Drama was the order of the day as the team show jumping medals were decided in Rio, starting with the announcement that U.S. anchor rider Beezie Madden wouldn’t compete because her mount, Cortes C, had sustained an injury during his previous round at the Games.
The U.S., tied overnight with Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands on zero penalties, would have to do without a drop score. The same applied to Brazil and the Dutch, who had their fourth men fall by the wayside, while powerful Germany still fielded a team of four and thus the ability to drop its worst result.
Lurking in fifth place with a single penalty was France, waiting to pounce with its team of four, and pounce it did.
This was designer Guilherme Jorge’s most challenging track at the Games, as it should have been, and the time allowed of 82 seconds caught more than half the starting field of 48. So time faults figured in very influentially.
“We thought the course was brilliant today,” said McLain.
“It was real Olympic caliber team jumping. So we are very proud.”
Guilherme, who upped the difficulty of his route today to accommodate the capabiity of the riders, noted that “to design an Olympic course in my home country, it doesn’t get better than this.”
France had one time penalty from round 1 yesterday and two today, but didn’t need the contribution of its final rider, world number 3 Penelope Leprovost, because the French had it won before the competition ended. (It was their second gold of the Games, having also won the eventing.)
And remember, prior to the show jumping getting under way, France’s world number two, Simon Delestre, had to be replaced by alternate Philippe Rozier on Rahotep de Toscane because his horse, Ryan, had suffered a microscopic fracture in his hock. And Penelope fell in the first round when her horse stumbled, taking her out of the individual running but still enabling her to ride for her team.
“Maybe the problems helped to make us fight more and more” said French team member Kevin Staut, who added he is, “really proud–to be French, to be a rider and to be a gold medalist.”
For the U.S., a single time fault from the previously immaculate Kent Farrington on Voyeur and a knockdown by Lucy Davis and Barron at the second part of the double late on the course meant McLain Ward had to go clear on Azur to block a threat from the Germans yet to come. He did it with a technically spot-on ride that clinched silver, as the U.S. just ended two penalties shy of the French with 5 faults.
Bronze was a jump-off between the 8-faults-each Germans and Canada, which was not rated as a medal contender before the Games. Germany prevailed with three rounds that left all the rails in place, while both Yann Candele and Amy Millar had rails for the Canadians.
Special mention should be made of Tiffany Foster, fault-free in both rounds today for Canada with Tripple X, who was on the British gold medal team in 2012 with Ben Maher. The only rider not to incur any faults throughout the jumping competition in Rio is Canada’s Eric Lamaze, the 2008 individual gold medalist, riding Fine Lady.
The top 35 start for the individual medals on Friday, with 20 coming back for the second round that day. Everyone begins on zero penalties, so it’s a whole new ballgame. Perhaps Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonets can make it a clean sweep for 2012 defending Olympic champions at these Games, following the trend of Germany’s Michael Jung on Sam, who repeated his 2012 eventing title, and Charlotte Dujardin with Valegro, who did the same in dressage.
But there is plenty of stiff opposition, starting with Kent, who had only 1 penalty throughout the jumping, and including Eric, of course, as well as Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany on Fibonacci and her three teammates; McLain–who is looking for his first individual Olympic medal after two previous team golds, and Sweden’s Peder Fredericson. And that, literally, is not the half of it. Should be quite a battle for individual honors.
It is interesting the way there are so many family links among the show jumpers, both people and horses. It’s kind of like how movie stars’ kids follow in their parents’ footsteps.
You know Meredith is the sister-in-law of German anchor rider Ludger Beerbaum, but Phillippe Rozier’s father, Marcel, was an Olympian who rode on France’s last show jumping gold medal team in 1976. Hansueli Sprunger of Switzerland, father of Swiss team member Janika Sprunger, also was an Olympian. Sydney Une Prince, the mount of France’s Roger Yves Bost, is by Rodrigo Pessoa’s multi-medal championships mount, Baloubet du Rouet, and Barron’s sire is For Pleasure, who competed with the Germans in Atlanta 20 years ago. That’s just a few of the connections!
Follow me Friday at twitter.com/@nancyjaffer for a round-by-round look at the individual finals, and come back to nancyjaffer.com later on Friday for the final equestrian story from Rio.