McLain Ward's Unusual Winter Season

In the world of show jumping, the names that dominate the podiums often remain the same. However, in the 2024 season, a surprising name has been absent more often than not - McLain Ward. The American rider’s spotty performance has not gone unnoticed, even among the most unlikely observers. The four-time Olympic medalist was recently met with an unexpectedly candid comment from a server at Dunkin' Doughnuts. Rather than the star-struck reactions that top athletes often encounter, the server pointedly remarked on Ward’s decreasing win rate as of late.

The Evidence is Clear

Such an observation would not have been made out of nowhere. A look at Ward's performance during the Winter Equestrian Festival shows that he has been largely missing from the podium this year. This absence is particularly notable for a rider who previously dominated the WEF Challenge Cup and was a longtime staple in the world's top 10.

Contrasting his current form with his performance in 2023 provides a stark picture. Last year, he had 12 podium finishes at WEF, including seven victories. He even won the Rolex Grand Prix at the Dutch Masters mid-circuit. This year looks different. He has obtained only seven podium finishes so far, with two victories. So why the sudden change?

It’s All Relative

While seven podium finishes and two victories are nothing to scoff at, they become less impressive when set against the backdrop of Ward's typical record. Despite this, it's important to note that his earnings are at €235,448 (according to Jumpr) App rider rankings for 2024, putting him in slot number 11. So while things may have seemed better for him last year, Ward's "not so great" winter circuit still trumps most riders' entire annual performance.

Chasing the Paris Games

With the Paris Games only six months away, Ward is keeping his focus on the larger picture. He currently has several horses lined up for the Olympic qualification, with 15-year-old Contagious leading the pack.

Even with the occasional hiccups, the determination to keep "-banging heads with top riders" persists in Ward. Indeed, he realizes and acknowledges the thin line between being hailed a hero and being a source of frustration as the stakes rise closer to the event.

A Champion’s Mindset

It is this mindset that has marked McLain Ward's career. His resilience in the face of defeat is awe-inspiring, not simply because of his accomplishments but due to his consistent attitude of persistence, focus, and a deep passion for show jumping. So, while his winter season might not have been up to his usual standards, Ward reminds us that true champions are those who persist, even when they do not always emerge the winners. They know that the process, stumbling blocks, and all, is just as valuable as any medal might be – if not more so.

Source: Horse Network