Day two of the Olympic Games ended in the most surprising way, when the Saudi Arabian team took the lead after the first round of the Olympic team competition and favorites Germany and France made a shocking exit together with five other teams. Germany was considered as one of the favorites – if not the favorite – for the Olympic team gold, but after ending up on a twelve penalty score the team competition was over for the German team at day two. A small comfort was nevertheless that Janne Friederike Meyer, Marcus Ehning and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum all made it to the third individual qualifier as they were among the 45 best riders. Expectations were high for the French team as well, they were in the medals both at the Europeans last year and at the WEG in 2010, but after today the French had to wave goodbye to their team medal chances after ending on a 14 penalty score – and also seeing Penelope Leprevost sadly exit the individual competition.
It was the Saudi Arabian team that took an unexpected lead in the team competition in London. After all riders had jumped their rounds, the Saudis were only left with one time penalty. HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saud opened for the Saudis, and in style – the prince rode a great clear on the lovely grey gelding Davos (Carthago Z x Pericles XX) and set the standard for the rest of the team. When Kamal Bahamdan rode a brilliant round on the amazing Noblesse des Tess (Cumano x Irak E) and was left with a single time penalty, things started to look bright.
Ramzy Al Duhami followed up with yet another great round on Bayard van de Villa Theresa, and crossed the finish line on a zero score securing a great day for the Saudi team. Their fourth rider Abdullah Sharbatly ended on a six penalty score, but was lucky that it wasn’t more and was saved by his ride Sultan that showed some real honesty when he pulled out of the triple combination with only the middle element down. Luckily for the Saudis, these penalties could be discharged after three great rounds already ridden.
The course was definitely more demanding today than yesterday. Bob Ellis’ track consisted of thirteen fences, and included a combination at 5a and b, a huge open water at seven followed by a tricky bend line to the triple combination with a vertical-oxer-vertical where the oxer measured 1.49 x1.65. Many faults came in the triple combination, but the line at fence nine-ten-eleven also caused a lot of headache for the riders with a distance from the oxer at either seven or eight strides to the triple bar at fence ten and then a new tricky line on either five or six strides to the red British Post-fence – a vertical that many had down when either coming too close or too far off. It really took some technical skills to leave the course intact and 16 of the 70 riders proved that they had what it took, while another two only had a time fault.
Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland are all trailing dangerously close behind the Saudis though – all teams on four penalties. For Great Britain Nick Skelton really delivered on the fantastic nine year old Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor), and produced his second clear in just as many days. The crowds almost exploded and a happy Nick could celebrate as the audience covered up under their Jacks. The Brits got more to celebrate when Ben Maher repeated yesterday’s success and was clear again on the home bred stallion Tripple X (Namelus R x Cantango), after a lovely ridden round. Poor Scott Brash almost had a clear as well for the Brits, but lost it at the final fence when the front pole of the 1.85 meter wide oxer fell to the ground. When Peter Charles and Vindicat (Guidam x Libero H) had two down, Scott’s result had to count for the British team.
The Netherlands had another good day at work. After all riders were clear yesterday, expectations were high and the Dutch delivered. It didn’t open too well though, as Jur Vrieling had two down on Bubalu (Baloubet du Rouet x Nimmerdor) – but as Maikel van der Vleuten and Verdi (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf) and Marc Houtzager on Tamino (Numero Uno x Farmer) both rode two fantastic clears Vrieling’s score could be discharged and the team was only left with Gerco Schröder and London’s four penalties which came on the first element in the combination.
The Swiss team impressed today, and most of all Paul Estermann and Castlefield Eclipse (Obos Quality). The 49 year old rider has had an amazing season, producing clear after clear in the Top League – and continued delivering today! Estermann’s clear followed a four fault round from Steve Guerdat, and Werner Muff and Kiamon (Kolibri x Ramiro’s Match) also had one down as third team rider. Pius Schwizer redeemed himself after yesterday’s eight faults though, and rode an immaculate clear round on Carlina (Carvallo x Landgraf I) helping the Swiss team to finish at a four penalty score.
With a bruised and battered Lisen Bratt Fredricson on the team, things didn’t look too good for Sweden. But Lisen is tough as few – and after being unable to walk yesterday evening she managed to climb up on Matrix (Cardento x Maximus) today and astonishingly the Swedish rider went in and rode the entire course with only four faults which came in the triple combination. Lisen’s round followed her brother-in-law Jens’ eight fault performance, but then came two clears. Henrik von Eckermann produced yet another fantastic round on Allerdings (Arpeggio x Diamantino, as did number one in the world Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on the stallion Casall (Caretino x Lavall I).
These five teams will be joined by Canada, Brazil and United States in tomorrow’s second part of the team competition. Canada is trailing just behind on five penalties after an amazing clear by Ian Millar and Star Power (Quick Star x Calvados), as well as fantastic round from reigning Olympic champion Eric Lamaze on Derly Chin de Muze (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve) who only had a single time penalty after Eric rode a beautiful round. Unfortunately for the Canadian team, Tiffany Foster was not allowed to ride after her horse was ruled hyper sensitive by the FEI officials in London following a minor wound on a leg, so Jill Henselwood's four penalty score had to count. Brazil follows behind Canada on eight penalties as does USA. Alvaro de Miranda on Rahmannshof’s Bogeno (Baloubet du Rouet x Elanville) and Rich Fellers on the fantastic Flexible (Cruising x Safari) both produced great clear rounds for Brazil and USA respectively.
Individually twelve riders are left on a zero penalty score after two rounds. Although Mexico did not make it to the second part of the team competition tomorrow, they can find comfort in Alberto Mischan’s great achievement as the rider is among these twelve. Plenty of the favorites for the medal are at this end of the result list, such as Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Edwina Tops-Alexander, Rich Fellers and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson. Two riders follow on one penalty, and two on a two penalty score – among them is Eric Lamaze. 46 riders will jump tomorrow in the round that also serves as the third individual qualifier to determine which 35 riders that will move on to the individual final on Wednesday.
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