Greenwich, UK – The German Olympic Eventing Team was in a class of its own as history was made at Greenwich Park. Michael Jung led a charge that finished with him winning Team and Individual Gold in a flawless effort on Sam. They were the only combination to finish the entire competition without adding anything to their dressage score. That score of 40.6 meant that Jung is the first person ever to be the reigning European, Olympic, and World Champion simultaneously.
Sara Algotsson Ostholt led after the cross country with Wega for Sweden but her Gold medal turned to Silver when they impossibly dislodged the front rail of the last fence of the individual show jumping round. It appeared to happen in slow motion. Sandra Auffarth bookended the German effort, picking up Bronze on Opgun Louvo. Just 4.2 faults separated the top three individuals.
The German invincibility began its display in the Team competition; they finished on a three-day score of 133.7, handling everything the British could throw at them. The Brits gave it a serious effort before a hugely supportive crowd, but they finished up Silver on a score of 138.20. New Zealand rounded out the top three with class performances from all five of their riders. The U.S. Team finished seventh on a score of 208.6.
The American effort was highlighted by Karen O’Connor’s ninth place effort on Mr. Medicott, their final score of 53.8 led the way as they added nothing to their cross country total. The 13-year-old Irish-bred and German-produced Mr. Medicott (owned by the Mr. Medicott Syndicate) made exceptionally light work of Bob Ellis’ show jumping track, proving his athleticism was unaffected by yesterday’s cross country.
“I have a horse of lifetime,” said O’Connor after her second round. “I knew that he was a very careful, very scopey jumper. I spent a lot time in Wellington this winter learning about him… I was very optimistic going into today.”
O’Connor gets show jumping help from Marilyn Little-Meredith, a grand prix show jumper turned eventing rider.
“Marilyn and I spent a lot of time on both courses making an exact plan on how to ride both courses today,” said O’Connor. “It worked both times.”
O’Connor is looking forward to taking ‘Cave’ to Badminton next spring having forged a strong relationship with him since he arrived from Frank Ostholt’s barn in Germany in December. After this week she is in awe of Mr. Medicott.
“He’s a performer,” said O’Connor. “It’s all about him. You see in the trot up and he grows a hand; he’s a very proud individual.”
The rest of the day did not go as planned for Team USA. Otis Barbotiere was withdrawn at the vet inspection after being held by the Ground Jury. Boyd Martin made the difficult decision to remove the horse from the competition and it meant the U.S. lost his score of 54.3.
“As the first out yesterday I was a bit worried about slipping, and maybe we over studded a little bit,” said Martin. “I think he’s got a bit of a sprained ankle. We thought he was improving this morning and he looked ok on the way down, but on that hard surface on the way back he was pretty sore. It was in Otis’ best interest to withdraw him.”
With that, Will Coleman (Charlottesville, VA) led the way into the main Greenwich arena carrying 82.70 faults with him. He jumped a super round adding just two seconds on the clock.
“My guy jumped pretty decent,” said Coleman. “He was a little tired, but if you do help him – he tries. He jumped well; the time seems really tight.”
Jim Wildasin’s 16-year-old Westphalian/Thoroughbred cross finished the Olympic Games on a high note after a disappointing stop on yesterday’s cross-country.
“Yesterday was obviously a bummer for me personally and for the team,” said Coleman. “It was really disappointing. It’s part of the sport and you have to go forward… I think we expected a different result, but the event was as we expected.”
Coleman has already started thinking about the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in France. “From this experience I can take away that I have a lot of confidence in my ability to compete at this level.”
Twizzel will have a break and hopefully return for one more big event next spring. They ended up 37th on a score of 84.70.
Tiana Coudray (Ojai, CA) was in next and jumped an eight fault round on Jatial, Inc.’s Ringwood Magister. The 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse is typically a spectacular jumper, but his rider felt may have been feeling some of the effects of the cross-country course. That, and the pressure of going quickly because the time was so tight.
“My horse is a super super jumper; I can count the amount of rails he’s had over the last few years and it’s not many,” said Coudray. “I think the time was really tight in there and the instructions were to go fast, so I think I sacrificed some rails to try to get the time.”
Coudray and her lovely grey will remain in England now that they’ve completed their first Olympic Games. They have been based at Nick Gauntlett’s yard and will return there. They ended up 40th on a score of 88.60.
Phillip Dutton (West Grove, PA) and the highly regarded Mystery Whisper lay 12th overnight but very much in touch with hopes of a medal. Devastatingly, their day went off the rails at the beginning of their round. Jim and Arden Wildasin’s lovely 12-year-old Australian Warmblood had a rail and refusal in an uncharacteristic performance that marred their otherwise hugely successful 2012 partnership.
“I didn’t get him thinking forward enough,” said Dutton. “I was concentrating on getting him careful but he’s always careful; I should have galloped him around in there, but I was a bit cautious and he spooked at that blue boat (fence). I’m pretty embarrassed about it… I think it surprised him; I was obviously conscious of the time so I cut the turn and I think he sort of spooked at it. He didn’t get a great jump the jump before, the brown oxer, so he lost his confidence a little bit.”
The combination returned to the ring for the Individual round which was bigger fences over a shorter distance, Mystery Whisper tried very hard, but had two rails down. He ended up 23rd on a score of 81.1.
“He actually tried pretty hard in there; it was a bit bigger course than he is used to and he was feeling the effects of a fast round yesterday,” said Dutton after the second round. “It’s been big adjustment for him coming from a different hemisphere just a few months ago. I think he’ll be a bigger and stronger horse in a year or so. He hasn’t gone that fast on the cross country at that level before either.”
Mystery Whisper was acquired in Australia in December by the Wildasins for their daughter Arden to ride, Dutton had him through the Olympic Games but he heads to their farm in Virginia now that Olympics are complete.
“He’s a great horse and he deserved better finish than that,” said Dutton.
For more information about the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team, visit: http://usefnetwork.com/featured/Olympics2012/.