The question of what makes an equestrian jumper champion has been raised in light of the elimination of the “final four” format. Should a champion be defined by the ability to ride different horses at the highest competitive level? Or by the connection achieved between horse and rider that’s portrayed in the cumulative results of one of the world’s most challenging three-day championships?
In previous World Equestrian Games, the world champion was defined by the “final four” competition held on the last day of WEG. It consisted of the top four riders throughout the championship (the ones with less cumulative points) rotating their four horses and starting out on zero penalties. Hence, the top four riders would ride three more (shorter) rounds on the different horses in order to determine the world’s champion. Such format, however, is now history.
This year’s WEG has switched to a common format, where the individual gold medal goes to the best combination of horse and rider throughout the championship. This cumulative manner of depicting a champion highlights the consistency of the partnership between horse and rider.
While the “final four” format magnifies the ability of the rider to manage different horses at the highest level, the common format underlines the strategic consistency of the horse and rider team. Thus, the different formats evaluate two different but crucial aspects of what it means to be a champion of the sport.
As the sport itself has indeed become more technical, the connection achieved between the rider and the horse is regarded as the optimal goal, which is one of the reasons the change of format was executed. The welfare of the horse, however, is the main purpose of the change. One of the advocates for the new WEG format is the Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden, as she states: “Personally, my biggest reason for supporting getting rid of it is that our sport has evolved so much to be so much about the partnership between the horse and rider.” Beezie has participated twice in the “final four” at WEG.
The subject is indeed a debatable one, since spectators would undoubtedly rather watch the final fours due to its excitement. However, this WEG’s champion will be the result of #twohearts as #oneheart.
By: Alexia Thermiotis