Germany may have earned all the gold medals in eventing, but Gina Miles brought the individual silver home to the United States, knocking German Ingrid Klimke and Australian Megan Jones off the leaderboard with her two perfect show jumping rounds.
Hinrich Romeike won individual gold and led the Germans to team gold, and Tina Cook of Great Britain earned team and individual bronze medals. Australia brought home silver in the team competition.
“I was thrilled to be fifth or fourth—I did what I set out to do, and it just got better and better,” Miles said. “I wish my teammates could have been here with me, but they were all supporting me. I felt good the entire competition. I had a plan and stuck to it, and that made all the difference. I’ve always known he’s the most amazing event horse in the world, and I’m happy to see him shine and let everyone know what an amazing animal he is.”
Miles, riding in her first Olympics, said the lights in the arena helped brighten up McKinlaigh. “That little extra life works to my favor,” she said. “The only thing was when the bell rang [in the first round], the countdown timer didn’t start. The clock was on 44 [seconds] but wasn’t going down. I had flashbacks to [the last Olympics, when German Bettina Hoy was confused by the timer and incurred controversial penalties at the start of show jumping]. I said, 'I’m pretty sure I heard the bell, and I’m going.'”
Romeike, who was a member of that 2004 German team which was awarded gold but later had the medals revoked, said that that controversy is behind them. “Everyone in our sport is friends again,” he said. “I’m just very thankful to possess such a wonderfully magic horse.”
Romeike and Klimke each had a rail in the first round jumped tonight, to determine the team placings, but they had some breathing room when Megan Jones and Clayton Fredericks each dropped a rail for Australia and Lucinda Fredericks clocked 2 time penalties. The Germans finished on 166.1, ahead of Australia with 171.2 and Great Britain (185.7).
“He’s very fresh; I was astonished this morning when I rode him,” said Romeike of Marius.
“If anything he got fired up because of the crowd,” said Clayton of Ben Along Time. “I worked hard on getting him settled and relaxed and could feel him getting tense and nervous. He went in and tried his guts out and was careful. I maybe got a little forward, might have rushed a little bit [to fence 4, which he had down]. Things don’t always go to plan, but you’ve got to keep your head down and keep riding.”
But Jones wasn’t too disappointed with team silver. “It’s amazing to come home from your first Games with some kind of bling,” she said. “In our riders packets, we got some Vegemite, and I’m going to save it for my hangover tomorrow. I don’t drink much, but I think I’m going to need it with a slice of toast and tea in the morning.”
Phillip Dutton qualified for the second, individual jumping round, despite two rails down in the first round on Connaught, who he said was distracted by the lights. “Coming into fence 1 he was not concentrating; he was looking at everything apart from the jump,” he said. “He was still going high but not focusing on where he was going. It was a bit disappointing.”
“Maybe I should have taken more use of the time we had to jump under the lights the other night, but we thought after yesterday he’d be a bit tired and more concentrated,” he added. But he came back in the second round to jump flawlessly, only to be disqualified for a piece of equipment that wasn’t allowed. A pair of weighted boots that Connaught wore were found to be over the weight limit of 500 grams set by the FEI in February of 2008. According to Jim Wolf, U.S. Equestrian Federation Executive Director of Sports Programs, the boots, which were front boots applied to the hind legs, weighed just over 700 grams each. The rule change is a jumping rule modification which is applied to eventing.
"We should have known about it, but we didn't for eventing," said Wolf. "They felt heavy, so [the stewards] put them on a scale. I asked them to show me the scale, to make sure it was properly calibrated. Our federation owes Phillip an apology for not making him aware of [the change]. It's our federation's responsibility to make sure the athletes know the rules. Believe me, in the future we will be weighing everyone's boots in eventing. Phillip was unaware of the rule and certainly was not trying to give himself an unfair advantage. But the rule is on the books, and we're abiding by the rule, and Phillip is taking it on the chin."
Without the disqualification, Dutton would have finished 12th. The team results have been published with the U.S. counting Dutton's team score and finishing seventh, although Technical Delegate Guiseppe Della Chiesa was unsure whether that would change or not.
Karen O’Connor and Becky Holder jumped just one round, for the team. O'Connor was pleased with Mandiba’s performance on the final day of eventing competition. He dropped just one rail, at the third fence, an oxer at the end of a seven-stride line toward the ingate.
“I’m so happy,” she said. “None of our horses have seen a crowd like this. I made a mistake after the second [fence] to not get the seven [strides] early enough, but I’m just thrilled.”
Holder said Courageous Comet’s show jumping is still a work in progress, so she wasn’t overly upset to have two rails—at the third fence and at 12A, an in-and-out headed away from the ingate. “He handled the atmosphere, and for us, two rails is an OK performance. I’d hoped to shave it to one,” she said.