Boyd Exell and team claimed Individual Gold following the Cones phase. Photo by Sportfot.

Boyd Exell Wins Fifth World Championship – First Gold for Team USA in Polaris RANGER Driving

Australia's Boyd Exell took his fifth individual world champion title and Team USA won their first gold in the Polaris RANGER Driving competition, closing the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 on Sunday.

Leading from the start of the competition, driving icon Exell finished the Cones phase just one second over time, adding 0.53 points to his final score of 154.14 for his dark bay four-in-hand-team, led by his stellar black gelding Zindgraaf.

“This win was a huge relief because we have a big group of people that have been with me for 25 years. I am super lucky to have such extremely good horses. They absorbed the crowd’s enthusiasm and I was able to support them.” 

On home ground, Team USA represented by Chester Weber, Misdee Wrigley-Miller and James Fairclough delivered a start-to-finish-victory, ending on 353.39 points in front of the Netherlands (356.79) and Belgium. 

Chester Weber and team on their way to claiming the Team Gold and Individual Silver medal. Photo by Sportfot.

“It’s unbelievable. It takes a village to make this whole thing work—I said all week that I was going to keep my head down and concentrate on my own game and hopefully on Sunday I’ll pick my head up with a medal or two around it,” said Chester Weber. 

World’s No. 2 driver and four-time WEG-competitor Weber was the strongest driver in all three phases for the U.S. The 43 year-old multiple National Champion, defended his Individual Silver from WEG 2014 with ease, adding only 2.77 points for time in the Cones phase to his result after Dressage and Marathon. 

“It is humbling. When I started as a 13-year-old, James Fairclough was my teacher and now we were winning in one team.” 

Misdee Wrigley-Miller and team helped Team USA finish in the top position. Photo by Sportfot.

Historic driving powerhouse The Netherlands lost their world title and kept Silver for Koos de Ronde and Ijsbrand and Bram Chardon. Both Chardons had mistakes in the Marathon and fought hard in the cones course. 

WEG-novice Bram Chardon (25) was the only driver in a field of 19 competitors to stay clear within the time, winning the cones phase. 

“I did not sleep at all, thinking all night about what I had to do today. I wanted to prove myself and I knew I had what it takes.” 

James Fairclough and team in the Cones phase of Polaris RANGER Driving at Tryon 2018. Photo by Sportfot.

“I had looked at nothing else but the shortest ways between the cones. Nothing else was on my mind, but doing everything for a Dutch team medal,” said the younger Chardon. 

The young Belgian team of Edouard Simonet, Gleen Geerts and Dries Degrieck, all under 30 years old, secured Bronze, Belgium’s first WEG Team medal after Aachen in 2006. European Silver-medalist Simonet finished third individually behind the experienced veterans Exell and Weber.

“There was a lot of pressure on us since our federation has invested a lot in our trip. We showed that we are worth investing in. We have a good future”, said Simonet, who had just turned 29. 

World’s No.3 driver Koos de Ronde at his fourth WEG finished fourth individually. Tryon was the first WEG without a Dutch driver on the individual podium.