BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Mattie Hatcher, the sole U.S. equestrian at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, finished fourth in the individual jumping final, landing just off the podium in a competitive field. The result was bittersweet, as the bronze medalist had quickly become a friend over the past week of the Games.
“Of course, I didn’t do exactly what I wanted to in the jump-off, but I had a really fun time out there,” Hatcher reflected after the competition. “Even though I didn’t do great, one of my friends got bronze, so I’m really happy for him.”
Her friend was Pedro Espinosa of Honduras, who edged her out for the individual bronze in a nail-biting jump-off. Earlier in the week, Hatcher had rode cleanly for all three rounds of the team event to bring her mixed-country team - which included Espinosa - to victory.
The individual final went less smoothly. After riding cleanly in Round A Wednesday and Round B Thursday morning, Hatcher was one of only five riders to qualify for the jump-off. In her final round, however, she hit two fences - leaving her to wait through two other riders to learn her result. The host country’s own Richard Kierkegaard hit three fences to rank behind Hatcher; then came Espinosa’s turn. He hit one fence, but not a second, to best Hatcher for bronze.
In the true spirit of Olympism, Hatcher was graceful in defeat, joking with Espinosa after the event.
“Well, this morning we were saying, ‘I’m gonna beat you!’and ‘No, I’m gonna beat you!’ so then I was dead set on beating him. And then he beat me, so he’s now talking a little trash,” she laughed. “But yeah, I’m really happy that he got a medal.”
In addition to the competition, the Youth Olympic Games are meant to inspire, educate and celebrate young athletes across the globe, and in that, they have clearly been a success for Hatcher. Between meeting with the course designer and discovering new in-depth strategy considerations and learning about different fitness aspects outside of the ring, Hatcher has a gained a lot to take back to her hometown in Arkansas.
To represent the United States, and to connect with athletes from different countries, has been a new experience for Hatcher, who has mostly competed in North American-focused events before coming to Argentina. To her, the global aspect of the Games is what really will make it memorable.
“I’m so glad it was really international, because I liked getting to meet more people, and that was the cool thing about the Games,” she said.
Hatcher will take home more than just memories; she earned a gold medal in the mixed-country team event, and made friends along the way, including Espinosa.
To her - and to the spirit of Olympism - that’s just as important. When asked about her favorite moments of the Games, she responded, “definitely winning the team gold, but also just getting close with my team - that was really fun.”
The fun was enough to keep perspective and be graceful and kind in defeat. No matter the result, it is clear Hatcher has represented Team USA well - both on and off the podium.