enough places and projects where you don’t get everything as ready as you would like and this is a massive venture. Day by day it’s getting better, but for sure, the lack of grooms’ accommodation was the most surprising.”
Fortunately, the organizer’s lack of foresight (those barrack-type tents will go down in infamy) did not impact on Canada, as Canadians look after their VIPs. The team rented RVs for their grooms or they stayed off-site. Once the wooden pre-fab cabins arrived, the EC rented them as they became available.
Looking at it from a competition standpoint, EC’s Director of Sport thinks “the stabling is great, the rings are great and the cross-country course was beautiful.” Still he feels sorry for the spectators who have to slog their way to the parking lots and for those who have to get from the shuttle drop off and pickup points to the barns. “It’s a long hike which is maybe all right first thing in the morning, but if you’re doing it two or three times a day it’s a bit of a drag.”
With Canada only coming close to a medal in the abandoned Endurance competition and finishing at the bottom end of the standings in Dressage, Eventing and Reining (in Reining’s defense they only had a three-man team) it is not surprising that Jon is disappointed with the team’s performance thus far. “I’m disappointed and I think that generally our athletes are disappointed. Nobody has really under-performed, they all did pretty well as expected, but you come to a championship hoping to raise your game.”
Jon said his biggest disappointment was for the Endurance team members who were in medal position when the race was called off. “The FEI made the right decision to cancel but for our guys it was tough. We were laying third team-wise behind France and the USA. The Spanish won the race individually but they only had two still in it. Our guys had done a really good job on pacing their horses. They were fresh and that was the team strategy: slow and steady to start. I feel so badly for them. They are all amateurs and really good people. It would have been a lifetime achievement for them because regardless of what happens going forward in the sport or even with the WEG, this was likely going to be their last crack at it.”