Unexpected exits – even on the side of those counted as the favorites, a dramatic fall for the world’s leading lady rider, beautiful clear rounds and a home team full of fighting spirit: The first day of showjumping at the Olympic Games in Rio had it all.
Today’s first round of competition at the Deodoro equestrian venue counted as a qualification individually, and also established the starting order for the team competition that starts on Tuesday and finishes Wednesday. However, it ended up being much more than just this.
It was in large thanks to Guilherme Jorge’s twelve fence track that the competition got as unpredictable as it did. The fences were set on a height ranging from 1.50 to 1.60 meters, and as wide as 1.90 – but it was the technical aspect rather than the size that mattered in the end. A vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination set at 4abc would turn out to be a defining factor for many, as would the open water at fence seven counting four meters and a bit more – but in the end it was all about the final line with a massive Calcada de Copacabana-themed plank-upright at fence 10 followed by seven or eight strides on a bend line to an oxer-vertical combination at 11ab and then five strides to the last oxer at 12 that would make the first day of Olympic showjumping a hard one for most.
“I don’t really get why there was so many faults made at the end of the course,” said reigning Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat after the competition. “It was a big combination, but it was fairly build. It was a bit long inside, but if you came proper into it it should not have been a problem to get out. Even when I walked the course, I thought it was a really good one. But, it might have been that the angle from the plank at fence 10 to the combination was a contributing factor towards all the faults. Perhaps some of the riders were not enough alert in regards to this.”
The combination – quite openly build with brown poles on top and bottom and a white music-themed plank vertically in the middle – was definitely the heart breaker of the class. Countless had one or both fences down, while even worse it was for Ukraine’s Cassio Rivetti who went off Fine Fleur du Marais (Toulon x Cento) head first on the b-element to get eliminated just to later on be joined by Argentina’s Bruno Passaro who had two stops here as did Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts and Japan’s Daisuke Fukushima. Philippaerts was later disqualified by the ground jury for overuse of spurs according the FEI Jumping Rules article 242.3.1., and perhaps he should not have been the only one today suffering that faith. Some rounds were simply far from pleasant to watch.
In the end no less than seven combinations were eliminated; two for falls and five for refusals. One rider – Taipei’s Isheau Wong – retired after a stop in the combination that almost resulted in being dismounted.
Team Ukraine did certainly not have a good day at the office when their third rider Ferenc Szentirmai copied Rivetti’s elimination with first having a stop into the triple combination on an un-willing Chadino (Chacco-Blue x Narew xx), before the stallion refused to jump the open water – leaving the Ukrainians with two eliminated riders and last on the team standings.
The Dutch were not spared either, and considered medal candidates – if not gold medal favorites – the elimination, later disqualification, of Jur Vrieling and Zirocco Blue (Mr. Blue x Voltaire) came as a big blow. With a stop on the middle element of the triple combination, and then a refusal on 11a it was game over for Vrieling – who later had to deal with disqualification from the ground jury for overuse of the whip. “I came too close into the triple combination and was too far off the b-element, and then Zirocco became scared and insecure,” explained Vrieling after about the surprise exit.
Towards the very end of the competition, more drama occurred as Penelope Leprevost’s Flora de Mariposa (For Pleasure x Powerlight) stumbled badly after the Colonial de Paraty-oxer at nine unseating her rider who fell to the ground. Luckily both walked out seemingly unharmed, although Leprevost’s neck must have taken some serious beating in the fall. "I don't know what happened. She tripped and I came off. But I am all right and the horse seems to be all right, too. It was an unlucky week for us,” said Leprevost who also had to deal with her mare suffering a light colic on Friday night.
However, the teams’ eliminations and disqualifications will not prevent the riders in question from returning for Tuesday’s team competition – it’s immediate effect is on the individual standings.
On a good note, 24 riders produced clear rounds – with some looking very convincing. Of the individuals, Belgium’s Jerome Guery impressed making light work of the course aboard Grand Cru van de Rozenberg (Malito de Reves x Heartbreaker) to go clear. Egypt’s Karim El Zoghby and Amelia (Cantos x Numero Uno) also impressed, clearing the tricky parts of the course easily.
Team wise, it was a great day for the hosts who fought their way through the competition with no less than three of four riders going clear – a result only the strong and experienced German team could match.
The Brazilian team opened up with four faults from Eduardo Menezes, but when Stephan de Freitas Barcha, Alvaro de Miranda and Pedro Veniss all delivered superb clear rounds these four penalties could be discharged and the home team gave themselves the best start possible putting themselves in the favored position at the bottom of the start list for Tuesday’s first part of the team competition as the order-to-go was decided by today’s team results. For Doda de Miranda, it was an emotional day as the rider grew up in the area where the equestrian venue is located: "If I ride, it is because of this place,” he said. “My father used to live 100 meters from where we are now, because my grandfather was in the military and my father always loved horses. It is amazing because we came here like three years ago, and from the house where he lived, you can see the arena."
The same went for Germany. With 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) on the team the expectations were high. The Germans delivered though, with its three first pairs producing convincing clear rounds – Ahlmann and Taloubet Z looked exceptionally good today – Beerbaum’s unlucky rail on the last fence in an otherwise flawless round could be discharged to put them on an equal score of Brazil and in a favorable position for Tuesday’s round one of the team competition.
Three teams finished on four faults today. The Canadians stood out with some very good rounds after Yann Candele opened up with four faults in the combination at 11ab, with Tiffany Foster’s Tripple X III only tapping a foot in the water while Captain Canada’s daughter Amy Millar went clear on Heros (Canadian River x Clinton) as did Eric Lamaze on a flying Fine Lady (Forsyth x Drosselklang II) that did not put a foot wrong. Today, the latter definitely looked like a medal candidate with her light and easy way of jumping.
The Dutch, French and Swiss were also left on a score of four. While the Dutch perhaps looked less convincing than expected with a foot in the water from Jeroen Dubbeldam’s Zenith (Rash R x Fuego du Prelet) and elimination/disqualification of Jur Vrieling on Zirocco Blue, they still delivered two strong clears courtesy of Maikel van der Vleuten on Verdi (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) and Harrie Smolders on a very well jumping Emerald (Diamant de Semilly x Carthago).
The French were maximum unfortunate with the outcome, as Kevin Staut’s very unlucky four faults picked up on the very last fence had to count when Leprevost fall cost the team dearly. Still, Philippe Rozier jumped an outstanding clear round on Rahotep de Toscane (Quidam de Revel x Laudanum xx) and Roger Yves Bost fought his way through on Sydney Une Prince (Baloubet du Rouet x Alfa d’Elle) to record a clean sheet for France.
Marvelous clears from Swiss pathfinder Janika Sprunger on Bonne Chance CH (Baloubet du Rouet x Cambridge) as well as reigning Olympic Champions Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II), was also good enough for the top part of the result list today as one of the two four fault rounds from Romain Duguet and Martin Fuchs could be discharged leaving Switzerland on the score equal to one pole down. "It went very well. We were working hard for months to be set for this day," said reigning Olympic Champion Guerdat afterwards.
Although the British and American team finished a bit further down on the result list today, with eight faults in total – both countries still looked strong and while the likes of Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker, Lucy Davis, McLain Ward and Beezie Madden were maximum unlucky with a light four fault mistake each, all horses jumped beautiful rounds and will probably join in on the clears delivered by John Whitaker on Ornellaia (For Pleasure x Calato) and Kent Farrington on Voyeur (Tolano Van´t Riethof x Goodwill) when Tuesday comes to see the first round of the team competition get underway. "We had a slow start as a team and we are now coming from behind," said John Whitaker after the competition had finished warning the competitors of what is to come on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tuesday’s round is open to all team athletes and horses from the first individual qualifying competition, and all teams will start with zero penalties – which means today’s team scores are not carried through. Individuals go first on Tuesday: Non-team members and horses classified 60th and better after today are entitled to participate.
Text Jannicke Naustdal for © World of Showjumping // Pictures Jenny Abrahamsson for © World of Showjumping
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