Friday, September 3, 2004

Olympian glad to be home

McDonald spurred U.S. dressage team to bronze medal

Express Staff Writer

Dressage rider Debbie McDonald relaxes in Hailey after returning from the Athens Olympics with a bronze medal awarded to the U.S. team. Photo by David N. Seelig

Dressage rider and Hailey resident Debbie McDonald returned home Tuesday evening, Aug. 31, from the Athens Olympics, after a side trip for her 50th birthday to London with her family, and Peggy and Parry Thomas of Hailey. She rides for the Thomas? River Grove Farm, just north of Hai-ley.

Welcomed back to town by friends, family and fans, McDonald received a hero?s welcome at the Friedman Memorial Airport, and a banner was hung over Main Street in her honor.

McDonald has distinguished her-self and the Thomas? horse, Brentina who she?s ridden for years, by rising steadily in the dressage ranks. Last fall, she became the first U.S. rider to hold the title of Dressage World Cup Champion.

In the Grand Prix team dressage event in Athens, McDonald posted the American team?s highest score to propel the United States to a bronze medal, behind Germany and Spain. McDonald finished fourth in the indi-vidual dressage event, which culmi-nated with a Grand Prix Freestyle on Wednesday, Aug. 25.

?It?s great to be home. I can tell you that,? she said Wednesday. ?It?s been a long eight months.?

In that time McDonald, her hus-band and trainer Bob McDonald and the Hanoverian mare, Brentina, were in California for dressage shows, spent the spring in Europe for more shows, then returned to California for a few weeks before heading to Ger-many for last minute training.

?This time we?ve been gone now from the States about nine weeks.? In Germany, the U.S. Dressage team worked with the team coach before heading to the Olympics in Athens.

The welcome home Tuesday night was ?so overwhelming,? she said. ?It seemed like the whole town of Hailey was there. There was a fire engine and I was escorted to the house and barn. Cars were honking horns behind us, it was quite a deal.?

With Brentina still in Los Angeles in quarantine, and their house being remodeled, McDonald is staying with her in-laws, who are also in the midst of moving house.

?I?m quite excited to get back to my normal life,? McDonald said with enthusiasm, despite the upheavals.

?Bob is in L.A. to bring Brentina back with Ruben, her groom. She?ll get home and have a little time off, but not complete rest. Just like any athlete, she has to stay at work. Then we?ll take it easy.?

The next World Cup event is in Las Vegas in April. Show jumping and dressage are to be held for the first time together.

?I?m a little tired,? McDonald, herself a fit athlete, admitted. ?It?s just so good to get back home. You take it for granted when you live here, especially if you never leave, just how wonderful of a valley we live in. All the people here are so supportive. There?s nothing to bitch about living in this valley.?

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