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Plenty of clears and unexpected drama on the first day of Olympic showjumping

Saturday, 04 August 2012
The Olympic Games London 2012

Medal candidates Nick Skelton and Big Star were clear on the first day of the Olympic showjumping in London. Photo by © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.
Medal candidates Nick Skelton and Big Star were clear on the first day of the Olympic showjumping in London. Photo by © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.

The first individual qualifier at the 2012 Olympic Games in London brought with it plenty of lovely clear rounds and some very unexpected drama.  Out of the 75 riders, 32 rode clear rounds – and many of the favorites for the medals could be found among these. Nine of the riders also left the fences intact, but had time penalties – while on the other end of the scale four riders found themselves eliminated after some dramatic stops and a fall.

The first showjumper in the ring at Greenwich Park was Dutch rider Jur Vrieling on Bubalu (Baloubet du Rouet x Nimmerdor). Vrieling opened up with what was going to be the first of an amazing four clears for the Dutch team – giving them the best possible warm-up before tomorrow’s first part of the team competition.

Philippe Le Jeune and Vigo d'Arsouilles - reigning World Champions - were clear. Photo by © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.
Philippe Le Jeune and Vigo d'Arsouilles - reigning World Champions - were clear. Photo by © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.

The track designed by Bob Ellis did not look too challenging at first sight, but it certainly caused a few headaches. The course consisted of twelve fences, and they were measured from 1.40 at the first fence to 1.60 further out in the course. From the vertical at fence two followed a distance on six or seven strides to the combination at 3a and b –  a triple bar (1.50 high, and 1.90 wide) on one stride to the vertical at b.  Another combination was placed on a line on eight strides from fence eight, a vertical-oxer combination. The course also finished off with a combination at 12a and b; with the a-element featuring an oxer that was 1.50 high and 1.70 wide followed by a vertical. Lots of London-designed themes could be looked at with the London Montage at fence two, the Light House and Thames Barge at fence six, the Olympic Fence on seven and Nelson's Column on fence eight. Out of the fences it was the combinations at 3a and b and 12a and b that caused most trouble among the riders.

After a quiet start, drama paid a visit. Australia’s Matt Williams on Watch Me (Heartbreaker x Wolfgang) was eliminated after two refusals on the oxer with the water tray at fence five, while Brazil’s Carlos Motta Ribas ride Wilexo (Phin Phin x Calvados) refused to jump the first element in the combination at 3a. A few riders later it was Sweden’s Lisen Bratt Fredricson’s turn to taste the drama. Her horse Matrix (Cardento x Maximus) took off on a half-stride, way too early, and could not reach over the triple bar at 3a causing a crash landing for Lisen and almost a fall for Matrix himself. Lisen was later send for x-rays, while Matrix seemed to be unhurt. Luckily for Lisen nothing was broken, and it seems like she will be able to return to competition tomorrow.

Luckily, things calmed down again after Lisen’s fall and the clears ticked in again. During this first individual qualifier, from which the riders will bring the penalties with them individually, many of the pre-named favorites rode some great clears. Nick Skelton and Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor), Philippe Le Jeune and Vigo d’Arsouilles (Nabab de Reve x Fleuri du Manoir), Ben Maher and Tripple X (Namelus R x Cantango), Kevin Staut and Silvana (Corland x Widor) Edwina Tops-Alexander and Itot du Chateau (Le Tot de Semilly x Galoubet A), Rich Fellers and Flexible (Cruising x Safari), Gerco Schröder and London (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin), as well as silver medalist from Hong Kong Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall ( Caretino x Lavall I) and reigning Olympic champion Eric Lamaze on Derly Chin de Muze (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve) were all among those who produced clear rounds. Olympic champion from Athens, Rodrigo Pessoa on Rebozo (Tlaloc La Silla x Ramiro Z) also had an amazing clear over the fences but got one time penalty.

Australian rider Edwina Tops-Alexander was clear on Itot du Chateau. Photo by © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.
Australian rider Edwina Tops-Alexander was clear on Itot du Chateau. Photo by © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com.

Unfortunately even more riders had some bad luck and are out of the individual competition. Great Britain’s Peter Charles had to hold on when Vindicat (Guidam x Libero H) almost did the same as Matrix and jumped through the triple bar at 3a – but brave and honest as he is Vindicat just continued and jumped the b-element as well, but it was impossible not to bring that down. The rest of the course was no problem, but a total of 10 penalties unfortunately brought the pair out of the individual competition – although they will return for the team. Christian Ahlmann was another rider that got in trouble as Codex One (Contendro I x Glueckspilz) came on a far from optimal stride on the penultimate combination and was not able to reach over the oxer at the a-element forcing a refusal at b. The stallion jumped the second time around, but together with a pole down on fence eleven the German pair ended on 15 penalties. Poor Beezie Madden also saw her individual prospects disappear as she had to pull up Via Volo (Clinton x Heartbreaker) on the b-element in the combination at fence nine. Unlike Codex One, Via Volo did not jump the second time around either – and it just seemed like the mare could not reach out on the distance.

Team wise the Dutch will go into tomorrow’s team competition full of confidence. Together with Jur, Maikel van der Vleuten on Verdi (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf), Marc Houtzager on Tamino (Numero Uno x Farmer) and Gerco Schröder on London all produced clears – as the only team to do so. Today’s results from the different team riders will decide the order to go in tomorrow’s team competition. Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland also impressed ahead of tomorrow after three out of four riders produced clears. Germany, USA, Brazil and France also looked dangerous and each team had two clears and one rider with one time penalty out of their four riders. Saudi Arabia also had a good day at work, and will look forward to tomorrow’s team competition after three of their four riders only notched up time penalties.

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