Jumping clear over the last oxer followed by thunderous applause from the crowd gave everyone chills but it was the tearful embrace of the four team riders that truly spoke to how special the gold medal winning moment was for Great Britain and anchor rider Rosalind Canter.
British Eventing has been riding a wave since their victory at the European Championships in Strzegom, Poland last August. This medal [and their *multiple new world records] reinforces the program and preparation that Great Britain has put in place to facilitate great success on the world stage.
Team GB, Chef d'Equipe Richard Waygood, Piggy French, Gemma Tattersall, Rosalind Canter, and Tom McEwen.
"These guys and girls have stuck to the basics and kept them there, kept the system and kept going from beginning to end and it's paid dividends. It's absolutely fantastic," shared Chef d'Equipe, Richard Waygood.
Due to cautionary weather concerns, the final phase was delayed until Monday morning presenting eventers with an unusual extra day in between the cross-country and stadium phases. The question as to the condition of the horses' given an extra day, soon fell away as forward-eared equines took to Alan Wade's 13-fence track with fresh energy.
By competition's end, bright streams of sunlight had worked through the occasional groupings of dark clouds to shine down and usher in the 2018 World Equestrian Games' top three nations; Great Britain, Ireland, and France.
And in her first ever World Games, Rosalind Canter who had never anchored a senior team, handled the pressure in stride (pun intended), delivering the defining clear round not only for her team but to secure the individual title as well, as second to last in the ring.
"I don't think it's hit home yet. It was quite a shock when it first happened and there were quite a few tears which aren't normal for me," said an elated Canter. "It's just absolutely incredible, not just for me but for the whole sport team behind me and Team GB."
"I've thought of nothing else for the last six months."
In team competitions, we always want to know how the final rider handles the pressure, especially when a medal depends on their performance. Is it daunting, is it motivating?
"In the back of my mind, yes, I did know [the medal came down to me]. But I was just focused on my horse and my warm-up. You have to try and block [the rest] out and when you can do that, you can go in with a clean sheet and you just have to jump fence-by-fence. I'm lucky enough to be sitting on a horse like Allstar B that as long as I vaguely get it right, he'll go higher and higher for me."
There was an excited tension in the air the entire morning and afternoon of competition. Despite strong performances from the top three teams [GBR, IRE, and FRA] leading up to the final, we're all too familiar with the fact that podium spots and Olympic qualifications are won and lost by a single fence or a single second.
Ireland's Padraig McCarthy riding Mr Chunky.
If the first week of the games has taught us anything, it's that nothing is 100% certain. Upsets on cross-country, knocking favourites out of medal contention and the steady rise of teams like eventual fourth-place Japan, meant that gold was for the team that would fight for it.
The team and individual medals came down to the last three competitors and all three formidable female riders; Sarah Ennis of Ireland, Canter, and Germany's Ingrid Klimke.
Leading the race for individual gold going into the final, was Klimke, who had a devastating rail at the last oxer with SAP Hale Bob OLD to move her down to bronze.
"Last fence, last rail, for sure at the first moment I was disappointed. It was the only mistake Bobby made the whole weekend. He was wonderful in the dressage, super out there in the cross-country, and he jumped very well in the warm-up. He felt very supple and loose so it was just a bit of bad luck."
"It's absolutely huge, we're making history today."
Ennis who was sitting in the bronze medal position heading into the Monday narrowly missed out on an individual medal with a single rail down at the B element of the triple combination at fence No. 5. Although admittedly gutted at losing a chance to medal, Ennis was thrilled to see the silver go to her teammate Padraig McCarthy riding Mr Chunky.
"Going in today, I obviously knew I had to jump clear to get an individual medal but it couldn't have gone to a nicer person. At least it's going home to Ireland and with Padraig," she said.
Padraig who has become the first individual Irish WEG medalist in 40 years has "thought of nothing else for the last six months."
Team Great Britain during their victory gallop.
"In a previous life, I was a show jumper so that gave me a lot of confidence going in," he said. "I had a very good warm up with the team outside. The horse was jumping brilliant and he felt great so I didn't go in feeling any pressure. It's different if you're going in there for a gold medal but I wasn't in a medal position at that time."
When asked if he thinks it's better being an eventer now than a show jumper, his answer was an unwavering, "definitely".
Ireland's Chef d'Equipe Sally Corscadden knew a world medal was in the cards for the Irish at the onset.
"It's absolutely huge, we're making history today. We haven't had a world medal since 1978 I think so to be here today is absolutely fantastic. I had belief in these guys that we could be competitive and that was our goal, to be competitive and we just stuck to that goal and this is where it got us."
Great Britain's New World Records
- Most Team World Championship Golds ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
- Most Individual World Championship Golds ⠀⠀⠀
- The second lowest winning individual score [24.6]⠀⠀⠀
- The lowest-finishing team score in the history of the Games [88.8]
Full results of Monday's Team & individual Eventing Championship, here.
All photos: Shannon Brinkman