Sunday, September 26, 2010

WEG Endurance Results: Spain's Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton Takes Endurance Gold: Add'l Photos Added

Nobby and Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton (ESP) cross the finish line (Kit Houghton/FEI)
The Bay Arabian Gelding Nobby carried Spain’s Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton across the Kentucky countryside  and the finish line to win individual gold in the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games Endurance competition. The pair held off the hard- charging royal family of the United Arab Emirates to clinch first place following a grueling day-long competition over difficult terrain.

HH Sh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (UAE) rides Ciel Oriental (Kit Houghton/FEI)

Following in second place was His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, winner of the individual silver medal  riding the chestnut gelding Ciel Oriental. Third place and a bronze medal went to His Excellency Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum on the gray gelding SAS Alexis. The strong finish of the UAE Team assured them of  the Gold Team Medal with France taking the Team Silver and Germany the Team Bronze.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum (UAE) rides SAS Alexis to 3rd Place Endurance Finish (Kit Houghton/FEI)
After a crowded start the competition wound through the Kentucky Countryside. At the first and second vet checks Sheikh Mohammad was in the lead but Nobby's quick recovery rate and the pair's overall average speeds put the pair in the lead in the final stages of the race. 
"There were a lot of good horses and the track was really strong.  People said it would be easy because the course was flat but it wasn't flat at all!" Ponton said.  She admitted that winning the gold just six weeks after the birth of her baby daughter was a challenge.  "I thought it was probably impossible to compete at the Games once I was pregnant.  But I was riding him for the first five months and my husband took him over then."

Sabrina Arnold (GER) riding Beau Ox leaves vet gate 5 –  Member of the Bronze Medal German Team. (Kit Hoghton/Fei)

Ponton's  husband, Jaume Punti-Dachs is one of Sheikh Mohammed's leading trainers, and is also a highly competitive international Endurance competitor in his own right. While Maria was waiting for their baby to arrive Jaume kept Nobby legged up, riding him into a fourth place finish in the Dubai CEI 3-Star in April.  "I've been back riding for the last couple of weeks" she explained 

  Sarah Chakil (FRA) ridng Sakalia leaves vet gate 5 member of Silver Team. (Kit Houghton, Fei)

Talking of her 14 year old Nobby, Ponton said "he  has a huge heart and it responds really well but when he wins a race he doesn't just win it with his heart, he also wins it with his head!"  She said that this win was much more difficult than the one she faced when taking the World title in Malaysia two years ago - "I had to fight much harder against almost 20 horses today" she said.  "In this sport you have many sad days, then some happy days, but days like today are something very special" she added. 

The Endurance start with Alvarez Ponton in the lead at the start.  (Kit Houghton/FEI)

Photos Courtesy Kit Houghton/FEI

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