Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Indiana. (FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst)
It was a tough day at the office for many of the nations competing in the Team Jumping Qualifier at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Baji Koen Equestrian Park. But for Team Sweden it was just another walk in the park.
Since the action began on the first day of the Individual competition last Tuesday, Henrik von Eckermann’s King Edward, Malin Baryard-Johnsson’s Indiana, and Peder Fredricson’s All In have not lowered a single pole.
Fredricson and the 15-year-old All In have an incredible record. They were faultless on their way to Individual silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and once again on their way to Individual silver here in Tokyo on Wednesday night.
It will be a whole new competition when the action resumes in the Team Final where the top 10 teams will battle it out once again, all starting on a zero score. But the Swedes look super-confident ahead of that showdown in which they will be challenged by Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, USA, France, Great Britain, Brazil, and The Netherlands.
A number of countries made a dramatic exit, including Japan. Daisuke Fukushima and Chanyon, who finished Individually sixth, picked up eight faults when first to go for the host nation, but when Koki Saito and Chilensky were withdrawn that dashed their chances.
Then Irish pathfinder Shane Sweetnam and Alejandro fell at the water-tray vertical at fence 10. The grey gelding had been jumping erratically after paddling the first element of the triple combination at fence five. They left the arena unscathed, but Sweetnam was devastated for his team and for the horse who is normally so reliable.
“He’s an experienced horse; normally he’s very good, but he pulled his shoe off going into the triple combination. I don’t know whether that hurt him but it definitely rattled him, and then after that you could see he was very unsettled and wasn’t like himself at all,” said the man who has long been a rock for the Irish side. But his team’s chances of a place in the Final were gone.
When the second rotation of riders got underway, Israel’s Teddy Vlock took a fall at the previous liverpool oxer. His 11-year-old mare had already refused at the second fence and had two fences down along the way. Vlock was examined by medics after walking out of the arena and was cleared to go back to his hotel, but knowing that his country was now also out of the medal race.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Swedes were just waltzing home with effortless ease. “Our horses have been unbelievable!” said Baryard-Johnsson. “I think we all have the same feeling that it felt quite easy every round in there – they are all jumping so well, every round!”
The Belgians and Germans also looked very comfortable, both completing with just four faults on the board all made up of time penalties. Gregory Wathelet was last to go for Belgium with Nevados S and felt he was in a comfort zone, because his compatriots Pieter Devos with Claire Z and Jerome Guery with Quel Homme de Hus had only collected a single time penalty each. He added two more but didn’t feel under any pressure.
“I just had to go and see how my horse was feeling after the Individual Final, because we all know tomorrow will be bigger like the (Individual) Final. It feels like he is fresh so I’m happy about that,” said the rider who finished ninth on Wednesday night.
Germany’s Maurice Tebbel and Don Diarado also picked up two time faults to add to the single faults collected by team-mates Andre Thieme with DSP Chakaria and Daniel Deusser with Killer Queen. Thieme had an interesting time in the arena and said afterwards, “I won’t win the prize for the most stylish round!” but he was really proud of his 11-year-old mare.
“She is a superstar and I’m not the only one thinking that. She is complete!” he said. But that venue, those lights, and jumps – it’s maybe a bit early and too impressive for her because she’s young and green. But on the other hand, if she goes through this, she will learn something and everywhere else in the world it will be easy for her. I’m totally in love with this horse! She belongs to the family and she’s so special!” he added.
Switzerland finished with 10 on the board, the USA with 13, the defending champions from France with 15, and Great Britain racked up 17. The final three teams to make the cut were Brazil, who collected 25 faults, The Netherlands, who picked up 26, and Argentina, who finished with 27 and squeezed Egypt out of the top 10.
Also on the sidelines as the Final plays itself out will be the teams from China, Morocco, New Zealand, Czech Republic, and Mexico.
It won’t be long before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Team Jumping champions are crowned.
Facts and Figures:
Great Britain was heading the medal table with a total of 5 going into the Team Jumping Qualifier – so far, they have won 2 in Eventing, 2 in Dressage, and 1 in Jumping.
Germany has won four sets of medals to date: 1 in Eventing and 3 in Dressage.
19 teams of three riders started in this Olympic Jumping Team Qualifier.
France is defending Olympic team champions.
Shane Sweetnam IRL, talking about his round with Alejandro: “He’s jumped a lot of night classes, a lot under lights, and he started off settled tonight. I really think when he pulled the shoe, he got rattled. After that he was just really, really nervous. It’s gutting. It’s my first time in the ring this week and it’s a hard one to swallow, but this is the sport we’re in, and there are days that you are on top of the world and days you hit the bottom of the bucket.”
Ben Maher GBR, who won Individual gold on Wednesday night and who had just four faults with Explosion W: “I was happy; it was tough after the very fast round of jumping the other day and he gets more careful the faster he goes. It’s about giving him the confidence; maybe just there on the fault, I left him a little bit on his own and I could have helped him a bit more, but I was told by Scott Brash before I went in that we had a bit of a margin to make the team Final tomorrow, and I could take it a little bit easier on Explosion and try to – sounds crazy at this level of competition – give him a bit of an easier round, and if we make a mistake, we still make the Final. It was enough, and tomorrow is a new day.”
McLain Ward USA, who posted five faults with Contagious; it was his first time in the arena at Baji Koen: “We’ve been on ice for the better part of four weeks now; his last show was Rotterdam over a month ago; over the last 10 days I jumped eight or nine jumps, so to come in and jump at this level is a real challenge. I had a lot of anxiety about it to be frank. But he was right there for me. I turned for home and maybe wanted to bring that nice score home and I didn’t fight as hard as I need to for that oxer (fence 12), but I knew what the situation was, and I wanted to make sure there wasn’t going to be a major blunder.
“When I originally got Contagious I didn’t think he was an Olympic horse, but he’s proved us wrong in that today and he’s capable at this level. He always believed he could jump the big fences, and he’s developed and he’s a trier and a fighter, and I’m a trier and a fighter, and I’m really proud of the horse and I feel we belong here.”
Malin Baryard-Johnsson SWE, talking about her feisty mare Indiana: “I know her now many years and I’ve been through rounds better and worse riding wise; it took me a couple of years before I even felt safe on her; she was so difficult from the beginning. But we know each other so well and even when she’s at her worst to ride, she always goes in and tries her hardest to jump the jumps. I can trust her and she really trusts me. So it’s more when she’s in her difficult way that it’s up to me to handle it. I just have to focus even more. I’ve said many times it’s good for my old brain because I really have to be sharp; anything can happen. It keeps me on my toes.”
by Louise Parkes
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