Gigi McIntosh: The Ride Of A Lifetime, Rio 2016
Written by 4Equestrians LLC on September 30, 2016
In her own words, USA Paralympic Equestrian Margaret “Gigi” McIntosh reflects on her Rio 2016 experience- from the exciting, emotional celebration of the Opening Ceremony to the true camaraderie of a team- and amidst the adventure of a lifetime, catching a moment of silence to recognize the value of both the journey and the destination.
Everyone but Annie had their own powered scooters for our time in Rio but charging difficulties left Roxie and me in our manual wheelchairs for the Opening Ceremonies. Laureen Johnson, our Team Leader, pushed Roxie all the way around the beautiful elevated winding pathway to the stadium while I enjoyed being towed by Becca and Sydney’s power scooters and pushed by Annie and the lovely cheerful Brazilian volunteers lining the entranceway!
Entering the stadium with the pandemonium of cheers for the athletes was almost emotionally overwhelming. But, for once in my life, I was at the coolest party ever and totally enjoyed waving and high-fiving the volunteers alongside my USA teammates!
Buses leave the Athletes’ Village regularly every 1/2 hour for the Equestrian complex at Deodoro park. The handi-capped accessible busses take about 35 minutes to reach the military base where our horses and grooms are efficiently stabled. Despite the heat wave of the past few days which had us competing at 94 degrees, the horses stayed quite comfortable in the high ceilings and copiously shaded stables.
As the Deodoro park is on a military base, there is a noticeable presence of military police but the nicest soldiers you have ever met! Despite the camouflage uniforms and rifles, these young men are quick to respond with a wide smile when you greet them with a Portuguese “Bom Dia”! Although few
of the stable workers speak English, they are unfailingly warm and friendly.
It was wonderful to catch up with our old friends, Philippa and James Johnson Dwyer and Meike Wirix, the Singapore girls Laurentia Tan and Gemma Rose Foo. Riding the bus back and forth to the Village gave us a great opportunity to visit as did sharing lunch in the Athlete’s dining hall. Salad was always available as well as several rice, chicken or beef dishes and, of course, all the cold Coke products you could imagine.
Sunday’s jog was hardly uneventful with several horses held for re-presenting and ultimately, the lovely Italian Sarah Morganti’s horse being disqualified. One of my favorite competitors, Sarah gracefully remained to cheer for her teammates through the whole competition. The American horses presented wonderfully thanks to our great vet, Duncan Peters and our outstanding grooms Missy Ransehousen, Alex Philpin, Fernando Ortega Ortega. Amy McIlwham and Kjersten Lance.
I was so excited to ride Rio in to the Paralympic stadium!
The flags lining the top decks, bright blue and green seating and abundant flowers contributed to the festive Rio atmosphere. The venue looked huge in the pictures from the Able-bodied Olympics but strategically placed shrubbery cut the huge expanse into a manageable size as we scoped out markers for our various figures.
The first day of competition was also a local holiday so Annie and Sydney were greeted by record crowds! Unfortunately, there was also a holiday soccer match in the favela near the stadium, with celebratory fireworks punctuating the scoring! Fortunately, the horses didn’t seem to care and the police intervened before our riders started. Annie and Sydney both had very competent rides to start our team competition.
Preparing for my second test, the Individual Championship, involved a slight change in strategy. In order to encourage Rio to show more forward energy, I rode her on a little longer rein. The coaches found her much improved in the subsequent test but not enough to significantly impact her score.
For full results: http://rio2016.live.fei.org/
I enjoyed the support of a great team in Rio!
Missy Ransehousen did double duty as groom and trainer, keeping Rio well fed and beautifully turned out as well as totally tuned up for competition. Alex Philpin was a great help, especially on competition days when time was a factor. Charlotte McIntosh Tarr, my daughter, was exceptional in her ability to keep me organized, hydrated and focused with energy and a sense of humor that benefitted the whole team. It was a delight to have her there!
The Village is quiet tonight.
Most everyone has gone to the closing ceremony. I’m on my balcony overlooking the city in one direction, the hills in the other. There go the buses in a green and white line preceded by flashing red motorcycles. I’m so proud to watch my fellow athletes in their own parade. But I just had a flash of anxiety realizing that the escort isn’t just for pomp but security, realizing that the athletes are leaving the bubble and are vulnerable.
Just saw my first mosquito!