The U.S. show jumping team stands tied for first with Switzerland, on 12 faults, after the first round of team competition, Aug. 17 in Hong Kong, China, despite uncharacteristic trouble for Beezie Madden and Authentic. The Swedish team is third (13), and Great Britain and Canada are tied for fourth (16).
When their scores are added to those from the individual qualifying round on Friday, McLain Ward and Eric Lamaze are tied for the lead, with 0 faults, and Rodrigo Pessoa is third with 1 fault, ahead of Denis Lynch, Jos Lansink and Tony Andre Hansen, who each carry 2 faults. The top 35 riders qualify for the final individual competition, where they start over again on 0 penalties.
Madden encountered trouble turning left from the oxer at fence 10 into the triple combination. Authenticstarted shaking his head furiously and ran by the first element of the triple. “Something was bothering him with his ears,” said Madden. “He landed and started shaking his head like crazy. He didn’t even see it. When he did jump it he was still shaking his head and had it down. I’m shocked.
“But we’re still tied for the lead; we’re in the hunt for sure,” added Madden, who is 29th individually. “I’m assuming [my score] will be better tomorrow, and the others were real solid.”
McLain Ward, who had one of just five double-clears out of 76 starters, started the evening for the U.S. team with a perfect round aboard Sapphire, whose heat rash is much better. “She hasn’t touched a fence yet,” he said. “We’ll keep chipping away one round at a time.
“It was very technical, very careful and difficult,” he added of Leopoldo Palacios’ and Steve Stephens’ course. “The oxers could get bigger as we go, but as you can see it’s not easy to jump clear. We’d be disappointed not to get a medal, so this is our goal to have performances like this.”
He said the influential line down the side at fences 11ABC-12 required riders to really slow down. “It was a short distance to a long distance [in the triple] and then a short five strides [to fence 12]. As they’re getting fatigued, they lose momentum, and you saw a lot of faults because of it.”
Laura Kraut looked like she was about to post a clear round aboard Cedric, then just had the final fence at 13 down. She stands 22nd individually on 9 total faults. “I was really thrilled with the way he jumped. He did it for fun, and he went through the triple like it was an easy gymnastic,” she said. “We’re always on the edge of the time, because he spends time in the air, and I can’t hurry him because he worries. But I should have taken my time and added a stride to the last and taken a time penalty.”
The water jump at fence 4, off a sharp left turn, proved very influential, and Will Simpson and Carlsson Vom Dach faulted here, as well as at the oxer at 11B. “The water comes up fast. It’s a blind turn, early in the course, and it’s a bit of a bogey fence,” he said. “He jumped it well; he just landed on the tape.”
Simpson, 16th individually on 8 faults, said his horse jumped the wall well at fence 9, but getting the long four strides to fence 10 carried him to the corner when he landed, making the turn to the triple at 11ABC more difficult. “I had to kick to get the four [strides], and that’s not the right way to do it,” he said. “But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do sometimes.”
The Swiss team’s consistent performance, with 4 faults each from Christina Liebherr/No Mercy, Pius Schwizer/Nobless M, Niklaus Schurtenberger/Cantus, Steve Guerdat/Jalisca Solier, put them at the top beside the U.S. team.
“We said from the beginning we want to be on the podium at the end,” said Guerdat. “We have four good horses and riders, and we came for a medal. We were not very lucky tonight—we could easily have had two clears, but hopefully our luck will be back tomorrow, and the horses will keep up their good form.”
Canada Comes Back
After Mac Cone dropped three rails and Jill Henselwood picked up 18 penalties with two rails and a refusal, Eric Lamaze boosted Canadian hopes with a double-clear round on Hickstead that, together with Ian Millar’s four-fault round, put Canada in a tie for fourth place with Great Britain.
“He’s such a competitor, a great show horse. I can really count on him,” Lamaze said of Hickstead. “The first two riders [on our team] had trouble, so there was no room for mistakes. It was nerve wracking, but he’s the right horse for that situation.”
“I promise it will be cleaned up tomorrow night,” Millar said of his team. “We were unlucky to have two bad goes in one round. These riders are never more dangerous than when they get a working over. I guarantee they’ll clean it up, and Eric and I won’t miss, and we’ll see you on the podium.”
The British team took a hit when John Whitaker had to scratch Peppermill at the last minute. They reportedly thought the stallion could be tying up, so they had blood drawn. He would be allowed to compete tomorrow night if he is healthy. Whitaker’s brother, Michael, had already been forced to withdraw Portofino before the start of the competition due to lameness.
German Team Falters
Even though the German team stands tied for eighth with Australia, just making the cut into the top eight teams that will return for the second round tomorrow night, Ward said you still can’t discount them. “We’re not going to take our eye off it, because they’re going to come back and fight,” he said.
Germany’s Marco Kutscher said he wouldn’t do anything different in hindsight, despite rails aboard Cornet Obolensky at the water jump at fence 4, the oxer in the two-stride combination at 6B, and fence 12, the oxer a tight five strides after the triple.
“Today was a disaster,” he said. “I wanted to get a forward six [strides to the water], but he didn’t want to go and turned his shoulder out, and we did 6 ½. He tried to jump it but was on the line. His rhythm was gone, and he didn’t want to go to his fences. He started running into his fences, and it was difficult to manage.
“Normally we’re quite confident,” he added. “We all jumped well at our last shows; we should be doing better. But when you have a bad start and are running through the whole course, when it’s technical like this, it’s easy to have three down.”
In her first Olympics, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum posted the best score of the German team but blamed herself for Shutterfly’s one rail at 11B. “He was a little quick into the triple, and if I had to do it again, I would have given him more [time],” she said. “Shutterfly jumped absolutely fabulous, and I’m pleased with my riding. These are minor faults, and what can I say, you know? It wasn’t our night.
“It’s a big surprise,” she added of the team standing. Individually, Michaels-Beerbaum stands 26th on 10 faults. “This is a sport, and it makes it interesting. Even if the team doesn’t work out, I have got to keep up my hopes individually.
She thought the course was fair but said she’d told her husband, Marcus, when walking the course that she thought almost 50 percent of horses would fault at the water jump. “It’s almost a 90-degree turn to the water. That’s the most difficult part [of the course]. And it’s quite long, so the triple at the end is tough. But it’s very fair, and it’s not like it suits one type of horse in particular.
“If we’re in the top eight, don’t expect us to give up,” she added.
Brazil Doesn’t Advance
Despite having team member Rodrigo Pessoa and Rufus in third place individually, the Brazilian team didn’t make the cut to the top eight teams to jump tomorrow night. Their chances took a dive when Un Blanc De Blancs and Pedro Veniss fell at fence 12. Both horse and rider got up and walked out, although teammates said the Belgian Warmblood stallion had a cut on his left hind. Both are expected to be fine, but the accident had a big impact on Brazil’s chances, said Pessoa.
“It took away any chance,” he said. “If he’d finished with 4, we’d be on 16 and in second. There’s a big difference between second and 10th. But that’s the game, that’s the way it goes.
“It was difficult to ride the water on a curve, to judge where you are,” added Pessoa of the course. “It’s a slick trick [Palacios and Stephens] pulled on everybody. The rest of the course was classical, with forward and back lines.”
Jamal Rahimov had the worst fall of the evening from Ionesco De Brekka, also at fence 12, a tight five strides after the triple. Ionesco De Brekka tried to do four strides and swam through the fence. When he stumbled on landing, Rahimov came off. He was taken to the hospital to be checked but was released.
The team competition concludes tomorrow night, Aug. 18, with the top eight teams competing for the medals.