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2016 Olympic Games: From grievance to gold for France

Wednesday, 17 August 2016
The Olympic Games Rio 2016

France won gold, USA silver and Germany bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio after a thriller of a competition. All photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
France won gold, USA silver and Germany bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio after a thriller of a competition. All photos (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

The French team fought their way to gold in Wednesday’s team final at the Olympic Games in Rio, following an extremely difficult week where their number one pair Simon Delestre and Ryan were lost due to an injury, followed by a colic for Flora de Mariposa before the same horse stumbled on day one unseating her rider Penelope Leprevost to eliminate the pair.

It is a story to illustrate how you in sport never should give up, or never should stop believing. Equestrian sports, especially showjumping, is extremely unpredictable and riders and horses can go from zero to hero in a matter of a minute. If anyone was asked about the team medals on Sunday afternoon – following the first day of competition in Rio – France was not mentioned after their disastrous start to the Games.

However, in Tuesday’s first part of the team competition the French crew came back strong. A total of one penalty was all they were left with, and they were breathing the four teams on zero in the neck.

France was not the only unlucky team in Rio this week. Medal favourite Netherlands lost their team member Jur Vrieling on Zirocco Blue (Mr. Blue x Voltaire); the stallion was eliminated after refusals in both of the first two rounds of competitions and was obviously not feeling right. The decision to withdraw the horse was the only right thing to do. The same went for Beezie Madden, whose horse Cortes ‘C’ (Randel Z x Darco) has not been jumping as well as we are used to seeing – and when a tendon injury was discovered after yesterday’s round this pair was also withdrawn from the competition. Brazil was also one man down; Stephan de Freitas Barcha was disqualified yesterday due to overuse of spur and lost his chance to come back for the team today leaving the hosts with three riders only.

Germany definitely had the upper hand coming into today’s team final, with four riders and on a zero penalty score. The same went for Canada that had a full team and were sitting on four faults. Close behind trailed Sweden and Switzerland on eight. 

Pathfinder Philippe Rozier and Rahotep de Toscane only had a single time penalty in today's final.
Pathfinder Philippe Rozier and Rahotep de Toscane only had a single time penalty in today's final.

Next to these unpredictable turn of events, today’s course designed by Guilherme Jorge would also play an important part in the outcome. Huge and technical with several options, and with an extremely tight time allowed Jorge would give the riders and horses a very hard time. Two of the lines that would prove to be the heartbreakers of the competition gave choices on the number of strides, but choosing to add a stride you would risk time penalties and choosing to leave out one you would risk coming flat and having the fence down. This happened for many; those who chose five on the line from the 1.60m vertical at fence nine to the 1.70m wide oxer at fence ten or six strides from the triple combination to the 1.60m penultimate upright got in trouble with the time, while those who chose one less either had the oxer down, or had horses running too much into the triple combination following making a mistake here – and the vertical at fence twelve also fell frequently because horses either got too deep or too flat jumping it.

The time allowed stressed many, and in the end only four riders – Tiffany Foster (CAN), Kevin Staut (FRA), McLain Ward (USA) and Eric Lamaze (CAN) – managed to stay clear and inside the time allowed. The most impressive over the three first days of competition has definitely been Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 (Forsyth x Drosselklang II), that has been flying the fences like a rocket. Today was no exception, and the two were inside the time by more than four seconds.

For Sweden it was not to be. Malin Baryard-Johnsson opened up with no less than four fences down and a time fault. Another magnificent round from Peder Fredricson on All In (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Fortune), that only saw a penalty for time being added, could not save the day as Henrik von Eckermann followed with eight faults. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, who has had far from good Games, bounced back today with a fighting round to only have a time fault – but it was too late and the Swedes finished on 17 penalties overall. However, it certainly looks like Sweden has an individual medal candidate in Fredricson who keeps on impressing.

Two penalties less was the score for Switzerland in the end, despite Janika Sprunger and reigning Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat only recording a time penalty each. With five faults from both Martin Fuchs and Romain Duguet, it got too expensive to get involved in the fight for the medals.

Kevin Staut did the round of his life on Reveur de Hurtebise to go clear for France.
Kevin Staut did the round of his life on Reveur de Hurtebise to go clear for France.

It would be France and USA that got off to the best possible start in today’s team final. Philippe Rozier and the scopey Rahotep de Toscane (Quidam de Revel x Laudanum xx) set the standard with a single time fault after a fantastic round full of fighting spirit, as did Kent Farrington on Voyeur (Tolano Van´t Riethof x Goodwill) that yet again did not touch a pole. Farrington certainly impressed, the pressure from knowing every score would count did not make it easier to be an American rider today. With Yann Candele (CAN) having the front rail on the last oxer down, Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) a silly rail on the oxer at no. two plus a time fault, Edouard Menezes (BRA) the upright at nine and Christian Ahlmann (GER) the plank at 6a the tables were already turning following the pathfinders of the competition.

The French kept the pressure up when their second rider Kevin Staut jumped the round of his life on Reveur de Hurtebise (Kashmir von Schuttershof x Capricieux des Six Censes) to keep all the fences intact and inside the time allowed, perhaps inspired by Canada’s Tiffany Foster who was the first one to manage this feat to set the clear for her team on Tripple X III’s (Namelus R x Catango Z). And when USA’s Lucy Davis and Barron (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve) had 11b down in an otherwise stunning round, followed by Dutch rider Maikel van der Vleuten’s single time penalty on Verdi (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) and a rail at the last oxer as well as a time penalty for Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on Fibonacci (For Feeling x Corland) it was getting even more intense.

Approaching with their third line of riders, Canada could best finish on a score of four if both last riders would go clear – France on two penalties should clear rounds be delivered by Bost and Leprevost. With only one rider left and no drop score to count on, USA and Netherlands would be left on five or six respectively even with their last riders going clear. Brazil – also one rider down – had two left to jump, and even with them going clear their score would be four as was the case for the German team. A clear from France – or even a round with a time fault – could secure team gold.

It would be up to Roger Yves Bost and Sydney Une Prince (Baloubet du Rouet x Alfa d’Elle) to get the job done. Flying in on four strides to the oxer at ten, the pair kept the spectators biting their nails and when the two left the triple combination intact two fences remained to clear – but they were far from easy. Working for his life to the penultimate upright, Bosty managed to get Sydney Une Prince to climb over and when he jumped the final oxer clear crossing the finish line on only a time penalty France were Olympic Champions. Their score of three could not be beat by ant of the other teams, who would have to battle it out for the other medals. 

Roger Yves Bost nailed it with a one-penalty round on Sydney Une Prince to secure the gold for France as their third rider in the ring.
Roger Yves Bost nailed it with a one-penalty round on Sydney Une Prince to secure the gold for France as their third rider in the ring.

It was McLain Ward and the amazing Azur (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui) that would step up and save the day for the Americans with a beautiful clear round copied straight out of the text book to put the US team on an overall score of five.

Netherlands ruled themselves out after three poles down from Harrie Smolders and Emerald (Diamant de Semilly x Carthago), and when Brazil’s own Doda de Miranda had 11c down in an otherwise flawless round the hosts were on eight.

Germany followed, and it was now or never for Daniel Deusser who could keep his team within reach of silver with a clear round – but First Class van Eeckelghem (Balou du Rouet x Feinschnitt I van de Richter) pushed 11b out of the cups with a total of eight faults being the best possible score for the team should anchor Ludger Beerbaum go clear. Silver belonged to USA, and now the rest was about the bronze.

An amazing round from Eric Lamaze kept Canada in the game, while Brazil fell out when Pedro Veniss recorded four faults on the double of planks. Only Germany could give the Canadians a run for the bronze medal, and so they did after a clear from maestro Ludger Beerbaum aboard Casello (Casall x Carolus I). A jump-off was coming up to settle the third step on the podium.

Yann Candele opened with four faults for Canada, while Christian Ahlmann kept a clean sheet for Germany with a fast time of 42.68 seconds. Tiffany Foster then went clear in 44.81 seconds only to be matched by Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum who was slightly faster. When Amy Millar had the penultimate vertical down, Daniel Deusser could save the day for Germany and so he did with a great clear round – taking the bronze home from Rio after a thriller of a competition. 


Text Jannicke Naustdal for © World of Showjumping // Pictures Jenny Abrahamsson for © World of Showjumping

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