Equestrianism: American's long-distance heroics: World Games competitors struggle on 100-mile Dutch trek

Click to follow
The Independent Online
VALERIE KANAVY, a 44-year-old Virginian, won the individual gold medal for endurance riding at the World Equestrian Games yesterday. The American was the first rider to reach the finish of this 100-mile race in the main stadium of the Zuiderpark.

Kanavy cantered through the finish on her grey Arab gelding, Pieraz, a little more than 12 hours after the start of yesterday's marathon ride. Some 20 minutes later the horse was passed by the vet to loud cheering from American supporters, who were waiting to hear that their rider's gold medal was safe.

A Frenchman, Dennis Pesce, finished a few minutes later on Melfenik. His horse was also passed by the vet, this time to French cheering. But New Zealand's Paulette Stannard, who had finished in third place, had the immense disappointment of losing the bronze medal when her horse failed this final inspection. Instead it went to Stephane Fleury, another member of the French squad who retained the team title that they had won in 1992.

There had been four veterinary gates on the 100-mile route and riders had to judge their pace carefully, knowing that they faced elimination if the horse was lame or if its pulse rate was too high.

'It was a really tough course,' Kanavy said. 'I was alone between the third and fourth vet checks and my horse didn't like that, he's a very social animal. He was also unhappy with the deep sand between those two gates, but once we were heading out and going for home it was great.'

They had set off in a massed start on Duindigt racecourse at 6.30am, as the sun was rising. From there they headed for the beach and miles of sand. At that stage the tide was out and they could ride along firm stretches of beach, cooling their horses feet in the waves. It was when the route went through sand dunes that the going got tough.

WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES (The Hague): Endurance riding: 1 Pieraz (V Kanavy, US); 2 Melfenik (D Pesce, Fr); 3 Roc'H (S Fleury, Fr).