It’s official.

McLain Ward has achieved hero status.

You might think he’d already gotten there, what with the double Olympic gold medals, World Cup title and 500,000+ Grand Prix titles to his name. But you’d be wrong.

Because Friday’s performance, the clutch clear that captured the gold medal for Team USA at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) in Tryon, NC, was an epic piece of riding from an athlete already sporting more feathers in his cap than Danielle Goldstein’s colorful extensions.

And like all great moments in sport, it was one awash in dramatic tension.

Ten nations returned to contest the medal-deciding round of team competition. As the rails fell and faults added it up, USA and Sweden rose to the top of scoreboards, duelling factions locked in battle for gold.

Clear rounds from Henrik von Eckermann (Toveks Mary Lou), Malin Baryard-Johnsson (H&M Indiana) and Fredrick Jonsson (Cold Play) put the Swedes on an overall team score of 20.59.

Exactly four points in front, Team USA was sitting on 16.59 penalties after a single rail from Devin Ryan (Eddie Blue) and a clear from Laura Kraut (Zeremonie). (Adrienne Sternlicht and Crystalline, a rail and a time fault.) With just Ward to return, they needed a clear from their anchor to take the win outright.

But a collective gasp from the crowd told another story. Ward and Clinta caught a rail mid course to force a jump off, the first in team jumping history at WEG!

Tensions at an all time high, the Swedes and Americans returned to face off for one final round. All four riders jumped again with times and faults collated.

First to return for Sweden, Von Eckermann poured the pressure on, posting a fault less round in 32.99 seconds.

Ryan answered with a clear for Team USA in 34.88 seconds.

Baryard-Johnsson opened the door when she and and H&M Indiana caught a rail in 35.39 seconds.

But Sternlicht posted the same total in 34.61s.

Clears from Kraut (33.21s) and Jonsson (35.31s) separated the teams by a mere second.

The gold came down to Fredricson and Ward.

In a nail-biting finish, the Swede put the screws to the American with a clear in 34.43 seconds. Team USA needed a clear to win and a fast one at that…

AND WARD DELIVERED! A blistering clear in 32.58 seconds sealed team USA’s first WEG victory in 34 years before an ecstatic hometown crowd!

“It has been a very long three or four days and I take my hat off to Sweden,” said Ward. “I knew the situation. I had one fence down and then I knew I couldn’t afford a time fault. I got a second opportunity in the jump-off. I wanted to go in and just do the best round I could. All the guys came through brilliantly and I am so proud to be American today.”

Which brings us to Ward’s GOAT status (“Greatest Of All Time”). Because equally awestruck was everyone watching at home:

The top 25 riders return for Sunday’s individual medal final. But how anyone could top Friday’s performance remains to be seen.