Beezie Madden went double-clear on Authentic to put the United States into a silver-medal jump-off against Sweden in today's Olympic Nations Cup, but thanks to teammates Peter Wylde, McLain Ward and Chris Kappler, she didn't have to ride Authentic a third time.
The class, which began at 9 a.m., finished just before midnight, with an eight-hour break between the two rounds over an identical course.
By the time Madden's turn had come, her teammates had rolled up a seven-second advantage that the fourth Swedish rider, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, couldn't possibly eclipse. So the Swedish conceded the silver at the in-gate. It's the first U.S. team medal in either the Olympics or World Championships since the silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The U.S. team also won the silver in 1988.
But the gold-medal winner, as expected, was the German team of Ludger Beerbaum, Marco Kutscher, Otto Becker and Christian Ahlmann. They finished with only 8 faults (The U.S. and Sweden had 20) as Beerbaum and Kutscher each jumped double-clear on Goldfever and Montender, respectively, and Becker lowered just one fence in the second round on Cento. This was Germany's third straight gold medal and fourth in the last five Olympics.
Wylde had an uncharacteristic 12 faults in both rounds on Fein Cera, including faulting at the water jump both times. "I've never had a water fault with her before," he said. But he put his team in contention in the jump-off, finishing in 45.66 seconds right after Peter Erickson had led off with Cardento in 45.31 seconds.
Then Peder Fredericsson rode Magic Bengtsson to a slow 48.05-second round, which Ward and Sapphire answered with a speedy 42.49-second round. U.S. hopes looked even brighter when Malin Baryard and Butterfly Flip could go no faster than 45.12 seconds. And then Kappler and Royal Kaliber sealed the deal by galloping home in 42.94 seconds.
"Obviously it was great for me and Peter that we could contribute to the team [in the jump-off] because our teammates sort of carried us along early," said Ward, who scored 8 faults in both rounds.
"The silver medal certainly makes me feel like today wasn't a complete disaster," said Wylde. "And I'm glad I was able to keep Beezie from having to go for a third time since she's certainly a favorite for a medal."
Wylde added that spreading the faults around showed how deep they were as a team. "We each have our highs and our lows, and we balance it out. It's great to be a part of this team," he said.
Said Madden of the medal, "This was a big step for us today." Madden finished the three qualifying rounds for Friday's individual final as the No. 1 qualifier. Not that that gets her anywhere special since everyone starts again at zero for the two rounds.
Kappler and Ward have also qualified for the final, as has Wylde. But since only three U.S. riders can start (per Olympic rules) and he's the lowest-ranked, barring an injury, the silver medalist from the 2002 World Equestrian Games won't get to start.
Canadian Ian Millar, in his ninth straight Olympics, just made the cut-off with Promise Me. He's No. 44 after scoring 10 and 8 faults today, following 11 faults in the first qualifier on Sunday.