August 17, 2016 -- Today the United States Show-Jumping Team earned Olympic team silver in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, finishing just two faults behind an emotional Team France, who captured their first Olympic show-jumping team gold medal in 40 years.
To say that Team France had a come-from-behind story is putting it lightly; in the last five days they’ve dealt with a rider withdrawing, a horse colicking and a rider fall, yet they still managed to come together to put in such a strong performance on Wednesday, August 17th at the Deodoro National Equestrian Center, that their fourth rider never even had to tack up.
“At the end, it was so big what happened to the French team, but we said ok, we are here, maybe we have a chance to get a medal, so the only important thing today was to do as many clear rounds as we can,” said France’s Kevin Staut, who jumped clear with Reveur De Hurtebise.
Philippe Rozier and Rahotep De Toscane, along with Roger-Yves Bost and Sydney Une Prince, both jumped clear with one-time fault in the individual third qualifier/team round 2 final. They secured gold before the fourth rider rotation had even begun.
The Olympic format called for a Nations Cup competition, with two different courses to jump over two days that decided the team medals. After yesterday’s team round 1, France was in fifth place, and Brazil, the USA, Germany and the Netherlands were tied for first with Canada in fourth.
But these Olympics have been unpredictable to say the least, and three-quarters of the way through the order of 48 today, it was clear that the tables were turning.
Rough Start to the Day
The United States started out well, with Kent Farrington and Voyeur putting in yet another clear. This week, they’ve jumped three out of three rounds with no jumping faults. They picked up just one time fault today.
But the USA had a rough start to the day; less than an hour before the start of the team final, Beezie Madden and Cortes ‘C’ withdrew from competition. Cortes ‘C’ picked up a minor tendon injury in yesterday’s team round 1 (the veteran pair had two down and were clearly off form.) That left the remaining three riders of Team USA at the disadvantage of competing without a drop score in the rounds that would decide team medals, a fact that would matter mightily later in the afternoon.
Each day’s show-jumping competition has featured a new, full set of jumps and today’s were a marvel, with a double combination of black and white planks, a shimmery wall vertical at fence one and embellished jump standards that all had a South American theme. Course designer and Brazil native Guilherme Jorge and his team have done a brilliant job presenting this competition to full Olympic standard.
The time allowed of 82 seconds was a big factor in today’s results and affected many plans. In fact, among the 8 nations that contested the team final, only Team Canada’s scorecard was without a time fault, but when Yann Candele pushed to make the time with First Choice 15, he picked up a costly four jumping faults at the final oxer. Canada finished just out of the medals in fourth place after an exciting jumpoff with Germany for Olympic team bronze.
Germany had a tough morning, with Christian Ahlmann, Daniel Deusser and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum all hitting a rail. They quickly fell out of team gold position, but then Ludger Beerbaum went clear with Casello, and Germany rallied, going clear in the jumpoff.
Brazil fell from equal first after round 1, to finish fifth in team standings. But with all three of their eligible riders well within the top group, Doda De Miranda, Eduardo Menezes and Pedro Veniss will return to vie for individual medals on Friday.
A Roller Coaster
“This Olympics has been a roller coaster,” said Meredith, who came into the competition from the reserve position less than an hour before the first round. “Having the last fence down in the last round was a huge disappointment, and then to go back for a jumpoff and fight very hard for the bronze medal, I’m just delighted to be here.”
The United States was itching to get back on the Olympic podium after a disastrous Olympics four years ago in London. They brought their successful 2014 World Equestrian Games team to Rio, and with a cohesive team dynamic pulled off team silver without the luxury of a drop score.
But when Lucy Davis and Barron, second to go in the team order, had the B element of the triple combination down, it dropped the USA from gold to silver medal position. That would be the only jumping fault of the day from Team USA. McLain and Azur went on to jump clear.
“When I realized we couldn’t win I was feeling like I was going to throw up actually. That takes the wind out of your sail a little bit when you are focused on winning,” McLain explained. “We’ve had a little bit of a rough 24 hours losing Cortes, but I thought Kent is obviously brilliant and Lucy again, just like the WEG was the utmost professional, top class and really delivered a great round. It allowed me to be in a position where I could do the job I was supposed to do.”
His job was to keep the USA in medal position, and with Azur looking better than ever, he did exactly that, with a big sigh of relief and a pat on the neck for his horse as he exited the arena.
As for Canada, the team of Tiffany Foster, Yann Candele, Amy Millar and Eric Lamaze fought hard to earn a team medal, but their clear rounds didn’t materialize in the jumpoff. It can’t be missed, however, that Eric and his horse Fine Lady 5 are the only show-jumping pair in the entire competition to have jumped three completely clear rounds thus far. They sit on a perfect zero going into Friday’s individual Olympic final.
“Some things seemed to go our way and some things didn’t, but there’s no shame to be fourth at the Olympics,” Eric said. “With the young horse from Amy and everything else, considering everything, we put in a very good performance. We were for sure at a disadvantage going into the ring against the Germans in the jumpoff with the horses we have on our team.”
For Eric, Fine Lady 5 has come an unbelievably long way since January, when he was winning classes at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, but doubting her ability at an Olympic level. Come Friday, he may have to happily eat his words, as he and his mare are now the favorites to capture the show jumping individual Olympic gold medal in Rio.
The show-jumping horses will all have a well-deserved day off on Thursday, with the top-ranked 35 individuals returning for the individual round A and individual round B beginning on Friday at 10:00 a.m. local time. The slate is wiped clean for the individual final, meaning that all riders return on zero faults. What happens on the day will decide who is the 2016 Olympic champion.
Click this link to see the full report on round 1
Click this link to see the full report on round 2