Kim and Dan: Locals take silver in Athens
Kim Severson knew that going to the Olympics would be a thrill ride, but she had no idea just how dramatic the whole thing would turn out to be.
Along with her mount, Winsome "Dan" Adante, and his owner, she traveled halfway around the world last month in pursuit of an international championship, first to England for a period of intensive preparatory training and then to Athens for the Games. Severson and Dan were promising contenders in eventing, an equestrian triathlon of sorts involving cross-country jumping, show jumping, and dressage. Both horse and rider made a consistently impressive showing throughout, and the pair was ranked third toward the end of the competition.
That's when things started to get interesting.
German rider Bettina Hoy had a false start, mistakenly crossing the starting line twice at the beginning of her round. This sort of move typically carries a penalty stiff enough to knock Hoy and the German team from first place, which would have in turn pushed the American team as a whole into the bronze position and garnered Severson a silver medal in the individual competition. That's precisely what happened.
Shortly thereafter the Court for Arbitration of Sport lifted the penalty because it concluded that Hoy didn't realize that the clock had been restarted for her round. The Court didn't want to penalize a rider for a competition management error. This meant that the Germans were set to take home gold medals in both the team and individual eventing competitions.
The Americans were bumped down to a medal-free fourth in the team competition, and Severson was looking at bronze honors as an individual.
The French, British, and American teams immediately started appealing the decision, even going so far as to challenge it in a civilian court. Eventually, the Federation Equestre Internationale– which sets the regulations under the umbrella that is the International Olympic Committee– reversed the reversed decision, once again giving the Americans their bronze and Severson her silver.
Essentially, Severson and the Americans won their medals twice– once in the arena, and again in the courtroom. Either way, we now have an Olympic champion in our midst.
"This is Kim's first time at the Olympics, and I don't think anything like this has ever happened before with the equestrian stuff," says groomer Molly Hooper.
It may have been a first, but that doesn't mean it was a surprise. Severson and Dan were ranked second in the world before the Olympics, and now they've cemented that standing with a healthy dose of international recognition.
"She sets her goals really high, and usually achieves them," says Hooper.
In a bid for athletic fame, it's hard to do better than a win at the Olympics spiked with a bit of controversy. Still, Severson doesn't plan to rest on her laurels now that she has emerged victorious from both the competitive and bureaucratic sides of this ordeal.
"Kim doesn't get much of a vacation," laughs Dan's owner, Linda Wachtmeister. Indeed, Severson will start competing again as soon as next weekend.
Dan will get a little more time off. He probably won't begin serious competition again until the spring, but Wachtmeister has grand plans for him as well. She'll start by entering Dan in a tournament held in Badminton, England next year, and there's no telling how far he might go.
"I thought it was a wonderful Olympic Games," she says, "and I just hope this controversy doesn't hurt the sport of eventing. We go to Germany in two years for the World Equestrian Games, and I hope that there aren't any bad feelings."
Then, in a sly voice, she adds, "He could definitely go to China in 2008."
Kim Severson rides "Dan" through the water combination jump during the cross-country portion of the three-day Event Competition at the Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Center on August 17, 2004.
AP PHOTO BY SUSAN WALSH
Back at Plain Dealing, Kim Severson and Linda Wachmeister smile on the silver. "Dan" is still on his way back from Athens.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO