It all came down to a jump-off for the gold medal, Aug. 21, between Eric Lamaze of Canada and Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden. They were the only riders to post clear rounds over both courses of the individual Olympic show jumping final in Hong Kong, China.
By the time Lamaze entered the arena, he knew he’d only need to jump clear to best Bengtsson, who’d already had a rail. Lamaze just put the pedal down coming to the final wall. “I basically went as fast as I could and hoped that even if I knocked it we’d be faster,” he said.
“This is a dream come true,” added Lamaze. “I’m proud of the people who supported me. It took a lot of support from a lot of people who allowed me to come back.”
Seven riders jumped-off for the bronze, and Beezie Madden proved fastest of the three clears. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany and Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil also jumped clear but not as fast.
Madden took a tip from her teammate McLain Ward, jumping over some bushes on the rollback on the way to the third of the jump-off fences. With Michaels-Beerbaum posting a blazing time of 35.37 seconds, Madden knew she’d have to do something different to earn the medal.
“McLain paved the way for jumping the bush, and when it worked for him, he showed me where to go. My horse is so handy and brave,” she said. “It ended up being kind of fun, jumping over the bush. It was a good risk to take.
“I came here to defend our gold medal, and we did that. I wanted an individual medal, and I did that,” she added. “Hats off to Eric—that’s great for North America.”
Madden said Authentic jumped one of his best rounds of the competition in the first round of the individual final. “He felt great, and he has plenty of energy,” she said.
Ward was having a great round, pioneering the fastest route through the decorative foliage, until the last fence, where he took a risk at speed for his only chance to take the medal, but Sapphire went through the top of the wall.
Ward thought Sapphire jumped brilliantly in the first round, despite taking the rail at 9A, the first fence of the triple combination. “I sat a little quiet; I was more worried about [fence] A than B. There was the option of seven or eight to the triple, and it was bright and coming to the gate.”
Laura Kraut’s faults at fence 5, the water, and fence 10, a narrow airy gate, prevented her from moving on to the second individual round, but she said she’d already done what she’d set out to do on Cedric.
“I’m really happy, but he didn’t quite feel like he had the energy or excitement tonight,” she said. “I wasn’t as pumped up; I knew it would be hard for him. He barely had the water, and I got him too deep to the skinny. But my total focus coming here was the team; I hadn’t even considered the individual, and that’s when it becomes a grueling test. We got a gold medal, and he was sensational. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”
Jos Lansink said Cumano, coming off an injury, had just had too much jumping in the heat. The World Champion jumped one clear but pulled two rails in the second round of the final, and Lansink was relieved his horse wouldn’t have to jump off.
“I think two rounds [in one night] in this weather is a little much for Cumano for now,” he said. “The jump-off would have been way too much for him.”
Extra Chances For Benedicto
Camila Benedicto of Brazil came as the reserve rider with Bonito Z but ended up starting when Alvaro Mirando Neto’s Ad Picolien didn’t pass the first horse inspection. She thought her Olympic experience was over after the team competition, but after the drug infractions eliminated several starters in the individual final, she found out—at 3:00 in the afternoon—that she would be riding in the final. She posted a perfect round over the first course, but two rails knocked her out of medal contention in the second round.
“For me, it was a really good surprise,” she said. “I didn’t have any pressure, and I could ride more relaxed. For me, even coming to the Olympics was a big surprise. I have a really good horse, and I trust in him. He always tries.”