|JustWorld International Rider Ambassador Taylor Land claimed the Individual Gold Medal at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, Australia.
Photo credit - Jennifer Haydon, USEF
February 6, 2009 – Sydney, Australia – One day after becoming a JustWorld Junior
Ambassador, Taylor Land boarded a plane bound for Sydney, Australia,
where she claimed the Individual Gold Medal in the Youth Olympics on
January 18, 2009. JustWorld International is a non-profit organization
dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged children in the
Land, 16, of Atlanta, Georgia, was one of four Americans selected to travel to Sydney for the Youth Olympic Festival. Fellow JustWorld Junior Ambassador, Mavis Spencer, was one of her teammates while Professional Rider Ambassador, Francie Steinwedell, acted as Team Coach.
In the Nations’ Cup competition, the United States finished fourth overall. In Sunday’s Individual Final, all riders started with a clean slate. Land delivered two clear rounds with her borrowed mount, advancing to a jump-off for the gold medal with Rachel McGregor of New Zealand, who had also jumped the first two rounds clear.
“On the final day, I was determined to be more consistent because I had been so inconsistent up until that point,” explained Land who was partnered with the borrowed horse, Marcovitch, a 10-year-old bay thoroughbred gelding owned by Tom McDermott, who was competing on the Australian team. “I did not think I was going to win, I just wanted to jump well and let the horse have a good experience.”
First to go in the jump-off, Land had the final jump down, leaving the door open for McGregor. However, McGregor also had a rail in the jump-off and turned in a slower time, giving Land the Individual Gold Medal.
“I had nothing to lose, I knew I was either going to win gold or silver,” explained Land who is coached by her parents, Jay and Kim Land. “I was happy with my jump-off course, it was really smooth, but having the last jump down was a horrible feeling. I thought I was going to lose. But I got lucky, and it was my day!”
Land, who is a student at Veritas Classical School in Alpharetta, Georgia, was in Wellington, Florida, to participate in the George H. Morris Horsemastership Training Session before leaving for Sydney. The day before she left, she faxed her JustWorld Ambassador application to the review committee and was accepted.
“I had heard a lot about it, and it sounded like a great organization,” explained Land. “I was interested in doing something to give back to the community, and it seemed like a great thing to become involved with. The promotion of education in third world countries is important, and it’s something that I wanted to help bring awareness to.”
As there was no time to order a signature blue JustWorld riding jacket before leaving for Sydney, Land borrowed Spencer’s recognizable blue coat for the medal presentation, ensuring her association with JustWorld was well-publicized.
“I am so proud of Taylor’s performance,” said Jessica Newman, Executive Director of JustWorld International. “She and our other ambassadors, Mavis Spencer and Michelle Barerra of the Philippines, as well as coach Francie Steinwedell, proudly represented JustWorld on the other side of the world. Following their return to the U.S., we have been overwhelmed with interest from Australian riders who want to become JustWorld ambassadors!”
Founded in 2002 by former grand prix show jumping competitor Jessica Newman, JustWorld International raises awareness and funds in the equestrian community to support humanitarian projects that benefit impoverished communities and children in the developing world. Cooperating with local partners, JustWorld International implements sustainable, culturally sensitive education, health and vocational projects. There are currently 170 rider ambassadors representing JustWorld International in over 24 different countries. Ambassadors donate a portion of their winnings or make annual donations to JustWorld in addition to donating their time and helping to raise funds. For more information on JustWorld International and its upcoming fundraising events, please visit www.justworldinternational.org.