It’s a different show jumping World Championships than anyone expected, for sure. At the end of day 2 today, Aug. 30, the strongly favored German team is in fourth, while the Netherlands team leads, the Ukranian team is second, and the U.S. is hanging in there for third.
The Dutch have a significant lead, with 7.01 faults to their name, while the Ukraine has 13.17 and the Americans have 14.85. But none of them can breathe easy, as Germany is hot on their heels, with 15.16 faults. Today was just round 1 of the Nations Cup competition to decide the team medals—tomorrow is round 2, and more big jumping. The placings can change very quickly, as they did today.
The U.S. effort began with three straight four-fault rounds from Margie Engle, Laura Kraut and McLain Ward. But Beezie Madden filled her usual role of anchor with just as much aplomb and style as always, jumping a clear round on Authentic to keep the U.S. in the medal hunt. Her clear round also assured that she stayed atop the individual standings. Eric Lamaze of Canada and Gerco Schroder of the Netherlands also were faultless today, and stay in second and third individually.
“At the moment a team medal is more important. I have a great horse—probably one of the best in the world,” said Madden. “Today was bigger and technical again. The triple combination was tricky, and the short [two-stride] double to the liverpool. I had the advantage of having a lot of horses to watch [as the next-to-last to go of the 114 horses], but it was a long time to wait. Today was easier because I knew my horse was good yesterday. Now the first and second days are over and I have more confidence.
“You have to look at it selfishly a bit, even if you’re working for the team, because what the team needs is clear rounds,” added Madden. “The team has been fantastic—any kind of a good atmosphere is a help. We do things together at night and are behind each other 100 percent. We’re all trying our hardest and are in it together.”
Who Are They?
The biggest surprise of the day was the Ukrainian leap into second. The Ukranian team came together at the last moment, and is comprised of riders of other nationalities who decided to switch to Ukrainian citizenship. Katarina Offel—a former German rider—has been riding for the Ukraine for three years, but her teammates all started with the team recently. Ukrainian gas magnate Alexander Omischenko sponsors the team.
Belgian rider Jean-Claude van Geenberghe began riding for the Ukrainian team early this year. “[Fellow former Belgian] Gregory Wathelet was hired to ride Alexander Omischenko’s horses, and had the vision to create a team,” he said. “He and I are good friends, and he called me to ask if I’d be interested in riding for the Ukraine. At that point, I was a little pissed-off with the Belgian team [management], so I decided to change nationalities. We really wanted to have a fourth member, and Bjorn Nagel [formerly of Germany] joined us a month ago. For us, it’s a dream to be here for the moment, doing so well.”
Van Geenberghe led off the Ukrainian effort with a clean round aboard Osta Rugs Tresor. Nagel turned in a clean round with just 1 time fault, and Wathelet was the drop score with 8 faults on Loriot. Offel clinched the second-placed standing with her one-time-fault round on Atlanta.
The only Dutch rider to have a rail was their first in the ring—Piet Raymakers on Van Schijndel’s Curtis. His 5 faults was the drop score, and only Jeroen Dubbeldam picked up another fault—1 time fault. Albert Zoer on Okidoki and Gerco Schroder on Eurocommerce Berlin both jumped foot-perfect to protect the team’s lead.
The Germans looked to be ready to take over second place themselves after Ludger Beerbaum jumped clear on L’Espoir and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum picked up just a time fault with Shutterfly. Christian Ahlmann’s two rails on Coster would be the drop score, and if Marcus Ehning jumped clean on Noltes Kuchengirl, second place would be theirs. But Ehning—the seemingly unbeatable World Cup champion—and Kuchengirl snagged the front rail of the penultimate fence, crushing the German fans and causing Ehning to shake his head in disgust.
Expecting Clean Runds Tomorrow
Tomorrow’s second round of the Nations Cup will take place in the evening, under lights. Madden is ready for a change of plan with Authentic. “Tomorrow I need to work him and make sure he’s not too fresh for tomorrow night. He was a little bully today, so I need to work him harder tomorrow so he’s not too up under the lights,” she said.
And the rest of her team will be ready to rectify their mistakes of today.
Hidden Creek’s Quervo Gold jumped much better today, just ticking the wide oxer at fence 10, right after the triple combination for Margie Engle. “He jumped through the combination fantastically, but I was a little worried about my time. I landed after the triple and started to gallop to make up time,” she said. “I thought I could get away with the gallop, but he was too sprawled out. He felt like he wanted to jump clear today.”
Engle said that the team had discussed making up time there, but when she softened the reins after the triple, Quervo Gold didn’t really go anywhere for a stride or two, making the distance even longer to the oxer at fence 10. “For as long as I was, he made a big effort,” she said.
Laura Kraut had an unlucky rail at the final element of the triple combination, fence 9ABC, an oxer-vertical-oxer in a short two strides to a long one.
“She tried; she didn’t mean to do that,” said Kraut of her gray mare. “I felt her hold her legs up—she was squeezing every inch out of it.”
Kraut said Miss Independent jumped so high over the first two elements of the combination that she made it even harder to cover the distance in the one stride, and she attributed much of that to the mare’s relative greenness. “In a year, she’ll know to expect that,” she said. “I thought she was over, and I think she did too.”
As Kraut made the turn around the ring after the triple, she saw on the screen that her time was 69 seconds, and she knew that 75 seconds at that point was on the time. So she slowed down to make sure she jumped the final few fences perfectly.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with her,” she said. “I think in her own mind she was clear, and I have a lot of confidence going into tomorrow night.”
Ward had a mistake in the same triple combination when Sapphire just caught the top rail of the vertical at 9B for their 4 faults.
“It was an excellent course across the board,” said U.S. Chef d’Equipe George Morris. “Walking the course, I thought it would be more difficult than it was. We really had three rounds of little blips. They were avoidable mistakes; we really could or should have had four clear. I’m going to tell them tonight I expect three or four clear rounds tomorrow, period. I don’t care how they do it.”