Letters From Rio: One Bronze For Phillip, One Gold For Me

Aug 10, 2016 - 5:30 AM
At major competitions you can never have enough backpacks or enough coffee. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

Hello everyone,

It’s been an amazing few days down here at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Eventing’s just wrapped up, which Michael Jung simultaneously both predictably and incredibly won—on the same horse he rode last time he won individual Olympic gold. I’d ask my editors if we can run the 2012 story in the magazine so Lindsay and I can get a bit of much-needed rest, but I’m picturing an icy stare.

Even more exciting is that “eventing messiah” (so dubbed by teammate Boyd Martin) Phillip Dutton won individual bronze. The last U.S. rider on course, he pulled out all the stops on cross-country day, including an absolutely incredible save at fence 6 to keep Mighty Nice’s shoulders in the flags. Sadly it doesn’t seem there was a single photographer there, so we’re left with screenshots to show you what was absolutely the most exciting moment in eventing that I’ve seen.

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Eventing Messiah indeed!

Those of us at the media area watching on screens were all simultaneously leaping up in the air and impaling one another with our fingernails with screams that Phillip could probably hear on the other side of the cross-country course. He literally hung on sideways and used his weight to push Mighty Nice’s shoulders inside the red flag, which is what he needed to do to prevent a penalty. And then he got back in the midde of the saddle right upon landing.

Then he held Mighty Nice together for two show jumping rounds for bronze.

Nearly as amazing, I got my own gold medal of sorts when my much-delayed bag finally arrived! I’ve celebrated with a change of clothes, washing my face with proper face wash, and unpacking our George Morris action figure I brought from the office for good luck.

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Reunion! Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

There’s loads of celebrity spotting to be had if you’re an equestrian super-fan. We’ve seen U.S. dressage riders out on cross-country, and show jumpers in the media area during eventing show jumping. Lindsay and I had a drink at the same picnic table as a mustachioed Sam Elliott-lookalike whose name didn’t immediately come to mind until we left (dressage judge Stephen Clarke.) 

Good news: We’ve survived our first shooting of the Games and I got to use the words “bullet” and “blimp” in a Chronicle story for the very first time.

Today I found myself once again running at “top speed,” (which, granted, isn’t exactly at an advanced pace of 650 meters a minute) with a backpack and computer bag bouncing in an effort to catch a bus to get us from the media center to our accommodations. While I’m so glad I could entertain the dozens of people who watched me—including the police officer supremely positioned to stop the bus who opted to watch me instead—I was even more excited when a Rio 2016 car pulled over and gave us a ride.

Turns out it’s driven by the guy who operates the blimp! Yes the very zeppelin that was the intended target of our bullet. Did you know that blimp, which is bulletproof by the way, gets launched and docks every day, and provides the video footage you enjoyed watching cross-country and overhead shots from stadium?

More good news: our camera equipment is still intact, though sadly I can’t say the same for fellow equestrian photographer Cealy Tetley who had a bag nicked on a media bus or this guy.

Lindsay and I are sleeping on de-facto picnic tables in a dorm room the size of a breeding stall. We have two suitemates, a lovely French-Canadian field hockey photographer and the press attaché for USA Rugby. He told us about the U.S. men’s team poor luck: tomorrow they have to play Fiji, a country which apparently breeds the rugby equivalent of Michael Jungs on a regular basis. 

My language skills have been very helpful, though I’m the first to admit that they’re imperfect. So far they’ve helped:

•Get a fellow with pins in his turban (and a newly replaced hip) through a metal detector.
•Speed up the security line.
•Get a free caipirinha.
•Get invited to visit a local breeding farm.
•Make the bus driver wait while Lindsay was in the rest room.
•Entice the food-stand to carry a few vegetarian options.
•Assist journalists, sound engineers and other professionals in the media room do their jobs.

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Surely you can’t leave the Olympic Games without one quintessential rings photo. Photo by Lindsay Berreth.

Lindsay is herself becoming an outstanding Portuguese student, greeting the staff with a cheery “bom dia.” She’s very impressed with one of my favorite Portuguese words “pessoa” which means person. So when the elevator says “8 pessoas” to us it reads “8 Rodrigos.” 

Eventing is in the rear-view mirror by now, and we’re on to dressage. I don’t know who’s doing the music, but for eventing dressage we had instrumental versions of “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and “Back Street’s Back.” Now we have bossa nova, samba and classical music, with something that sounds suspiciously like gunshots (firecrackers?) in the distance. Ah Rio.

Mollie Bailey and Lindsay Berreth are on the ground in Rio de Janeiro for the Chronicle and will be reporting with all the news, fantastic photos and behind-the-scenes details all posted on www.coth.com. Your go-to page for all things Olympic is http://www.chronofhorse.com/2016-Olympics

We’ll have live blogs of competition sessions, Twitter updates, blogs, photo galleries, stories about each day’s competition and so much more. Don’t miss a thing—we’ll have everything you need to know. Also make sure to follow along on the Chronicle’s social media outlets: FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat (@chronofhorse).

 

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