Meet Team USA: Young Talent Lines Up for Nations Cup CSIO4* at WEF 2022
The first fielded national team of 2022 for Team USA takes to the International Arena this afternoon at the Winter Equestrian Festival for the Nations Cup CSIO4*, an annual highlight on the WEF calendar.
While much debate remains over the three-person Olympic format, the Nations Cup—the oldest and most prestigious team competition in the sport—continues to consist of four-person squads with the ever-valuable drop score. And while this particular event is not a qualifier for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals, with the North and Central America and Caribbean division of the qualifying series just a couple weeks away, the event will provide Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland with valuable information to gauge where his team is at heading into a championship year.
This team is undoubtedly characterized by its youth, with its riders’ ages averaging just 23 years old. How do numbers suggest they stand up?
Tanner Korotkin: Twenty-year-old Tanner Korotkin makes his debut in Team USA’s iconic red coat this week as he represents his nation for the first time in senior Nations Cup competition with Sandalwood Farm’s Volo’s Diamond (Stakkatol x Baloubet du Rouet).
Korotkin is the youngest rider on this squad, but he rides with the unflappable poise of a rider far beyond his years, having made his five-star grand prix debut earlier this winter in Wellington. Korotkin is truly finding his best stride with the 11-year-old Volo’s Diamond. The pair has only recorded a score greater than 4 faults on one occasion in FEI competition since November 2021.
In 2022, they are averaging a finish position of 12 in FEI competitions at 1.50m or higher. More impressively, they are averaging just 3 faults in those events.
Natalie Dean: For the record, Natalie Dean is the leading U.S. rider in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League for its 2021-2022 season. This 22-year-old made her senior Nations Cup debut in 2021 and was more than respectable, recording 1 and 4 faults, respectively, over the course of the two rounds, which ultimately earned the U.S. a second-place finish in Calgary last summer.
In 2021, Dean’s average finish position in FEI competitions at 1.60m was an eye-opening 6th. She has a brilliant duo of top mounts in Cocolina (Contharos x Cajandra Z) and Chance Ste Hermelle (Calvaro F.C. x Hemmingway), whom she will ride today.
Spencer Smith: Spencer Smith, 25, is arguably having the best 2022 of this group, having led the victory gallop on two occasions so far this WEF season. Smith is averaging 5 faults in 2022.
Smith represented the U.S. in the Nations Cup Finals in 2021 and impressed, jumping a clear round aboard Gotham Enterprizes’ Quibelle (FRH Quaid x Stakkato) in what was just his second ever senior Nations Cup start. Smith will pair with Quibelle once again today.
Lillie Keenan: Lillie Keenan boasts a remarkable level of experience for her 25 years and is a most deserving anchor rider for Team USA.
Keenan has made 9 senior Nations Cup appearances for her country, including riding in two Nations Cup Finals. She averages just 5 faults in those appearances, despite starting them at age 20.
Keenan rides Argan de Beliard (Mylord Carthago x Ahorn) today, a relatively new mount for her, but the 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding does boast Nations Cup experience with his former rider, Portugal’s Luis Sabino Goncalves.