Swiss rider Steve Guerdat is Olympic Champion! Steve and Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II) were the only pair to produce two clear rounds over Bob Ellis’ very technical tracks in the individual final in London this afternoon. The silver and bronze had to be decided by a jump-off after both Gerco Schröder on the appropriately named London (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin) and Cian O’Connor on Blue Loyd (Landor S x Hadj A) ended on a one penalty score. Gerco ended with the silver after a clear and fast round, and Cian with the bronze as the jump-off’s last fence fell in the chase for Gerco’s time.
The Olympic individual final was run over two rounds. After the first round four riders were on a one penalty score after a time fault, and included Luciana Diniz on Lennox (Lifestyle x Grannus), Gerco Schröder on London, Pius Schwizer on Carlina (Carvallo x Landgraf I) and Kamal Bahamdan on Noblesse des Tess (Cumano x Irak E). Gerco’s stallion London looked extremely fresh, and jumped absolutely fantastic in the first round and was sky high over the fences – something which might have caused the time penalty. Kamal Bahamdan also rode with fighting spirit on his mare – a horse that always wants to jump, and today was no exception, as Noblesse des Tess literary flew over the fences.
Six riders went clear over Bob Ellis’ first round British themed track. The course consisted of twelve fences, and included a combination at 3a and b with water trays beneath, a really tricky line to and out of the Stately Home Garden-designed open water which was placed as fence eight – especially the Magna Carta oxer following on a distance from the water caused problems. Towards the end came the Maritime Navigation triple combination with an oxer-vertical oxer followed by the Royal Observatory vertical at 1.60 as the last fence.
The first clear of the day came from a very happy Cian O’Connor, who was selected to ride for Ireland when Denis Lynch’s nomination was withdrawn and who actually was reserve ahead of today’s final – but who got to ride after the vet-check this morning as Rolf-Göran Bengtsson withdrew Casall La Silla (Caretino x Lavall I). The second clear came from Olivier Guillon on Lord de Theize (Donald Rouge x Tolbiac des Halles) two riders later, before Steve Guerdat came in on Nino des Buisonnets and rode a fantastic round. Two British riders were also clear; Scott Brash on Hello Sanctos (Quasimodo VD Molendreef x Nabab de Reve) and Nick Skelton on the amazing Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor) – both looked cool as ice, despite what must have felt as massive pressure to take home yet another medal. Marcus Ehning also rode a text book clear on Plot Blue (Mr. Blue x Pilot) for Germany, and the stallion looked great going into the second round.
Bob Ellis’ track for the second round was demanding, and asked many questions. This time the fences were one notch bigger, and in order to go clear the 22 riders needed a horse that could be lengthened and shortened without losing rhythm or capacity. Ten fences and thirteen jumps waited for the riders and horses as they entered the ring, and it turned out to be the Naval Ship of the line triple combination with a vertical-oxer-oxer at 7a, b and c and the 1. 60 Cutty Sark vertical at eight coming on a right turn after the triple combination that would cause heart ache for the riders.
It was veterans Rich Fellers and Flexible (Cruising x Safari) – at 52 and 16 years old respectively – that posted the first clear of the second round. But with five penalties from the first round, Rich eventually had to settle for 8th place overall. Rodrigo Pessoa’s Rebozo (Tlaloc La Silla x Ramiro Z) looked great the first time around, but four tough rounds of competition seemed to have taken the toll on the stallion who ended up with four fences down. Alberto Michan was extremely happy when he went into the lead with Rosalia La Silla (Cassini I x Contender) as next to go. The Mexican rider produced a beautiful clear, and ended on a four penalty score overall – in the end good enough for tied fifth.
Poor Ben Maher had some high expectations to live up too, and was extremely unlucky when Tripple X (Namelus R x Canthango) went off a little too early on the first element of the triple combination and had that down – but jumping out of the next two elements faultless says a lot about this horse and rider, and there will be more championships for the talented British rider and his homebred stallion that ended up on eight penalties overall. Marc Houtzager – clear in the three first individual qualifiers didn’t have luck on his side and had one down, just as in the first round. Luck didn’t favor Luciana Diniz either; coming in with just one penalty things looked good all the way to the Cutty Shark fence – but that fell, and Luciana lost her stirrup which she couldn’t regain before the last line and then fell the final fence as well.
London continued to jump amazing under Gerco though, and was yet again sky high. This time there were no time penalties involved, and the two took the lead on an overall one penalty score. Kamal Bahamdan and Noblesse des Tess did yet another fantastic performance in Greenwich Park, and the mare jumped out of her skin in the triple combination – when they crossed the finish line Kamal could celebrate another great round, taking with him only one time penalty from each of the final rounds to end up on overall two penalties and eventually fourth place. An incredible result for the Saudi Arabian rider.
Cian was next in, and looked determined to post another clear. Despite a rub in the triple combination from Blue Loyd, all fences were left intact – but Cian had to note down a time penalty and was tied with Gerco. After Olivier Guillon had to see two fences fall to the ground, it was Steve and Nino’s turn. Again Nino jumped amazing, totally untouched by four previous rounds of competition he has jumped since Saturday looking as fresh as ever. When Steve and Nino crossed the finish line, they were on a zero penalty score and took the lead.
With only three riders left to challenge him, the next minutes must have felt like ages for the Swiss rider. But, it turned out that nobody could match him – not even favorite and home rider Nick Skelton on Big Star. The first rider that had to give in was Scott Brash, who had an unfortunate pole down on 4a aboard Hello Sanctos. Plot Blue then followed with two down and a time penalty, leaving him and Marcus on a nine penalty score overall. Then it was time for Nick, and any medal chances for Britain rested on his shoulders. It all looked good until the Cutty Shark fence, where it looked like Nick increased the stallion’s speed and then maybe fell a little out of rhythm in the turn to the fence – which fell to the ground synchronized with a collective “No” from the crowds. Nevertheless, when Nick crossed the finish line on a four penalty score – tied with Brash and Michan, the home crowds paid tribute to him and his amazing horse whatsoever after their fantastic performances throughout the Games.
The gold medal went to one of the great horsemen of the sport; Steve Guerdat – who has enjoyed a fantastic season with Nino on whom he also was second in the World Cup Final in April. The jump-off was to be settled between Schröder and O’Connor, and although the Irishman had a way faster time the last fence fell as Blue Loyd came flying in a little too far away and Cian had to settle for bronze leaving the silver to Gerco and London.
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