Caledon, Ontario—July 23
As the Canadian riders stood by the ring watching Argentina’s José Maria Larocca Jr. canter down the last line, Ian Millar was counting the seconds. If Larocca had a single time penalty, Canada was guaranteed gold. If he didn’t, the two teams were headed for a jump-off.
“We were thinking, ‘He’s going to make the time. No, he’s not going to make the time.’ And it was so close. It came down to a fraction of a second for a gold medal,” said Ian Millar.
Larocca and his mount Cornet du Lys did get that 1 time penalty, which was the curse for many riders throughout the day, and Canada won the gold medal on 7 penalties—without a jump-off. Argentina settled for silver with 8 penalties, and the U.S. team ended on 12 with the bronze medal.
But along with their gold medal, Team Canada (Tiffany Foster on Tripple X, Millar on Dixson, Eric Lamaze on Coco Bongo and Yann Candele on Showgirl) picked up their needed spot for the Olympic Games, and they did it in front of a home crowd.
“We wanted this so badly as a team for our country. It was the general consensus in talking to everyone yesterday that we would have to jump-off in some way today, either for medals or for Olympic qualification, and the reason we didn’t was because of the time allowed,” said Millar. “It’s unusual that the time allowed would play such a role, but it did. Sport attracts us all because of its unpredictable nature. We wouldn’t have thought it would turn out this way, but it did.”
Canada returned for the second round (horses and riders all jumped the same track twice today) in fourth. In that first round, Tiffany Foster provided the drop score when Tripple X stopped at fence 9, a vertical made of hockey sticks. But she came back to put in one of the country’s three clears in the second round.
“I told the guys if they kept us in the game that I’d go clear the second time,” she said. “It went much better the second round! My horse would have done that in both rounds if I’d have given him the right ride. I just missed [in the first round]; that’s pretty much it.”
(Eric Lamaze celebrates on Coco Bongo. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.)
Michel Vaillancourt’s course included that tight time allowed—out of 99 rounds jumped today, 74 of them included at least 1 time penalty—and then had rails falling all over the track. When asked how they liked the course, the Canadian riders all started laughing.
“Good!” said Millar.
“Great,” said Tiffany.
“Perfect,” added Lamaze.
Though Argentinian rider Ramiro Quintana called the silver medal due to 1 time penalty “bittersweet,” the team (Quintana on Whitney, Matias Aibarracin on Cannavaro 9, Luis Pedro Biraben on Abunola and Larocca) also earned an Olympic spot with their placing.
“It’s a big deal for Argentina to quality a team for the Olympics,” said Quintana, who’s based in Florida. “Funny enough, I texted the other guys this morning, we had a group text going, and I said ‘We have a chance for a medal. You guys ride well and stay focused, and we’re going to get a medal.’ And in fact we did.”
(Argentina’s Jose Maria Larocca on Cornet du Lys. Photo by Lisa Slade.)
Canada had to climb a few spots for their gold medal, and the U.S. team did too. All members of the team (McLain Ward on Rothchild, Georgina Bloomberg on Lilli, Kent Farrington on Gazelle and Lauren Hough on Ohlala) dropped a rail in the first round, and Farrington earned an additional 1 time penalty. They returned in sixth.
“[Rothchild] lightly touched the rail behind,” said Ward about his first trip. “He didn’t make a big mistake. Unfortunately the rest of the [first round] kind of went that way. All four horses jumped well. I think all four riders rode well. It was just a little thing here or there. But in this nations cup format, 4 faults is death. You’d rather have a 20 and a clear than a bunch of 4s. But we’ll try to keep climbing and see what happens.”
And clutch clear performances by all four riders in the second round finished them on that first round score of 12.
“We were all a bit disappointed in the first round,” said Hough. “They were just little margins of error. It was rider error on my part. I went wide in the turn, and I had to a little bit move up to A [of the triple at 9], and it made her jump flat behind. She put in two fabulous efforts. I corrected my mistake in the second round, and she couldn’t have jumped any better. We all really dug in. We’re quite good at coming from the bottom, and we’ve done it before.”
The top 35 from today will jump in Saturday’s individual final, though only the top three riders from the U.S. will qualify. That means Farrington won’t jump for a medal in that competition. Everyone starts again on a score of 0.
(Georgina Bloomberg on Lilli. Photo by Lisa Slade.)
The drama of the day wasn’t limited to time penalties. In the first round, Luis Larrazabal’s G&C Close Up crashed through the third element of the triple and fell on top of him. The horse was up immediately, but Larrazabal took some time before getting off the dirt and walking slowly out with assistance.
In the second round, Uruguay’s Juan Luzardo’s Stan crashed through the second-to-last oxer, tipping him over the neck. But Luzardo hung off the side as the horse galloped away, finally stepping off as the horse ran faster.
Also in the second round, Nicolas Imschenetzky’s Pegase de Talma stopped at a fence, and Nicolas fell off but landed on his feet and walked out. Andres Alvarez was eliminated for stops with Cash Z.
Colombia’s team, who returned for the second round in first place with 1 penalty, picked up 14 penalties with their dropped score in the second round and ended on 15 total.