Caen, France—Sept. 4
With one less rail, it would’ve been gold. But with a single time penalty, there would’ve been no medal at all. Such was the kind of day—a day of close numbers and high pressure—show jumpers faced at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The U.S. team earned bronze behind the Netherlands and France on a score of 16.72 when three out of the four had 4 faults each.
“A medal is what we came here for,” said Hermes U.S. Show Jumping Team Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. “We were really aiming for that [gold] medal there, but where the sport is now it’s unbelievable how tough the competition is. We aimed for the gold. We believed we had one of the top teams we’ve ever fielded. We had a great summer leading up to this, and it was good sport. We gave it all.”
The scores were extremely tight all day, and the teams traded 4-fault rounds. The first two riders for the Netherlands, Jeroen Dubbeldam on Zenith SFN and Maikel van der Vleuten on VDL Groep Verdi TN NOP, had one rail each, and Dubbeldam picked up an additional time fault. Though the Dutch team started the day in first, Dutch Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens could see his country’s medal slipping away.
But everyone else was making similar mistakes. The U.S. team, second after yesterday, started the day off with McLain Ward and Rothchild pulling a rail at fence 2.
“I put a little too much pressure on him,” said Ward. “It’s a tricky jump with grass in the middle, and he’s been jumping so well. I was thinking a little bit about the back rail. It was a very small rider error, but it was rider error. The horse jumped amazing again. He went better and better as the course went on.”
Next in for the U.S. team, Kent Farrington and Voyeur continued their 4-fault trend for the week by having the liverpool down heartbreakingly close to the end of his round.
“It was a little bit of bad luck,” said Farrington. “He touched two rails [one yesterday and one today], and they both fell down.”
Then Lucy Davis, riding in her first major international championship with Barron took the second to last fence on course.
“We’re a little bit unlucky this week, all of the U.S. riders,” said Davis. “Kent only rubbed one; McLain only rubbed one; I only rubbed one, but they all came down. It’s very frustrating. I would’ve loved to bring home a clear and take some of the pressure off Beezie.”
Beezie Madden wasn’t sure her team had any shot at a medal as she warmed up Cortes ‘C’.
“I didn’t really find out until I was coming down the ramp, and Ludger [Beerbaum, for Germany] had one down. They said, ‘Now for sure we have a chance for a medal.’ Honestly I didn’t have time to get that nervous. It was just exciting or inspiring that we still had a chance for a medal,” she said.
Cortes ‘C’ jumped a flawless clear, securing bronze for the United States and dropping the heavily-favored Germany into the fourth-placed position. Madden’s third clear in a week means she now leads the individual standings going into Saturday’s individual competition. The bronze medal also qualified the Hermes U.S. Show Jumping Team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I have so much confidence in my horse. He can jump a vertical, he can jump an oxer, and he jumps liverpools,” said Madden. “There’s nothing really I look at and say, ‘Ooh, I don’t know what he’s going to do at that.’ It was a good feeling [when we landed off the last fence]. Finally it felt like fun. That was about the first time I can say I really had fun.”
But while things didn’t go uphill for the United States until the very last rider, the Dutch team’s fortunes shifted for their third team in the ring. While VDL Bubalu and Jur Vrieling didn’t have the best day yesterday—they finished with 9 faults—they clocked a clutch clear today.
“The whole ride was not so good [yesterday],” said Vrieling. “Maybe the concentration wasn’t there since we’d had two clears. Our chef d’equipe said some strong words to me, and probably I needed that because today I had woken up.”
The Dutch team’s anchor rider, Gerco Schroeder, did have one rail with Glock’s London NOP, but it didn’t matter. The team’s score of 12.83 still placed them over France (14.08).
But for the French team, who rebounded from their fourth-placed standing yesterday, the reception they received from their hometown crowd was perhaps nearly as good as gold. They earned two clears—Kevin Staut on Reveur de Hurtebise HDC and Penelope Leprevost on Flora de Mariposa—to finish on 4 faults for the day.
“It was wonderful to be at home,” Leprevost said. “It was a fantastic public. It felt like entering a hot cauldron in the ring. I’m not sure we’ll live anything like this again soon.”
Germany’s team had nearly the same day as the United States, ending on 8 faults for the class, but because the Americans had a better speed leg in the first round of competition, they finished just .1 points behind in fourth.
“It’s frustrating to see how close those scores are,” said Ward. “Maybe we couldn’t have had one of those rails. But I’m sure Germany is feeling a little worse in the same position, so we’ll take the medal, and congratulations to the Dutch team.”
Find complete results on the Normandy 2014 website.
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