August 14, 2016 -- A tough day of competition unfolded on the first day of Olympic show jumping in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday, August 14th, with the home team putting in a fantastic team performance and the USA struggling to make clear rounds add up.
Olympic show jumping horses will compete in up to seven rounds of jumping over four days of competition before individual medals are decided on Friday, August 19th.
“I thought it was a pretty technical course for the first day, not a massive size, but I know my horse very well,” said Kent Farrington, who rode the only clear round for the USA aboard Voyeur. “My role is being the lead-off rider, and I knew what I had to do with him.”
Rider consensus was indeed that the course, which counted as the First Individual Qualifier/First Team Qualifier, was as difficult as they’d seen in recent memory, for an opening day of a multi-day championship. This first competition was jumped over one round, with no jump-off, to heights of 1.60m. The triple bar was a sizable 1.90m in width, and fences are expected to get bigger as the week progresses.
However, 24 riders jumped clear and within the time allowed of 82 seconds, pointing towards the obvious quality of these Olympic riders and their horses. It was the technicality of the trouble spots on course today that makes one wonder what Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge has up his sleeve for the days to come.
Highlight of the Day
Brazilian riders were the highlight of the day—they’ve worked hard all year under coach George H. Morris to put together a strong team that could produce the results that unfolded today: three clears and just one rail down from their opening rider, who also was very first in the order this morning.
Eduardo Menezes and Quintol, Stephan De Freitas Barcha with Landpeter Do Feroleto, Doda De Miranda and Cornetto K and Pedro Veniss with Quabri de L’Isle spun the crowd, who for the first time this Olympics packed the Deodoro stadium to capacity into a nationalistic frenzy with every clear round they completed.
“It was a super feeling, it was an incredible noise that you want to hear all your life,” said Stephan, who is the youngest and least experienced member of Team Brazil, but who completed the first clear round for his country today. “It was a dream come true and my horse is a super horse. His character is incredible.”
While the Brazilians were enjoying a dream come true day that they hope will continue into Rounds 2 and 3, others were caught out at the trouble spots on course. In particular, the double combination late on course was a question that more than a few were unable to answer. A one-stride oxer to vertical that rode from a bending line required horses to stretch over the oxer and immediately balance for the vertical. The result was a lot of refusals.
Shake Up and Drama
The morning began with a shake up amongst Team Germany; Marcus Ehning’s mount Cornado NRW, was found to be unsound by team vets. It was speculated that he took a bad step in yesterday’s training session over fences. Marcus had to withdraw from the Olympics, leaving a space open for team traveling alternate Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum to step up to with Fibonacci.
Meredith would go on to jump clear, continuing the run of strong form that she has been in with Fibonacci all spring in summer. In fact, it was a bit of a surprise when she was initially named as the German team alternate, but it seems to all be working out for her now.
“Sport took over again today,” she said. “I’m delighted and I’m really excited about the next few days. “This is a special horse, I really felt like we were coming together this year and that why I was really pinpointing for these Olympics.”
The German team is a favorite to medal, and along with Meredith, Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z and Daniel Deusser with First Class jumped clear. Ludger Beerbaum and Casello had one rail down.
Canada had a good day to sit in equal third with France. In this round, the best three scores from the team of four counted, and that was a relief for France when Pénélope Leprevost took a tumble from her horse Flora De Mariposa midway through course. Pénélope will be able to return to jump in tomorrow’s Second Individual Qualifier/Second Team Qualifier.
One rider who won’t be returning is Nicola Philippaerts of Belgium. Riding as an individual, he ran into trouble at the B element of the troublesome combination, with two refusals. As if that wasn’t enough, FEI stewards flagged him for excessive use of the spur and eliminated him from the competition according to FEI Jumping Rules, Article 242.3.1.
Jur Vrieling of the Netherlands came under similar fire when he was eliminated for excessive use of the whip. However, and despite the two refusals that he had on course with Zirocco Blue, word is that he will be able to jump in the Team competition. The FEI has promised to clarify exactly why that is allowed.
All in all, and despite the drama, it was a thrilling day of show jumping here in Brazil. There are still three more days of show jumping to go with the Second Individual Qualifier/Second Team Qualifier taking pace on Tuesday, August 16th. But first, the dressage horses return on Monday morning to perform the freestyles that will determine the individual dressage medals. Stay tuned. . .