Dramatic Start for Olympic Jumping

9 years ago StraightArrow Comments Off on Dramatic Start for Olympic Jumping
Before a sellout crowd of 23,000, USA's Rich Fellers and Flexible, 2012 World Cup champion, going clear in their first Olympics. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

LONDON, Aug. 4–The first Jumping competition of the London 2012 Olympic Games threw up some big surprises Saturday although some teams suffering falls and refusals were bunched near the top.

Olympic course designer Bob Ellis of Great Britain been expected to provide a relatively gentle introduction for the jumping riders, but two of the biggest stars of the game were among four to be eliminated from the speed class.

A total of four nations completed on a zero score, and Sweden was one of them despite elimination for Lisen Fredricson at the troublesome double at fence three where she took a heavy fall when landing in the middle of the opening triple bar. The Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium also kept a clean sheet.

Brazil, France, Germany and the USA each collected just one time penalty to finish in equal-fifth ahead of Saudi Arabia, with three on the board, in ninth place.

Teams from 15 nations lined up, and the hosts from Great Britain slotted into equal 10th alongside Australia when a single error from Scott Brash had to be taken in account after Peter Charles also fell victim to the distance between the second and third fences. The Ukraine finished 12th, Canada 13th, Mexico 14th and Chile 15th. There were 32 clear rounds, eight horse-and-rider combinations picked up a single time fault and 11 completed the course with just one fence down. All teams go through to Sunday’s first round of the team competition and the top 10 nations then qualify for Monday’s second round medal-decider.

The Greenwich Stadium was packed to capacity as the action got underway, and with seven foot-perfect rounds from the first nine riders it seemed that the observation made by German Chef d’Equipe, Otto Becker, was fairly accurate. “The course is right for a first qualifier, but since the level of riders is very high I expect it to be much more difficult tomorrow,” he said. It was vintage Bob Ellis, with lots of loops and roll-backs as it twisted and turned its way home.

Brazil’s Carlos Ribas was eliminated when the nine-year-old Wilexo didn’t like the look of a double at three, ducking left twice. And then, A few horses later, Lisen Fredricson got into a muddle with Matrix.

The class settled down then for some time, but the closing stages produced some odd results.

Picture-perfect runs from Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and Itot du Chateau, and 2012 Rolex FEI World Cup champions Rich Fellers and Flexible for the USA, were followed by more of the same from Belgium’s Dirk Demeersman on Bufero van het Panishof, Holland’s Gerco Schroder and the aptly named London and Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa and Rebozo.

At 18 years of age, America’s Reed Kessler is the youngest-ever US jumping team member and the youngest equestrian at the London Games. She only began competing at senior Grand Prix level earlier this year. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

There was a gasp of disappointment when the extraordinary Ian Millar, who at the age of 65 is the only Canadian ever to collect High Performance Funding and his state pension at the same time, and who is setting a new record with his 10th Olympic appearance at these Games, lowered the skinny penultimate vertical with Star Power. Typically stoic, Millar said, “I would have preferred one less rail down, but if you are going to make mistakes then this is the time to do it.”

And there was a huge groan from the home crowd when Britain’s Peter Charles and Vindicat missed their strike to the opening element at three, demolishing the first element and lowering the second but somehow re-grouping to complete with just 10 faults on the board. Charles said “it was a disgraceful start, but it got better. Vindicat was a little tentative and distracted by the crowd”, he said.

There were just eight horse-and-rider combinations left to run when Christian Ahlmann set off with Codex One. And they were looking good all the way until reaching the last test on the track, the Stonehenge double, where the 10-year-old stallion backed right off the first element and then, landing short, put down again when the one-stride distance just didn’t come up. And when asked to take it on a second time the stallion still refused to cooperate. Ahlmann was hugely disappointed afterwards. “I can’t explain what happened” he said. “It might be that he got frightened after the pole down in the combination. I can count myself lucky that he stayed clear at the second try!”

Christian will continue to compete as part of the German team, but is out of contention individually.

The same applies to the USA’s Beezie Madden. Her 14-year-old mare, Via Volo, was putting in some enormous jumping efforts all the way around the track, but at the double at fence nine it all unravelled when the horse went too high at the opening vertical and then couldn’t make the distance to the following oxer. And the mare didn’t want to know about it when asked again a second time. Madden said afterward, “it was all going well and she was jumping amazing, then she started fighting me quite a bit and all our good work went wrong. She hasn’t done a lot of shows recently and I think she became a bit too impressed with the whole place. Luckily the rest of my team went well, so I must get things right tomorrow.”

Australia’s Matt Williams was also eliminated much earlier in the day when his nine-year-old gelding, Watch Me, decided he didn’t like the wide oxer at fence five, or its bright blue water-tray, and wouldn’t even approach it.  Williams explained, “He is only young, and it all got too much for him.”

At the end of the day, the Dutch were the only side to complete with four absolutely clean sheets.

But as Belgium’s Jos Lansink said, “funny things happen at championships and the Olympics always produce surprises. For instance Beezie (Madden) was my favorite for individual gold and look what happened to her today! I have a good feeling for our team, so I hope this will continue,” he said.