Quiet man from Japan steals Olympic Eventing dressage limelight

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Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa and Noonday de Conde have the individual lead after the dressage phase of Eventing at the Olympic Games in London. © 2012: FEI/Kit Houghton.

LONDON, July 29–Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa and Noonday de Conde produced a sensational test that roiled the individual rankings in the closing stages of Eventing dressage at the 2012 Olympic Games though Germany holds the lead in the team competition with Australia and Great Britain close behind heading into the cross country.

The quiet-spoken 36-year-old Japanese rider admitted afterward that he could hardly believe it. “I’m a bit shocked”, he said. “Nobody expected it–as you can see there are not many Japanese media here!”

On an extraordinary day, it was Italy’s Stefano Brecciaroli who slotted into second place while New Zealand’s superstar Mark Todd moved into third. Both Oiwa and Todd’s results proved pivotal for their teams, with Japan rising to fill sixth place in the team rankings behind the Kiwis, who go into Monday’s cross-country phase in joint-fourth along with Sweden.

As it stood Sunday after the two days of dressage, the host nation was third behind Australia while the defending champions from Germany are out in front. Just three penalty points separating the first two, and the British less than five points adrift, stalked by the Swedes and Kiwis just 1.2 points further behind. As German Chef d’Equipe and Coach, Hans Melzer, said, “the four top riders are just one point away from each other and the teams are so close. They might as well start tomorrow on a zero score. Psychologically today’s result is good and our team did a super job and I’m happy for that, but tomorrow is another day.”

The second day of dressage was a thrill a minute from the outset. There was intense excitement ahead of the arrival of Britain’s Zara Phillips and High Kingdom, third into the arena, and they didn’t disappoint, making a dramatic entrance that was full of pizazz and earning a score of 46.10 despite a serious mix-up over the first flying change in canter. With Robbie Williams’ “She’s the One” playing in the background, the 31-year-old Briton kept calm and carried on to finish with a flourish and to rapturous applause.

She was immediately upstaged, however, by the pure accuracy of Sweden’s Sara Algotsson Ostholt and Wega who nailed all the changes as they powered through their test to join first-day leaders Ingrid Klimke and Butts Abraxxas in temporary pole position on a score of 39.30.

“We started very tense in trot and I thought, ‘how is this going to turn out?’ But after the walk, which was good, she relaxed a bit and the canter was very nice,” Sara Algotsson Ostholt explained. Wega was bred by the rider’s mother, and it’s quite a family affair for the Algotssons at London 2012 as Sara’s sister, Linda, was first in for the Swedish team Saturday riding Wega’s half-sister, La Fair. Sara said she knew her short-limbed but big-bodied mare was ready for the Olympics when finishing second at the German Championships recently, where the pair picked up a dressage mark of 34.

The Australians continued to build on their position with a mark of 40.00 from Lucinda Fredericks and Flying Finish, while Tina Cook’s rain-drenched but happy ride with Miners Frolic, rewarded with 42.00, did British chances no harm.

But then suddenly the Swedes sprang into contention when Niklas Lindback and Mister Pooh posted 45.20 following a short break while a thunderstorm rolled across the park. When New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson, the man much-fancied to take individual eventing gold at these Games, posted precisely the same score with Nereo there was some surprise. His 12-year-old gelding didn’t settle to his job, and Nicholson blamed the halt in proceedings. “There were two serious riders about to go in. I had seven minutes to go and he (Nereo) was starting to find his best work when they decided to stop,” he said. “He didn’t mind the thunder and lightning, but during the 10-minute hold I had to just walk him around and he thought he was in a training session. He got really quiet and confused, he switched off.”

Stefano Brecciaroli and Apollo WD Wendi Kurt Hoev after their ride that vaulted them to the lead at that stage of venting dressage competition at the London Olympics. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

There was nothing switched off about Italy’s Stefano Brecciaroli and Apollo WD Wendi Kurt Hoev, who burst into the lead with a fabulous test that put 38.50 on the board.

“I am so happy, but most of all for my beautiful horse!” he said. “I made one mistake and I am sorry for him that I did that. He is good at dressage. He got 35.00 at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky where we were second after dressage, but the cross-country will be difficult.”

Another great score, 40.40, from Clayton Fredericks and Bendigo further cemented the Australian position.

Clayton Fredericks and Bndigo. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

But the Germans couldn’t be surpassed when Sandra Auffarth’s mark of 40.00 was added to the 39.30 and 39.80 registered by Ingrid Klimke and Dirk Schrade, respectively. The final German partnership of Michael Jung and Sam found their 40.60 surplus to requirements in the team calculation, but good enough for 11th place individually at this early stage.

No-one could have anticipated the spectacular performance from Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa and Noonday de Conde.

This 11-year-old French-bred mare was beautifully ridden by her 36-year-old rider who has been training with Dirk Schrade in Germany for the past three years. The softness of Oiwa’s hand and leg-aids, and the quietness of his riding style, produced a test filled with poise, elegance, balance and a little bit of magic to earn a mark of 38.10 which took the individual lead and rocketed Japan up into fifth place in the teams.

Asked afterward what Schrade had said about his pupil’s fantastic performance, Oiwa answered “he said there were a few things I could have done better–it wasn’t good enough he told me!”

As last man in, Mark Todd, entered the arena his country lying eighth. The top team placings were already decided in this first phase, with Germany in the lead ahead of Australia in second and Great Britain in third.

Following his retirement in 2000, Mark Todd was awarded the title “Rider of the Century” by the FEI, but admitted on returning to the sport in order to compete at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing that the level of dressage had gone beyond anything he had previously experienced, and that he was struggling with that.

Sunday, however. this remarkable man, now aged 56, blew away the last of the cobwebs with a breathtaking performance that oozed comfort, ease, experience and pure enjoyment to post 39.10 on the scoreboard and put New Zealand into equal-fourth place with Sweden.

USA's Phillip Dutton and Mystery Whisper. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Linda Algotsson Ostholt of Sweden talking about her mare, Wega: “She’s very much a woman. You can’t tell her anything, you have to ask her nicely and be gentle with her, then she will do anything for you!”
Linda Algotsson Ostholt: “My mother has one amazing mare that has produced two of the horses on this Swedish team and she has more like them at home!”Clayton Fredericks of Australia: “He (Bendigo) did stumble at the end of the canter work, which probably stopped us from getting under the 40% barrier but there is still a lot to play for in this competition.”Philip Dutton of USA on his performance with Mystery Whisper : “I am pleased without being ecstatic, as you can always do better. In dressage it is so difficult to balance going for flamboyancy and producing the softness the judges are looking for.”Michael Jung of Germany: “I had a good feeling. Sam was calm and I could really work with him. We had two little mistakes. I would have expected more but I am happy with the team result. We will see tomorrow where we stand.”

Individual Ranking after Dressage

Rk Bib Rider Horse Result +
1 70 Japan OIWA Yoshiaki NOONDAY DE CONDE 38.10 +
3 74 New Zealand TODD Mark CAMPINO 39.10 +
=4 33 Germany KLIMKE Ingrid BUTTS ABRAXXAS 39.30 +
=4 41 Sweden ALGOTSSON OSTHOLT Sara WEGA 39.30 +
6 18 Germany SCHRADE Dirk KING ARTUS 39.80 +
=7 47 Australia FREDERICKS Lucinda FLYING FINISH 40.00 +
=7 49 Germany AUFFARTH Sandra OPGUN LOUVO 40.00 +
=7 68 Belgium DONCKERS Karin GAZELLE DE LA BRASSERIE 40.00 +
10 63 Australia FREDERICKS Clayton BENDIGO 40.40 +
11 65 Germany JUNG Michael SAM 40.60 +
12 24 Great Britain KING Mary IMPERIAL CAVALIER 40.90 +
13 31 Australia HOY Andrew RUTHERGLEN 41.70 +
14 56 Great Britain COOK Kristina MINERS FROLIC 42.00 +
15 54 Japan SATO Kenki CHIPPIEH 42.20 +
16 25 Sweden SVENNERSTAL Ludvig SHAMWARI 43.70 +
=17 26 New Zealand PAGET Jonathan CLIFTON PROMISE 44.10 +
=17 72 Great Britain FOX-PITT William LIONHEART 44.10 +
19 62 United States of America DUTTON Phillip MYSTERY WHISPER 44.30 +
20 48 France SCHAULY Donatien OCARINA DU CHANOIS 44.40 +
21 58 New Zealand NICHOLSON Andrew NEREO 45.00 +
22 57 Sweden LINDBACK Niklas MISTER POOH 45.20 +
23 16 Australia GRIFFITHS Sam HAPPY TIMES 45.40 +
=24 2 Australia BURTON Christopher HP LEILANI 46.10 +
=24 40 Great Britain PHILLIPS Zara HIGH KINGDOM 46.10 +
26 46 United States of America COLEMAN William TWIZZEL 46.30 +
=27 50 Ireland SPEIRS Camilla PORTERSIZE JUST A JIFF 47.60 +
=27 64 France TOUZAINT Nicolas HILDAGO DE L’ILE 47.60 +
29 15 United States of America O’CONNOR Karen MR MEDICOTT 48.20 +
30 7 Belgium CAULIER Virginie NEPAL DU SUDRE 48.30 +
31 20 Canada BENNETT-AWAD Hawley GIN & JUICE 48.70 +
32 19 Ireland CLARK Aoife MASTER CRUSOE 48.90 +
33 38 Japan NEGISHI Atsushi PRETTY DARLING 50.40 +
=34 53 Netherlands HEFFERNAN Andrew MILLTHYME COROLLA 50.60 +
=34 67 Canada HOWARD Rebecca RIDDLE MASTER 50.60 +
=36 1 United States of America MARTIN Boyd OTIS BARBOTIERE 50.70 +
=36 36 Belgium RIGOUTS Marc DUNKAS 50.70 +
38 32 France GUYON Lionel NEMETIS DE LALOU 50.90 +
=39 9 Great Britain WILSON Nicola OPPOSITION BUZZ 51.70 +
=39 37 Netherlands LIPS Tim ONCARLOS 51.70 +
41 52 Belgium van SPRINGEL Joris LULLY DES AULNES 51.90 +
42 30 United States of America COUDRAY Tiana RINGWOOD MAGISTER 52.00 +
=43 42 New Zealand POWELL Caroline LENAMORE 52.20 +
=43 69 Netherlands PEN Elaine VIRA 52.20 +
45 21 Belgium BOUCKAERT Carl CYRANO Z 53.00 +
46 29 Ecuador ZABALA-GOETSCHEL Ronald MASTER ROSE 53.30 +
47 59 Italy PANIZZON Vittoria BOROUGH PENNYZ 53.50 +
=48 45 Thailand LIGON Nina Lamsam BUTTS LEON 53.90 +
=48 71 Brazil FONSECA Ruy TOM BOMBADILL TOO 53.90 +
=50 51 Canada PHOENIX Jessica EXPONENTIAL 54.80 +
=50 60 Poland SPISAK Pawel WAG 54.80 +
52 8 Japan TANAKA Toshiyuki MARQUIS DE PLESCOP 55.00 +
53 34 Ireland MURPHY Joseph ELECTRIC CRUISE 55.60 +
54 17 France KAHN Aurelien CADIZ 55.90 +
55 11 New Zealand RICHARDS Jonelle FLINTSTAR 56.70 +
56 6 Canada MUELLER Michelle AMISTAD 57.00 +
57 55 Brazil TOSI Marcelo ELEDA ALL BLACK 58.00 +
=58 4 Germany THOMSEN Peter BARNY 58.50 +
=58 22 Japan YUMIRA Takayuki LATINA 58.50 +
=58 23 Brazil CARVALHO JORGE Marcio JOSEPHINE 58.50 +
61 66 Ireland KYLE Mark COOLIO 58.70 +
=62 10 Sweden ALGOTSSON Linda LA FAIR 59.80 +
=62 44 Russian Federation NASTENKO Mikhail COOLROY PITER 59.80 +
64 5 Ireland RYAN Michael BALLYLYNCH ADVENTURE 60.20 +
65 73 Sweden PETERSEN Malin SOFARSOGOOD 60.40 +
66 3 France MESPLES Denis OREGON DE LA VIGNE 61.50 +
67 35 Canada BARRY Peter KILRODAN ABBOTT 61.70 +
68 43 Belarus FAMINOU Aliaksandr PASIANS 63.70 +
69 14 Jamaica ALBERT Samantha CARRAIG DUBH 67.20 +
70 12 Belarus TSELIAPUSHKINA Alena PASSAT 69.10 +
71 27 Austria AMBROS Harald O-FELTIZ 69.50 +
72 28 South Africa PETERNELL Alexander ASIH 70.40 +
73 39 Brazil FOFANOFF Serguei BARBARA 72.00 +
74 13 Russian Federation KORSHUNOV Andrei FABIY 80.20 +
Team Ranking after Dressage
Rk Team Result +
Germany Germany
119.10 +
Australia Australia
122.10 +
Great Britain Great Britain
127.00 +
Sweden Sweden
128.20 +
New Zealand New Zealand
128.20 +
Japan Japan
130.70 +
United States United States
138.80 +
Belgium Belgium
139.00 +
France France
142.90 +
Ireland Ireland
152.10 +
Canada Canada
154.10 +
Netherlands Netherlands
154.50 +
Brazil Brazil
170.40 +
Ground Jury
Position Name
C BINDER Anne-Mette (FEI) (President)
M ROLTON Gillian (FEI)