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Thank you !

Years of preparation culminating in fifteen days of competition. The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy came to a close on Sunday after an intense fortnight of wonderful sport. They leave Normandy, France, the whole world in fact, with a solid legacy, one which will be felt for the next fifteen years, or hopefully even longer. The first aspect of this legacy: memories.

Thank you !
© Sindy Thomas

For those who were lucky enough to experience the event from the inside, the 2014 Games were above all a highly intense fifteen days: a global-scale event like this cannot be experienced by halves. The Games represented stress, drive, the challenge of playing host to the rest of the world with an unfaltering smile, whatever the circumstances. This warm welcome, which will remain etched in everyone’s memories, pervaded principally from the 3,000 men and women dressed in green: the volunteers, who, even when faced with problems, were the unfailing ambassadors of perseverance, helping each other and effort: values which are so important in all sports, and in particular the equestrian world. The Norman locals, many of whom were involved in the volunteer programme, strove to offer the world a top-quality welcome. Others had come from much further afield - Australia, the USA, Mexico, Norway - to give their time selflessly in order to be a part of this large-scale, popular event.

On the field, every one of the 84 medals awarded, every horse and rider pair that competed, was part of the continuing history that has united man and horses for millennia, and which the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy have enhanced. It is the story of riders with weakened bodies, who put all their trust in their loyal steeds to put on a captivating performance. It is the story of an outstanding beast called Valegro who, paired with Britain’s Charlotte, she of the French-sounding name, left the world speechless with his mastery of dressage. It is the story of Rodolphe, who with a heavy heart managed to excel on the world stage, carried by the spectators who suddenly shared in the grief, hopes and desires of this young man overcome by sorrow. It is the story of Switzerland’s Barbara who, despite several cracked ribs and tears shed in the woodland, carried on regardless in order to clinch a bronze medal for her mare and her team at the end of a highly-taxing 160-kilometre course. It is the story of a young South African vaulter, Bongani, who was dealt a dud hand by destiny but eventually discovered a sport which would lift his life out from the gutters. It is also the story of that oh-so-familiar face which, because of just 43 hundredths of a second, did not know whether to laugh or cry, but to whom 21,000 spectators were clamouring to say “Thank you, Patrice”. The 2014 Games were all that, and so much more besides.  

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy are like a noise, an awe-inspiring noise that does not burst your ear drums but instead continues to resonate, to warm your heart, bring tears to your eyes. In the competition sites, thousands of hands clapping in unison, stamping feet making the stands tremble, voices shouting as loud as they possibly could, created an ambiance like no horse in the world had ever seen before. The Norman page has now turned, modestly and without fanfare. Just two words now echo through all of our minds, words which we would have liked to shout or write here 565,000 times: THANK YOU!

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