For complete official results, click here.
Hong Kong, August 21, 2008 -- North America, which dominated the Olympic team show jumping, did the same in the individual medal finals, as the equestrian events of the Olympic Games ended today with an electrifying pair of jump-offs.
Canada's silver medal team member Eric Lamaze, who missed two Olympics because of positive drug tests, made his comeback in a big way to take the gold medal aboard Hickstead. He produced a sparkling clear round in a match against the clock with Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden, who got the silver on Ninja after dropping a rail. Beezie Madden of the USA's gold medal team found herself in a seven-way tie for the bronze on Authentic, necessitating a pressure-filled tiebreaker that ended when she beat Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany by 0.12 seconds.
"I know I have a fast horse and if anybody had a good chance, I probably did," said Beezie.
Her teammate, McLain Ward, rode before she did and was flying on Sapphire until he bashed the last fence to finish sixth.
"I wanted to win a medal, and we tried our very, very hardest. I tried to leave one (stride) out at the last, and we gave it everything we had," said McLain, whose gamble didn't pay off.
But he was full of praise for Sapphire, calling her "spectacular. In regulation jumping, she had (just) one down all week. She's an amazing animal."
While he was on course, McLain jumped a bush as a time-saving shortcut and suggested that route for Beezie, who followed suit.
"It was a good risk for me to take to try to be faster than Meredith, because my horse is very brave and very handy, and he can handle stuff like that," said Beezie.
She beat an incredible group of riders in earning her title. Meredith, who rode her superstar Shutterfly, is ranked number one in the world. Right behind her was the defending Olympic gold medalist, Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil on the rather inexperienced Rufus, who was much slower. McLain had the faster of the 4-fault rounds and was followed in the placings by Germany's Ludger Beerbaum (All Inclusive). Marc Houtzager of the Netherlands (Opium) was the quicker of two 8-fault rounds while his teammate, Angelique Hoorn, finished ninth on O'Brien.
Beezie, who is normally very low-key, couldn't stop smiling as she talked about her medal.
It was an even more emotional time for Eric. He was dropped from the 1996 and 2000 Canadian teams for drug infractions, though the penalties later were overturned. Since then, he has had a hugely successful career and been a big winner with Hickstead, a Dutch-bred stallion he got as a seven-year-old. The horse underwent colic surgery early in the year, but made his own comeback as one of the biggest winners in the sport to this point.
As he finished his jump-off round, Eric threw his red and white helmet emblazoned with the Canadian maple leaf into the stands, then put his head back in ecstasy and gratitude, letting it all soak in.
His incredible reversal of fortune paid off in the only individual gold medal ever won by a Canadian in Olympic show jumping, on the heels of its first team medal in the discipline in 40 years.
"I'm really proud of myself and the people who supported me," said Eric, who rightly gloried in a very special night, lit by the Olympic flame, after the years of darkness that he experienced.
He added he hoped he has put the past to rest, and that people won't bring it up again.
Laura Kraut, the third American rider participating, had a foot in the water and a rail down with Cedric, so did not come back for the second round. But Laura was very pleased with her little gray gelding, the surprise winner of the selection trials, who made a big leap forward to be part of the team because he wasn't very experienced.
While the fourth member of the U.S. squad, Will Simpson, qualified for the individual finals, he could not compete because the rules state only three team members can take part in the individual competition, so he spent the night as an interested spectator.