It does not get much more exciting: After the first day of team competition at the Olympic Games in Rio, four strong jumping countries – including the hosts – are tied on a zero penalty score, while one single penalty behind trails France and another three Canada. There will be no room for error in the team final for the eight countries qualified.
Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and the lovely mare Fit For Fun (For Pleasure x Fabriano) opened up the competition, and in the best possible way as they set the example with a wonderful clear round to finish off on their score of eight penalties from Sunday moving on to tomorrow’s third individual qualifier. None of those competing only individually could match Diniz’s clear round as they all recorded faults finishing behind her.
Following the nine individuals, the teams got underway. As the last ranked team on Sunday following two eliminations, Team Ukraine was first out with Cassio Rivetti who suffered a fall the first day. After some home work yesterday, everything seemed a lot better and Fine Fleur du Marais (Toulon x Cento) only had a foot in the water. However, leaving the ring blood on the flanks of the horse was discovered and Rivetti finished the Games even worse than it started as he was disqualified by the Ground Jury for overuse of spurs according the FEI Jumping Rules article 242.3.1.
Finally, the Ukrainian team finished on a total score of 14, joined by Japan and Australia while Argentina was the best of the teams ranked lowest to end on a score of 10. It would turn out, that none of those four teams in the lowest ranked group would move forward to tomorrow’s team final.
The eleven best teams based on Sunday’s first round were last in the ring. Opening up was defending team champions from the London Olympics – Great Britain. However, not even the 208 years of experience belonging to Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Michael and John Whitaker could keep the Brits in the game today and they will not be in the final tomorrow. A tiny step on the tape at the water jump by Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor) left Skelton on a devastating score of four, and while Ben Maher had to see a single pole fall to the ground both Michael and John were struggling. Michael got a total of five penalties with a foot in the water and a time fault, after riding for his life on Cassionato (Cassini I x Quidam de Revel) – while everything fell apart for John when Ornellaia (For Pleasure x Calato) slammed on the breaks into the triple combination and then had several poles down to finish on 23 faults – the discharge score.
It would turn out that the two British heartbreakers – the triple combination at 4abc and the water at eight – would be the nightmares of the competition, together with the final double. Again and again, the riders and horses made mistakes here and together with the time allowed these factors were decisive in the first round of the team competition.
Exiting were also Spain, who had to see Edouard Alvarez Aznar eliminated in the triple combination – to put the team on a total of 12 penalties despite a wonderful clear from Sergio Alvarez Moya and Carlo 273 (Contender x Cascavelle) as anchors. Fractions away was also Qatar with a total of nine penalties, while the two on eight – Switzerland and Sweden – just made it in.
Switzerland saw two of their riders going clear; Martin Fuchs who fought his way through on a strong and eager Clooney (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo) and Romain Duguet who rode a fantastic round on the quirky mare Quorida de Treho (Kannan x Tolbiac des Forets). However, with eight faults from both Janika Sprunger and reining Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat the team carries the same amount of faults into tomorrows final. The same goes for Sweden, that had four faults from three riders today and their only clear delivered by Peder Fredricson who looks dangerously in form on the amazing All In (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Fortune) as the two stand on a clean sheet individually together with eleven other pairs.
Canada had a great day at work today: Yann Candele opened with a strong clear on First Choice 15 (For Keeps x Angard), followed by one rail down from Tiffany Foster and Tripple X III’s (Namelus R x Catango Z) side while Amy Millar and Heroes (Canadian River x Clinton) had the discharge score with a rail and a time fault after being a bit unlucky when the Canadian rider lost a rein. However, 2008 Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze saved the day when producing a magnificent clear on a flying Fine Lady 5 (Forsyth x Drosselklang II) to put his team on an overall score of four penalties and himself on a clean sheet individually – looking dangerously good in form.
Four teams finished on a clean sheet today: USA, Netherlands, Brazil and Germany – making it extremely exciting and tight ahead of tomorrow’s team final.
The American team looked like a gold medal candidate with Kent Farrington riding his second clear on Voyeur (Tolano van´t Riethof x Goodwill), followed by Lucy Davis on Barron (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve) who also produced a fantastic faultless round before McLain Ward and the stunning Azur (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui) showcased their abilities by making it all look like a walk in the park leaving the US team on a zero score even before anchor rider Beezie Madden went in the ring. Unfortunately for Beezie, today was not her best day as Cortes ‘C’ (Randel Z x Darco) had the back pole at the third oxer down and a foot in the water leaving the two on eight for today’s class and twelve overall individually.
"It is never easy to be the lead-off rider,” said Farrington after his round. “But it helps the others to put in a clear round. That was my duty. Mission accomplished." On the USA team's target, he said: "Quite clearly our hopes are to be in contention for the top. But you never know what to expect. We take one round at a time."
The Dutch must have had mixed emotions today. While their first three couples – Jeroen Dubbeldam on Zenith (Rash R x Fuego du Prelet), Maikel van der Vleuten on Verdi (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) and Harrie Smolders on Emerald (Diamant de Semilly x Carthago) – all went clear with Van der Vleuten and Smolders now on a clean sheet individually, Jur Vrieling and Zirocco Blue (Mr. Blue x Voltaire) were once again eliminated after two stops in the triple combination. Right now, it seems like there are only three riders on the Dutch team although Vrieling can come back for tomorrow’s final round.
The host team yet again shone, and kept on a zero score despite Stephan de Freitas Barcha being disqualified by the Ground Jury after his round for overuse of spur, the second disqualification under this rule of this part of the competition and the third overall in the Games. However, with clear rounds from Eduardo Menezes on Quintol (Quintender x Cento), Alvaro de Miranda on Cornetto K (Cornet Obolensky x Calido) and Pedro Veniss on Quabri de L’Isle (Kannan x Socrate de Chivre) the crowds could go nuts over their home heroes heading the score board after round one.
“I am very, very happy,” said Doda de Miranda after – who actually grew up in the neighborhood of the equestrian complex. I have a wonderful horse! It was tough after Florida for me after some personal problems, and I was not focused – but the moment I got straight in my mind the horse showed how brilliant he is. He does everything for me; he co-operates and has all the scope, is super careful and brave. I am very happy to jump here in my home country, and producing good results especially with this crowd that support us so much.”
“I think Guilherme is doing a wonderful job, he is making it as difficult as it should be being the Olympic Games,” said Doda about the course building. “At the same time, it is technical – but not taking so much out of the horses. It was very clever with the triple combination in the beginning on that corner, and then the line on an angle to the water jump. Sometimes then, the horses are a little bit more on the inside or the outside and it changes the distance and we saw a couple of mistakes on the water jump. The time was just perfect, and I think he is doing a really good job.”
However, the Brazilians will be vulnerable for tomorrow as Stephan de Freitas Barcha will not be allowed back in the team competition after being disqualified in round one unless their protest goes through.
Not surprisingly, the Germans delivered. Already looking very strong on day one in Rio, the experienced team of Christian Ahlmann on Taloubet Z (Galoubet A x Polydor), Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on Fibonacci (For Feeling x Corland), Daniel Deusser on First Class van Eeckelghem (Balou du Rouet x Feinschnitt I van de Richter) and Ludger Beerbaum aboard Casello (Casall x Carolus I) kept a clean sheet with the latter as the discharge score as a pole on the oxer at fence ten fell to the ground. "It felt really good,” said pathfinder Ahlmann after his round. “Taloubet Z is in great shape. He fully concentrated on each fence.”
Breathing the four clear teams in the neck, is France with only a single penalty. After a foot in the water from Philippe Rozier’s Rahotep de Toscane (Quidam de Revel x Laudanum xx), Kevin Staut delivered a stunning clear round on Reveur de Hurtebise (Kashmir von Schuttershof x Capricieux des Six Censes) while Roger Yves Bost again fought his way through on Sydney Une Prince (Baloubet du Rouet x Alfa d’Elle) to record only a time penalty. After a far than less ideal start to the Games for Penelope Leprevost and Flora de Mariposa (For Pleasure x Powerlight), with a light colic and a fall that caused elimination in Sunday’s round the two bounced back today going clear as anchors and keeping France in medal contention ahead of tomorrow’s second round and team final.
"It is difficult,” admitted Staut. “Since we arrived here in Rio, we have had the injury of Ryan, and when he had to leave it was already really bad news for us. And then the small problem during the night, five days ago, with Flora. And then Penelope falling.But maybe it helps to fight more and to be really, really angry, and we are fighting a lot. It does not matter what the results are. We are still here and we are here to compete, and we are proud of it. We will do our best."
Text Jannicke Naustdal for © World of Showjumping // Pictures Jenny Abrahamsson for © World of Showjumping
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