Saturday, October 9, 2010

People-Watching at the WEG

Spotting a movie star on the streets of New York City is all well and good, but we horse people are likely to get much more excited when we see one of our equestrian heroes in person.

The celeb-sighting opportunities don't get any better than at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky. I've seen a lot of spectators zoned out, chatting with friends, and not keeping their eyes peeled for who might be nearby. Big mistake! Besides the stars competing in the ring, there are famous coaches, teammates, and other supporters standing on the stadium apron, sitting in the "Athletes and Grooms" area of the stands, or passing by on foot or in one of the ubiquitous golf carts. Here are photos of some of my own sightings.
US eventing chef d'equipe Capt. Mark Phillips and eventing legend and blogger Jim Wofford take in the action during the eventing show jumping
Do competitors watch one another? You'd better believe it. Dutch competitors Edward Gal (raincoat), Imke Schellekens-Bartels, and Hans Peter Minderhoud and Dutch dressage chef d'equipe Sjef Janssen (right) were on hand for the Grand Prix team dressage competition.
Competitors from other disciplines frequently come watch to support their countrymen and -women. Brazilian jumping star Rodrigo Pessoa (in cap) was in the stands for eventing show jumping.
US dressage Olympian Courtney King-Dye, recovering from a head injury, came to Kentucky to cheer on her teammates.
In addition to the famous faces in the crowd, if you keep your eyes and ears open, you may avail yourself of some interesting encounters in and around Lexington. Example: boarding the plane in Lexington a few days ago for my trip home, I was settling into my seat when I overheard the chatty woman across the aisle quizzing her seatmate about her Down Under accent and whether she'd been in town for the WEG.

Yes, the young woman replied: "My brother was on the team that won a bronze medal yesterday."

What? Bronze medal? Sitting across from me? Yes indeed, and I had a short, nice talk with Grace Johnstone, younger sister of Clarke Johnstone, who at 23 was the rookie on the New Zealand eventing team that had indeed just won bronze. Grace was headed home to resume her university studies, and she confessed to having turned in early the night before while her brother, their parents, and their teammates celebrated.

File in the "you never know" category. So as you're out and about this final WEG weekend, taking in the driving; the para-equestrian, jumping, and vaulting finals; and the closing ceremonies; or as you head home, keep your ears open and your eyes peeled. You never know whom you might come across.

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