Edited Press Release
Traverse City, Mich. – Sunday marked a special milestone for Zayna Rizvi (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.) as she claimed her second individual gold medal at the Gotham North FEI North American Youth Championships for Jumping (NAYC) presented by USHJA, aboard Excellent.
On 3.02 penalties after day one, she saw herself lower on the leaderboard than riders who put in extremely quick rounds. A double-clear effort–one of only two–during the team competition, quickly shot the 16-year-old to the top. Pairing that feat with a double-clear effort in the individual final put her comfortably ahead of the next closest finisher, who incurred 8.41 total penalties.
“I think it has a lot to do with my horse, not just me,” Rizvi said of Excellent, a 2009 KWPN gelding owned by Peacock Ridge, LLC. “He’s amazing; every time we step in the ring he really tries his heart out for me. I think he especially likes it here because he always seems to do well here. It’s not just me, it’s the whole team behind me and obviously my horse who makes this all possible.”
As a repeat competitor, Rizvi knows what the experience at NAYC can provide in terms of preparing riders for upcoming championship events. “It’s a really nice thing to be able to practice being on teams like this to prepare for the future,” she said. “Being on a team, it is super important to work with your teammates. You learn how to grow as a rider on a team but also individually. I hope to one day be on senior teams, so this is a really great experience for me and my horse too.”
Training under the watchful eyes of John Brennan and Missy Clark of North Run based in Warren, Vt., for nearly six years, Rizvi has risen the ranks under their guidance and shared her victories with them as well. “They’re so encouraging but tough when they need to be, and they definitely make it a lot easier,” she said of her trainers. “They help and guide me, and I wouldn’t be the rider I am without them. After last year I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I knew this year would be harder because the jumps are bigger, so I didn’t expect it but it’s a great outcome.”
The top of the leaderboard saw quite a shift as the Individual Final got underway. Tanner Korotkin, leader after day one and in second coming into the final day, had an unfortunate refusal and was taken out of medal contention. Additionally, Alexandra Pielet, who finished third on day one, pulled two rails in the second round of the final to also be out of the medals.
Audrey Schulze (Zone 2 – Saddle River, N.J.) and Lord Up, owned by Riverbrook Sport Horses, LLC, took the second spot on the podium, claiming their silver medal after shooting up from tenth-place position coming into the Individual Final. Clear efforts in both rounds of the final secured her medal.
“My horse has been jumping great all week and I wanted to keep it up and be consistent with a round similar to how my first round was,” Schulze said. “He tried hard and was a good boy. It’s an awesome experience to be on a team to practice and understand the formats.”
Alexander Alston (Zone 5 – Gahanna, Ohio) also had quite the comeback, coming into the Individual Final in seventh place and recording only a single time fault for a bronze-medal finish with Prestigious for owner Alston Alliance, LLC.
“After being team gold for Team 5/7 combined I pulled it back together to continue the rest of the week,” Alston said of his plan for consistency throughout NAYC. I’ve had [Prestigious] for a year and a half. He means business, and he was ready to take on another task today. He helped me out a lot.”
William Martin Meets his Match in Junior Individual Final
It was Canada’s moment at the pinnacle of the podium as the Individual Final for the Junior category of NAYC came to a close. William Martin accepted his gold medal for his performance aboard Ricore Courcelle, owned by Teddy Vlock Show Stables, LLC.
Holding the top spot coming into the final, Martin saw his lead creep away as he incurred just two time faults in round one. On a new score of 5.90, he returned and jumped the clear round required to guarantee at least a silver medal finish, and his destiny lay at the hands of competitor Della White’s performance. With one rail down for White and Giggs in round two, she fell out of medal contention and Martin secured the gold.
“It was a little surreal in the moment,” said Martin,16, (New Albany, Ohio). “I really didn’t think that horse would produce as much as he did. He really took me by surprise, and I owe him a lot more credit now.
“He’s got so much personality and he’s very, very bossy,” Martin continued about his winning mount, Ricore Courcelle, a 2005 Selle Français stallion (Quaprice Bois Margot x Alme). “But at the end of day, he comes out of his stall every day in a good mood and he’s got a good attitude towards everything he does. I think that makes riding him so much easier because he enjoys everything.”
Like many athletes competing at NAYC, Martin was in attendance for a good time without expecting a top result, but extremely grateful when that result came in. “I walked into the first class and I thought, ‘I’m happy to be here. Let’s not take anything for granted.’ But I really think it’s those moments that make you appreciate every day so much more, so I’m grateful for that.”
Also on just two time penalties during the entirety of the Individual Final for the Junior category, Caroline Mawhinney (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.) claimed the silver medal aboard her own Stella Levista. Paired with a double-clear performance in the team final, Mawhinney’s performance sealed the deal for her in clinching a podium spot.
“’Stella’ definitely has her own way of going,” Mawhinney said of her mare. “I’ve had her for two years now, so I really trust her, so Jessica [Mendoza, my trainer] told me to lean into that and to ride my round. I don’t worry about anything else because, truly, when I’m in the ring, it’s just me and her. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner. She wants just as much as I do. She’s careful, she’s quick, and she’s just incredible.”
In the bronze medal position was a rider who did not incur any penalties following the first qualifier, Hailey Royce (Zone 4 – Wellington, Fla.) with Sonic Boom, owned by Double Clear, LLC. Coming in on 7.02 penalties, she remained clear over all four rounds Friday and Sunday for a third-place finish.
Royce is a former gold medalist and knows how it feels to perform at the top level and how important consistency over the three days can be. “Going in this year, I wanted to do better than I had in the past,” she remarked. “And I went in and I made a little mistake in round one. And then I knew going in that my horse was ready and I really gave it my all. He jumped four clear rounds after that and he really was incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.”
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