Greenwich Park, England – August 5, 2012 – The action is heating up at Greenwich Park as Equestrian at the 2012 London Olympic Games gets down to serious business. Today, the Show Jumping riders completed their second round of the Individual Qualifier and their first round of the Team Finals. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has taken a clear lead, finishing with just a single time fault. Meanwhile, Great Britain, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland are all tied for second with four faults to their name. A brilliant clear round by Rich Fellers and Flexible has helped the United States stay in the hunt, currently tied for seventh place with Brazil, each holding a score of eight faults leading into tomorrow’s second round in the Team competition.
One of the biggest stories of the day comes from Canada, who sits in sixth with five faults, after Tiffany Foster and Victor were eliminated from the competition for hypersensitivity. Look for additional updates to that story, plus video, later today on PhelpsSports. Check at this link for an update to the story that's currently posted: http://phelpssports.com/viewarticle.php?id=10005323
The Olympic Course Designer, Great Britain’s Bob Ellis, tested riders today throughout his 13-fence course, which included an open water, a triple bar, an oxer-vertical double combination, and a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination. No one fence became a bogey this time out as the competitors had errors throughout the track.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia proved to be the breakout stars of the day. HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saud led the way aboard Davos, a mount formerly ridden by the USA’s Candice King. They were fault free and joined the leaders in the running for an individual medal. Ramzy Al Duhami and Bayard Van De Willa were also clear and will have just two faults going forward, as will Kamal Bahamdan and Noblesse Des Tess, who had a single time fault today and yesterday. The drop score went to Abdullah Waleed Sharbatly and Sultan, who incurred four faults. “"I cannot describe my feelings I am so happy,” expressed Al Saud. “With the weather, the London bus and the Tower Bridge, I felt like I was sightseeing today."
Four teams managed to finish with just four faults: Great Britain, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. The host country’s team was led by Nick Skelton with Big Star, and Ben Maher aboard Tripple X, who each produced clear efforts and will also join the 12 individuals with zero faults thus far. “Tripple X was not warming up as I wanted,” said Maher later. “He seemed to be a bit fresh. Just before I went in, I panicked a little. But, I told myself the horse knows what he is doing. When he jumped the red bus he realized it wasn't a normal day and, after that, I had no worries,” he laughed.
Marc Houtzager aboard Tamino and Maikel Van Der Vleuten riding Verdi have also joined the elite 12, helping lead the Netherlands to a place in tomorrow’s Team Final with only four faults on the scorecard. "I really enjoyed my round - so much better than yesterday,” said Van Der Vleuten. “He touched a few yesterday, but today he was sharp and I am very happy."
For the Swedish riders, the clear rounds were produced by the world’s leading rider, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson riding Casall, as well as Henrik Von Eckermann with Allerdings. "It is fantastic to have this 'problem' of choosing between Casall and Ninja,” smiled Bengtsson. “The other horse had a virus early on and was very much behind in his schedule. I felt he was running out of petrol, so we gave Casall a chance here because Ninja was always there and Casall never got his chance. Now he has!"
Paul Esternamnn and Castlefield Eclipse produced their second clear round of the week for Switzerland, helping them jump into tomorrow’s Team Final. He stated, “I am very happy today, the course rode better than yesterday. I didn't think about the other team members, I just concentrated on my own round and blocked everything else out."
A number of the favorites coming in, the German, French, and Belgian Teams will not be seen again tomorrow after they finished with 12, 14, and 16 faults respectively. All three teams had looked strong leading into the Olympics, but only the top eight teams advance to the second round. However, Edwina Tops-Alexander riding Itot Du Chateau for Australia, and Alberto Michan Rosalia with La Silla from Mexico will show over the track as part of the 12 individual riders with no faults. Any rider with less than eight faults from the last two days is also still in the running individually. Brazil’s Alvaro Affonso De Miranda and Rahmannshof’s Bogeno round out the top 12 clear, along with Fellers of the United States. Brazil and USA are tied for seventh place with eight faults each. The sixth place position is currently held down by Canada with five faults.
Rich Fellers and Flexible
Although the U.S. is currently trailing the teams the have advanced to the Team Final, the standings are very close, with less then two rails separating those moving forward. The bright light for the Americans came from the ever consistent Rich Fellers and Flexible. With at least 10 clear rounds in a row under their belts, the phenomenal duo was right on target once again, producing the team’s only fault-free round.
"I am thrilled with my horse, but I wish we were in a better position,” admitted Fellers. “He is being typical Flexible. He is a little more on his game today and he gets better through the week if I don’t mess him up. The team only has eight faults though, and tomorrow will be a different course on a different day. We’re not so far out of it, so for sure we can recoup. I never thought the Olympics would be easy!”
After yesterday’s unfortunate incident with Via Volo, the team chose to adjust their order of rotation to make Fellers the anchor rider in his first Olympic appearance. Fellers stated, “I think strategically that was a good decision. I just like clear rounds. I don’t care if I am first or last, I just think about what it takes to leave the rails up.”
Earlier in the day, McLain Ward started the U.S. team off with a solid round aboard Antares. They worked well through the course, but had a tight distance after the double combination, making the ride to the water more complicated than it needed to be, resulting in four faults for the disappointing splashdown. After the first two individual qualifiers McLain and his first time Olympic partner still have only the single rail to their name, and are still in the running for the Individual Finals.
“I think I was overriding a little bit today, thinking I wanted to make sure I had a good, solid round after the hiccup we had yesterday with Beezie,” explained Ward. “I was riding at Antares a bit and he was just a little close to the jump after the double. With the water, he’s a good water jumper; I just got there a foot too close.”
Ward added, “I think everybody has a problem with the water. Nowadays it’s used a lot in these rounds with a lot of entries because it’s a soft fault. I normally don’t have a water problem, to be honest, it was a bad ride. I thought the water was nicely presented today. The first part of the course didn’t go exactly as planned today though. I wanted to do one less to the red wall. In the back of my mind I was forcing things a bit because I was thinking about logging a solid score.”
Beezie Madden and Via Volo were next, and this time they were ready to take on the course. After schooling over a combination yesterday and some poles this morning, the pair was ready to tackle the task at hand. Madden pushed Via Volo to the double combination after yesterday’s setback, which result in a rail at the first portion. The rest of the course was excellent and they crossed through the timers with just the four fault score.
“Today we felt more together and tomorrow I can trust her a little bit more,” said Madden. “I overrode it a little bit at the double today and she was a little flat. I think it was a good course. It seemed a little soft for the morning group in the rain, but for the ones going in the afternoon, it’s been tougher.”
Reed Kessler rode in the third position for the team, and also had a good showing at her first Olympic Games. She and Cylana were solid throughout the course, but had unlucky rubs in the middle of the triple combination, as well as a wide oxer across the middle. They finished with eight faults and were the team’s drop score. The duo also now has nine faults in total, and will not be able to advance to the Individual Final.
“Cylana jumped beautifully,” smiled Kessler. “That first triple, I called on her and just didn’t quite get enough, but for sure the second one was just a bit fast. I really wanted to be the first American to bring home a clean round. It was good, but it wasn’t good enough. I’m a bit mad at myself because I can do so much better, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. My mare jumped beautifully. The first one was a bum rail and the second rail, we were just a bit flat.”
At the end of the Kessler’s trainer Katie Prudent noted, “I am not disappointed in Reed. This is a little kid who started jumping 1.60m six months ago and she has handled herself beautifully. She was a little deep to the triple, maybe a little fast. I thought she went well.”
Future U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland also stated, “We’re in the hunt. We’re not in the best position, the Dutch are looking really good, but tomorrow is a brand new day, it’s a brand new course. It will be tougher and I think things will change. I think we’re in striking distance, I am happy with today.”
The Team Final will get underway tomorrow at 9 a.m. EST with the top riders in the world vying for the medal honors. Stay tuned to PhelpsSports for a full report on the day’s events!
Alberto Michan .MEX. Rosalia La Silla
Alvaro Affonso De Miranda Neto .BRA. Rahmannshof's Bogeno
Beezie Madden .USA. Via Volo
Edwina Tops-Alexander .AUS. Itot Du Chateau
Eric Lamaze .CAN. Derly Chin De Muze
fans in the rain
Ian Millar .CAN. Star Power
Kamal Bahamdan .KSA. Noblesse Des Tess
McLain Ward .USA. Antares
Paul Estermann .SUI. Castlefield Eclipse
Reed Kessler .USA. Cylana
Rich Fellers .USA. Flexible
McLain Ward after Rich Feller's Clear Round
George Morris and Robert Ridland
(click the plus sign on the right hand side to expand the team)