Sept. 3—Caen, France
Yesterday Doda de Miranda hit bottom, literally. The popular Brazilian rider fell off Ad Rahmannshof’s Bogeno and was eliminated in the speed round at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. But he rallied today to jump an emotional clear round over a tough course.
Through tears the four-time Olympian and four-time World Games veteran explained what it meant to him to reverse his fortunes so dramatically. “Normally [the speed round] was a day where I really could’ve been in the top three, especially with the way I started my round,” he said. “When you have a bad day individually and you’re not in a team competition, it’s hard, but only you pay for your mistakes. After yesterday I let down my team, and I was very sad for what happened.”
Teammate Rodrigo Pessoa had instructed de Miranda to go fast in order to move the team up the standings, as the other three Brazilian horses aren’t as fleet of foot.
“He told me to try to turn quick there after the combination,” said de Miranda, 41. “When I looked, my horse went very quick in the turn and dropped his shoulder, and I lost my balance to the left. For one second I didn’t feel my right stirrup anymore. It was just that and then I felt it again. But in the next moment I looked up, and I had the vertical here, and the distance was too long, and he started going to the left. Then on the last three strides my mistake was that I tried to put one more in. I don’t know if I could’ve gone in one less. I don’t know. It was my mistake. It shouldn’t happen. I need to stay focused to the fence, but it was an accident. It’s never happened before the way it happened yesterday.”
Devastated, de Miranda wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. “You felt like you were under the ground, but you need to find strength to support your teammates,” he said. “That was very hard. Not because I didn’t want to, but because it was hard for me to find one gram of power to give to them.”
After competition wrapped up, he went back to the stable to be with his horse. “I was trying to make my horse understand that it was something that happened, but it was not his fault,” he said of his 2012 London Olympic Games partner. “Normally you put him in the stables, and he would eat right away, but he didn’t go to the food. He was shocked. He’s a very special horse, so sensitive.”
His teammates and friends comforted him, and he appreciated the support of his wife, fellow show jumper Athina Onassis de Miranda, who is also competing at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games for Greece.
“The first thing she told me after what happened was, ‘I love you so much.’ That was a punch in my heart,” said Doda. “It’s so good when you have someone with you that does the same sport, riding the same competitions, knows exactly what’s going on. What helped me a lot was also her result yesterday, her clear round in her first world championships. She was riding safe and not nervous. Today again, no loss of confidence.”
Doda said the only way to cope with a disaster like falling off in the ring is to only give yourself one moment to feel upset. “You have to get very settled in your mind and try to understand what happened and be clearer for the next day,” he said. “Otherwise you can lose the ability to understand what happened. After watching the video, I had one thing on my mind, and then my chef d’equipe told me something, and then I spoke to my teammates, and they said, ‘Put it behind you, it was an accident, your horse jumped very well.’ ”
When Doda mounted today, he felt clear headed and concentrated. He said Ad Rahmannshof’s Bogeno came out a bit nervous in the warm-up. “He was more careful than usual but going too high; he was landing and breathing hard,” said Doda. “But every jump was better and better. And then in the ring the way he jumped No. 1, the triple bar, that helped me a lot, the fact that I had a jump to stretch. One jump like that, and he was jumping like normal.”
Doda appreciated the support of the enthusiastic French crowd. “When I came into the arena I was very surprised how the crowd was supporting me,” he said. “I think most of the people felt with me what happened yesterday. It was very important, the energy that I felt in that moment. I was really strong in my mind to do my best, but it was unbelievable this feeling, and it was a great thing for me to do a clear round.”
The competition is far from over, and Doda’s individual chances are done, but his outlook from the previous day has done a complete 180. “What happened to me was a good lesson for everybody,” he said. “Sometimes after one bad day people say, ‘These championships are over,’ but always you need to believe.”
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