Rio de Janeiro—Aug. 16
Four countries sit in a tie for the lead after the first day of Olympic team jumping here at the National Equestrian Center in Rio de Janeiro. The United States, Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands are all tied on a 0-fault score after today’s Nations Cup round.
Fifteen teams started today, and the top eight teams will advance to tomorrow’s second day of team competition which will determine team medals. That puts the United States, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Canada, Sweden and Switzerland in the hunt for a spot on the podium.
Today’s round also counts toward the individual placings, and 11 riders are tied with 0 faults: Kent Farrington/Voyeur, Christian Ahlmann/Taloubet Z, Peder Fredricson/All In, Maikel van der Vleuten/Verdi, Harrie Smolders/Emerald, Doda de Miranda/Cornetto K, Daniel Deusser/First Class, Carlos Álvarez Moya/Carlo 273, Eric Lamaze/Fine Lady 5 and Pedro Veniss/Quabri de L’Isle.
Each of the four top teams managed three clean-and-clear rounds apiece. Farrington got the ball rolling for Team USA. He “walked and patted” Voyeur on their day off yesterday before laying down the first foot-perfect trip.
“[The course was] very technical,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it’s massive size, but I’m sure that’s coming. I think tomorrow will be significantly bigger. But it’s exactly what you’d expect at championship level jumping.”
Lucy Davis’ Barron ticked the last fence on course her last trip round, but the pair were fault-free today. They lay in a tie for 15th individually.
“It’s very relieving now that it’s over,” said Davis, Los Angeles. “After yesterday’s rail, I really hoped that would set me up well for today. It definitely did. He was incredibly sharp and with me. I was maybe a little more tense than usual. I really wanted this for the team. I think tomorrow I’ll be a bit more relaxed, seeing how well he handled this day. And how confident everyone on the team is.”
“I left her a little fresh because it’s a long week, and she’s jumping incredibly, but she’s fresh!” he said. “I think she’ll settle a little each day. I thought she was jumping the lights out today.
“It’s not normal the way she jumps,” said Ward. “It’s just a matter of keeping her settled and calm. There’s a great atmosphere here in the arena; the crowd is great. I just have to not let it excite her too much.”
Only anchor rider Beezie Madden ran into trouble on Cortes ‘C’ when that horse touched a rail then had a foot in the water—which caused problems all day. She’s tied for 46th individually.
“I think it was a short seven [strides] up the first line and I think I was maybe a little bit causal about the back rail there,” she said. “He clipped that. And then the water has been riding difficult all day. I attacked it, but he didn’t quite get across.
“For sure it was less important for the team [to go clear], but for me it was still important,” she continued. “But I think I was a lot more relaxed going into it. In hindsight, maybe I should have left a stride out in the first line. That’s maybe what I would have done on a normal day.”
Team USA and Germany have a slight advantage over the Netherlands and Brazil, as those two countries only have three riders advancing.
Brazil’s Stephan de Freitas Barcha was disqualified by the ground jury for excessive use of spurs on Landpeter do Feroleto, and the Netherlands’ Jur Vrieling failed to get Zirocco Blue around course today. Neither may advance in the competition.
Stephan Ellenbruch, President of the Rio 2016 Equestrian Olympic Ground Jury, stated: “Horse Welfare is the most important element of equestrian sport. Disqualification under this rule does not imply that there was intent to injure the horse, but it is essential that the rules are enforced in order to ensure that horse welfare is protected.”
Brazilian team Veterinarian Rogério Saito responded, saying: “Stephan used the spurs during the competition to encourage the horse but unfortunately broke the skin, resulting in mandatory disqualification, which is clearly set out in the rules of our sport.”
The Brazilian team filed a protest to the Ground Jury against Barcha’s disqualification. The Ground Jury issued their decision confirming the disqualification. An appeal against the decision of the Ground Jury was subsequently lodged with the Appeals Committee, which also confirmed the disqualification.
Ukraine’s Cassio Rivetti was also eliminated for excessive use of spurs on Fine Fleur du Marais. That brings the total of horses disqualified from the Olympic Games for violating the Fédération Equestre Internationale Jumping Rule Art. 252.31, the so-called “blood rule,” to four.
Germany saw last-minute substitute Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Fibonacci 17) as well as Christian Ahlmann (Taloubet Z) and Deusser (First Class) finish fault-free, with just Ludger Beerbaum picking up a single rail on Casello.
Today’s big surprise came with the news that reigning Olympic gold medal team, Great Britain, isn’t advancing. None of the experienced team riders—Nick Skelton/Big Star, Ben Maher/Tic Tac, Michael Whitaker/Cassionato and John Whitaker/Ornellaia managed a clear. Veteran John had the worst day, stopping on the way into the triple combination and taking down several more fences on the way out.
“There’s no excuse,” he said. “I had to put a lot of pressure on her to make sure she jumped it the second time. To be honest, I knew at that point I couldn’t improve the score, so I just made sure I got around.
“Can’t have been our week,” he continued. “We had high hopes and expectations and were looking forward to it. Yesterday she jumped fantastic and I was confident. No excuses, but that’s horses. Shouldn’t happen but it did.”
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: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (@chronofhorse).