With Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton virtually on lock to represent the U.S. at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, team selectors have issued a call for a third Ameristralian to round out the squad.
“Our preference is that the individual actually be from Australia,” says U.S. Eventing Chef d’Equipe Erik Duvander, who represented Sweden at the 1992 Olympics and coached Japanese, Swedish, and New Zealand teams before coming stateside. “If they already live in the U.S. — I’m looking at you Ryan Wood, Dom Schramm, Clayton Fredericks — great, but preexisting citizenship isn’t a prerequisite. We would welcome and fast-track a green card for Chris Burton, Andrew Hoy, Sam Griffiths, Shane Rose, Bill Levett … the list goes on and on.”
Erik notes that being male is not necessarily mandatory, but having an Australian accent is.
“The accent is of paramount importance,” Duvander explains. “An Australian accent isn’t something you can just train into riders. They either have it, or they don’t. We’ve been trying for years to train an accent into otherwise would-be Olympians and it rarely takes.”
For instance, he says, they’ve had Liz Halliday-Sharp in twice-weekly sessions with a voice coach. She is also required to eat every other meal at Outback Steakhouse. “At this point, though, the clock is ticking,” Duvander says. “If only Liz could say ‘I’ll have the shrimp on the barbie with a side of bloomin’ onion, mate’ to a server as well and convincingly as she rides, she’d be a shoo-in for the team. But with only four months left before Tokyo, to have any shot at a podium finish we have to explore other options.”
Since title sponsorship of the U.S. Eventing Team, formerly held by British automaker Land Rover, was taken over by Vegemite last month, the team’s reinvention of its brand identity from American to Australian is more imperative now than ever.
“Vegemite is actually a really apt metaphor for our team,” says Jenni Autry, USEF Managing Director of Eventing. “Like, what is Vegemite, even? Nobody knows. Nobody cares. Nobody is thinking, when they sink their teeth into a slice of toast slathered with Vegemite, I wonder where this meaty, salty goo came from. You don’t get all existential about it. You just eat it. You embrace the mystery.”
“As long as the mystery is from Australia,” Duvander adds.
Happy April Fool’s!