There’s a special kind of pressure that comes with entering the Olympic Games’ eventing show jumping ring last to go. But if Julia Krajewski felt the pressure of sitting in first place, she didn’t let it show.
In her round in the team competition, which took place about two hours before the individual final, she jumped clear with Amande De B’Neville for Germany and found herself, to her surprise, in the lead after Oliver Townend lowered a rail with Ballaghmor Class.
“I didn’t really expect that, but in the end for me it wouldn’t matter,” she said after her team round.
“Of course, a medal would be absolutely amazing. I’ll just try to give it my best shot. We’ll see what happens,” she said, looking ahead to the individual finals. “I will just treat it like any other show I’m going in first after cross-country for now.”
Her best shot turned out to be another clear round, which clinched the gold for Krajewski. And though she was subdued and understated before her win, she wasn’t after. She flew through the finish timers, pumping her fist and pointing at her horse.
“I think I really benefited from the massive trust I have in my horse,” she said. “ ‘Amande’ is such a good jumper, and I didn’t see the round afterwards now, but I tried to imagine I’m at home training, which I really enjoy doing. I had the feeling she really knew it was special.”
“I was overflowing happiness, then I had to cry a bit, then I was just proud of my horse,” she added of the moment she knew she’d secured gold.
With her win, Krajewski became the first woman to win individual eventing gold at an Olympic Games.
“I really didn’t know that no female had never won gold, because of all the great ladies in our sport I thought someone must have done it,” she said. “First of all, I think it’s about time. It’s fitting in the time we’re in right now. It doesn’t matter where you come from or whatever else, I think everything is possible, and everyone who has a dream and a passion should go for it. Nothing can really hold you back if you really want to go for it and work hard for it.”
Though cross-country leader Townend lowered a rail each in both the team and individual jumping rounds, dropping down to fifth, his teammate on the gold medal-winning British team, Tom McEwen on Toledo De Kerser, added just 0.4 time faults in today’s individual show jumping round to earn individual silver (29.3).
“It’s been fun jumping in the evening,” said McEwen. “But he was incredible. He was enjoying the clicking of the cameras, so that was making him go even higher at points. Yeah, he’s class, and everyone that follows eventing knows he’s a great jumper, so it’s just up to me on top really.”
Australia’s Andrew Hoy took bronze aboard Vassily De Lassos. Hoy, riding in his eighth Olympic Games, earned team silver with Australia in addition to his individual bronze. He finished on his dressage score (29.6).
“He was having a little buck in the warm-up,” Hoy said. “It’s as if I did a dressage schooling exercise with him yesterday—unbelievable.”
During a Team Australia meeting this morning, the riders received video messages from supporters at home. Hoy received a special one from his daughter Philippa, 4.
“She sent a message saying, ‘Daddy, well done. You rode really good yesterday, really good, and I want you to bring home another medal.’ So I can’t say I did it for Philippa because the passion comes from here,” said Hoy as he touched his chest.
Great Britain Has Another Banner Day
Great Britain was nearly faultless all weekend, in every phase, to earn the team gold over the next-closest challenger by nearly 15 penalty points. The team of Townend, McEwen and Laura Collett on London 52 added two rails to their tally today to finish on 86.3 penalties—the lowest winning Olympic Games team score ever.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Collett said. “It’s going to take a while before it does. It’s been a dream come true just to be here this week, and I can’t really put it into words. I feel like someone is going to pinch me, and I’m going to wake up from my dream.”
Townend added that riders had a battle for British team selection.
“Just the chances of having the three horses, as Laura just said, all at the same time, all with jockeys that are able to steer them in the right direction, and to land sound at an Olympics at the same time is just a very an amazing thing, and I think that’s why it’s possibly taken so long to get there,” said Townend, who’s scored multiple five-star wins but is riding at his first Olympic Games. “There’s such a large pool of riders and horses in Great Britain to select from that it’s actually very difficult to get it right. These three horses, they selected themselves. They’re all three five-star winners, all within recent years, and they all stayed sound and arrived in the best possible form. For that to happen puts more pressure on us because we’ve come here knowing we should be winning if things go our way. To win is just a huge, huge relief. When it finally sinks in, I think we’ll be having a big party.”
The Australian team of Hoy on “Vassily,” Shane Rose on Virgil, and Kevin McNab on Don Quidam maintained its second-place standing after cross-country yesterday with two clear rounds from McNab and Hoy, and one rail down for Rose.
“It is very, very special,” said Hoy. “We don’t come to these championships, especially Olympic Games, to finish in fourth, fifth or sixth. We only come to get a medal, and look, it’s been a complete team effort. For sure, Vassily has done a wonderful job to finish on his dressage score, but if it wasn’t for Kevin and for Shane in the team, and this complete support team, we wouldn’t be here.”
Rose also finished 10th individually, but he noted the team placing was most important to him this week.
“We’re all mates, which I don’t know if every other team is, but we ride everyone’s highs and lows with them. It’s not just your own performance,” he said. “We obviously think team first in Australia, and so how you perform individually is going to affect your teammates, and you want always to put your best foot forward.
“In eventing, we don’t get team opportunities very often,” he added. “I’m based in Australia, and these guys are based in Europe, so we get to see each other once every few years, and when we do come together, it’s amazing how quickly and easily we bond and form that team partnership.”
McNab was a last-minute substitute for the team when Stuart Tinney had to withdraw Leporis before the first horse inspection.
“I’m speechless; it’s absolutely amazing,” McNab said of winning silver. “They’re a fantastic team. I was really surprised [to be called up to the team], and at the same time, I felt for Stuart, which is quite difficult. He left big shoes to fill, and I’ve tried to do my bit. So there was a bit of pressure there to try and step up there to do his job.”
The French team of Nicolas Touzaint on Absolut Gold, Karim Florent Laghouag on Triton Fontaine, and Christopher Six on Totem De Brecey also picked up just 4 jumping penalties plus 0.4 time between them today to earn the bronze.
U.S. Team Finishes Sixth
The U.S. team started the team competition in fifth place, but after Boyd Martin (on Tsetserleg TSF) and Doug Payne (on Vandiver) dropped one rail each, and Phillip Dutton had two down with Z, the team fell one spot to finish on 125.8 penalties.
“He was jumping absolutely great,” said Payne, who went first for the team. “He got a little shifty and got caught out. He sat on the back rail of that red-and-yellow [vertical]. Honestly, it’s pretty frustrating, but the thing is, he was jumping so well, you can’t ask for a whole lot more from him. He’s shown a lot of heart, and I’m certainly thankful to have him. It’s frustrating still.”
This is the best U.S. team placing since earning a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
“We’ll keep it all in perspective,” said Dutton. “It’s an improvement from a team point of view for the U.S. We’re on the board, and certainly you can always try to do a bit better, but I thought we had a good crack at it yesterday and did the same today. Certainly, we were aiming for more, but it’s not horrible either.”
“I’m really disappointed, obviously,” he added of his own team jumping round with Z. “He was trying quite hard, and I was trying to get down there in six [strides] to the triple, and then I had to change my mind. Then he had to work so hard to get out, and he had that down. That kind of rattled him a little bit. It’s a good course; it’s just you have to be on an open stride, or you have to add—one of the two.”
Martin had two rails down in the individual second show jumping round to finish in 20th, just ahead of Dutton’s 21st. Payne finished as the top-placed U.S. rider individually in 16th.
“I’m pleased with old Thomas,” Martin said. “He felt like he was out of juice on that last round. I only gave him a couple of warm-up jumps, and I felt in the warm-up that he would get over it. I think he’s just exhausted from cross-country yesterday and a big round of jumping tonight. You know, we had a couple of poles down, but at the end of the day, I felt like the horse has given me everything he’s got and tried his heart out for me, so I’m not too disappointed.”
Chef d’Equipe Erik Duvander felt the team had the opportunity to reach the medals if things had gone more its way, but said its overall improvement and growth is something to build upon with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games on the horizon. He also commented on the logistics and travel associated with these Games.
“In all of my years of competing and coaching in championships in this sport, I have never experienced such an arduous trip for the horses. Our team handled the process without doubt and ultimately kept the welfare of our horses at the forefront of every decision,” he said. “Our team truly showed their mettle on the cross country yesterday. The horses gave their absolute all on the final day in show jumping and tried until the end with everything they had left.”
See full results from the team and individual competition. Watch the competition on demand on NBC’s Olympic livestream or see televised highlights scheduled for noon today Eastern Daylight Time on local NBC channels and 1 p.m. on NBCSN.