US Eventing: Life After Mark Phillips (part 1)

Here is the press release from the USEF formally announcing the retirement of US Eventing’s Chef d’Equipe, Captain Mark Phillips.  Frankly, this has been old news for a long time, especially since the USEF sent out an email to the entire Long List saying just that in October 2009.  Nonetheless, most media outlets need to have news shoved down their throat with a press release before they will write a story.  Thus, you will see some coverage over the next couple of days.
This story has generated a lot of buzz the past few days, with everyone wondering who will be the next US coach.  However, I think the discussion begins with: how has US eventing fared since CMP took the reins in 1993? 

Olympics and WEGs: At the 4 Olympics and 4 WEGs since 1993, the only two international team competitions where all nations are eligible, the US has placed (gold, silver, or bronze) at 5 team competitions and has won 5 individual medals.  This stacks up pretty well against other countries.  Great Britain has 6 team medals and 4 individual medals, New Zealand has 7 total medal placings, and Australia has 6 placings.  The US seems to deliver consistent, but not terrific performances, with only two gold medal placings (team 2002, and individual gold in 2000), which trails NZL (4) and GBR (3).
 
Olympic and WEG Medals by Country:
(10) Great Britain 6 Team, 4 Individual: Team Bronze 2008, Team Silver 2006, Team Silver 2004, Team Bronze 2002, Team Silver 2000, Team Gold 1994, Individual Gold 2004 (Law), Individual Gold 2006 (Phillips), Individual Silver 2002 (Brakewell), Individual Bronze 1996 (Dixon)
(10) USA 5 Team, 5 Individual: Team Bronze 2004, Team Gold 2002, Team Bronze 2000, Team Bronze 1998, Team Silver 1996, Individual Gold 2000 (O’Connor), Individual Silver 2008 (Miles), Individual Silver 2004 (Severson), Individual Bronze 2006 (Tryon), Individual Silver 2006 (Crowell)
(7) New Zealand 2 Team, 5 Individual: Team Gold 1998, Team Bronze 1996, Individual Gold 1996 (Tait), Individual Bronze 1996 (Clark), Individual Gold 1998 (Tait), Individual Silver 1998 (Todd), Individual Gold 1994 (Jefferis)
(6) Australia 4 Team, 2 Individual: Team Silver 2008, Team Bronze 2006, Team Gold 2000, Team Gold 1996, Individual Bronze 2000 (Hoy), Individual Silver 2006 (Fredericks)

(5) France 4 Team, 1 Individual: Team Gold 2004, Team Silver 2002, Team Silver 1998, Team Silver 1994, Individual Gold 2002 (Teulere)
(4) Germany 3 Team, 1 Individual: Team Gold 2008, Team Gold 2006, Team Bronze 1994, Individual Gold 2008 (Romeike).
(1) Finland: Individual Bronze 2002 (Karuso)  (1) Sweden: Individual Bronze 1998 (Tornquist)
Burghley, Rolex, and Badminton: In the 45 CCI****’s between Burghley, Rolex, and Badminton since 1993, Great Britain has won an impressive 18 times, News Zealand 10, and the US just 9.  At Rolex, US riders have defended their turf 6 out of 12 times, which is a comparable percentage to GBR riders at Burghley and Badminton.
Badminton winners since 1993: GBR (9), NZL (2), AUS (2), USA (2) (Davidson ’95, O’Connor ’97), FR (1).  Rolex, a CCI**** since 1998: USA (6), NZL (2), GBR (1), AUS (3).  Burghley since 1993: GBR (8), NZL (6), AUS (2), USA (10) (Bradley ’93)
My take: Looking at the numbers, the US has actually performed pretty well during the Mark Phillips era, probably second only to Great Britain, which is really nothing to be ashamed about.  So why do some people seem so glad to see Mark Phillips leaving?  Personally, I’m just happy that I won’t have to sit though any more incomprehensible and useless speeches at competitor parties.  I also think that people are concerned about the direction US eventing is trending.  The last time the US won a top level international competition, open to all countries, outside of the US was team gold in 2002, and the last time we won Burghley or Badminton was in 1997.  Furthermore, any Americans I have spoken to who have attended advanced level competitions in Europe are really impressed by the depth of talent (easily 50-60 horses in advanced divisions), and Burghley and Badminton regularly have fields nearly twice the size of Rolex.  This suggests that one of the most important functions of our next coach will be to help increase America’s depth of talent, rather than just coaching our top 25 riders.  More on this in part 2.  Go eventing.

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