Buenos Aires, Argentina – The North American Team battled through an intense jump-off against Europe to win the gold medal at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games on Tuesday. Led by U.S. Youth Chef d’Equipe DiAnn Langer, Mattie Hatcher from the U.S., Mateo Coles from Haiti, Pedro Jose Espinosa from Honduras, Nicole Meyer from Mexico, and Marisa Thompson from Panama finished on zero faults and accumulated 10 clear rounds throughout three rounds of competition. Hatcher produced one of the three triple-clear North American performances with her borrowed horse Santa Rosa Valery. Africa earned the bronze medal with one fault.
“I am so excited! All the trainers that were part of this team were out there riding every jump with us. The [riders] rose to the occasion and they got along fabulously; the team of trainers got along fantastically and worked together,” said Langer. “These riders got here through a selection process, so [each country] brought their best rider [to compete] under these circumstances: borrowed horses, being able to work with different nationalities, and all of this went into the selection process. This was a great group and I really enjoyed working with all of them.”
The Youth Olympic Games jumping format allowed all five team riders to jump with two discard scores. Following the first day of competition, the North American Team found themselves in a three-way tie for gold. Australasia, Europe, and North America entered Tuesday’s final round on zero faults. However, they held a narrow lead over Africa with one time fault and Asia and Australasia each with four faults.
The North American team brought the same level of intensity to the second round. They remained in a three-way tie with Europe and Australasia through four rotations, and their medal fate came down to anchor riders. Although Europe could afford faults from their anchor rider, Australasia moved out of contention as their anchor rider Mohammed Alqashouti picked up 28 faults following two four-fault rounds during their second and fourth rotations. With two four-fault rounds already, Hatcher (Little Rock, Ark.) and Santa Rosa Valery delivered under pressure to ensure the jump-off with Europe, where North America executed the cumulative fastest time to solidify the gold medal.
“[Winning Youth Olympic gold] is the best feeling ever over my whole career,” said an excited Hatcher. “We only had four days [to get to know our horse], but it went really well. She was easy to click with and so willing [to work]. The [USA Jumping] development program has helped me learn more about the sport and what we need to do to reach our goals. DiAnn does an amazing job of informing us what we need to do, and it’s a blessing to have [that guidance].”
Now that team competition has concluded, the athletes will shift their focus to the first round of the individual competition on Friday. “Even though it’s an individual competition, we are all there for each other,” said Langer. “We’re still a team, and we’ll take a moment tomorrow to regroup and get our minds set for individual [competition] where fences will be a little bigger, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
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