RIO DE JANEIRO -- Kent Farrington, Lucy Davis, Beezie Madden and McLain Ward are no strangers to being on a team together.
The group won a bronze medal for the U.S. at the 2014 World Championships, but they knew there was room for improvement. Two years later, on the Olympic stage, they brought home a silver medal in the team jumping final.
“I think it’s something really special to be on a team with these three,” Davis said. “I think that this first Olympic experience is as great as it could have gone.”
The silver medal did not come without significant challenge, however, as Madden, a four-time Olympian, was forced to withdraw from the competition when her horse, Cortes ‘C,’ sustained a tendon injury.
“We had a little bit of a rough 24 hours,” Ward said. “When I realized we couldn’t win, I was feeling like I was going to throw up. But you have to gather yourself.”
The U.S. team began the final day in a four-way tie for first with the Netherlands, Brazil and Germany. Already down one rider, Farrington, Davis and Ward each needed a near-perfect ride if they were to earn a medal.
Farrington was perfect in jumping competition in the days leading into the team final, but he accrued one penalty point for time during the competition. A triple combination on the back-end of the course challenged a majority of riders throughout the day, but Farrington went clear over all three and sacrificed the time penalty.
“I saw a lot of horses struggling to jump the triple combination clear,” Farrington said. “I really set (Voyeur) up for that. Every rail matters today so I wanted to secure that before I took a bigger risk on the time.”
Next up, Davis fell victim to the triple combination, moving the team penalty total to five. Ward, another four-time Olympian and the final rider for the U.S., needed a clear round to keep the team in medal contention.
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Riding one of the youngest horses in the competition, Azul, Ward displayed true poise to finish the round clear and keep the U.S. total at five points.
“I don’t think you stay good at something for very long if you’re not a little nervous and you don’t feel the pressure,” Ward said. “That’s what drives me. As I’ve said all along, I think I’m sitting on a great horse and that makes things a little bit easier.”
The U.S. failed to medal in the team jumping final in London after winning the gold at both Beijing and Athens. McLain and Ward were both members of all three previous Olympic teams. Davis, the youngest rider in the field, and Farrington are both new to the Olympic stage.
“I’m just that happy that we could stay within the time,” Davis said. “Knowing (Madden) is behind you is always relieving but unfortunately the reality is she was out. I know (Farrington) and (McLain) are super on it though, so that took off a little bit of pressure.”
Farrington, McLain and Davis are all set to compete in the individual jumping final on Friday at the Olympic Equestrian Center. Farrington enters the final tied for first, with Ward tied for seventh and Davis tied for 18th. The U.S. has not won a gold medal in the individual jumping final since the 1984 Games.
“Individual is a whole new day,” Farrington said. “Everybody starts at zero so I’m really thrilled with how (Voyeur) has been going but that’s only going to count for confidence on Friday when we all start over.”
Nicole Chrzanowski is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.