I’m writing this the day after cross-country day, with a heavy heart for the Canadian Eventing Team who experienced a pretty rough day overall, but also with a lot of pride for how they carried themselves through the disappointment and of course for Jessica Phoenix & Exponential who had a terrific ride.
The day started off well, with blue skies, sunshine and a cool breeze.
Our intrepid assistant team leader Tina Collins arrived at the venue box office early to pick up the Friends & Family tickets for our athletes, then stood outside for 2 1/2 hours to greet the family & friends of our athletes and hand their tickets to them. What a trooper!
And many MANY thanks to Eventing Team Manager Fleur Tipton who managed to find an extra ticket for Tina so that she could watch the cross-country (because of the very low # of Accreditations Canada received, Tina unfortunately doesn’t have one).
I made a quick trip to the stables to make sure that everything was kopasetic with Eventing and Dressage, then next stop was to the Sports Information Desk to make sure I handed in the Training Venue Pass forms for the next day. The latter is part of my daily routine as LOCOG won’t allow you to indicate multiple days on the form. So each and every day I diligently go to the Sports Information Desk to hand in my 3 forms (we are allowed a max of 3 per day). But gold star for me for being so organized – I have photocopies for each support team member that is using a venue pass, each in a separate plastic folder per person, and pen in the date.
I made sure to grab a map of the cross-country course since I hadn’t yet had a chance to walk it, and today Tina and I would be playing host to Canada’s chef de mission Mark Tewksbury who was coming with his partner to check out all this crazy horse stuff. What made this even more special is that it was the 20-year anniversary of Mark winning his gold medal in Barcelona – whoohoo!! I was hoping to get him a Cadbury chocolate gold medal, but sadly the morning got away from me and I didn’t have a chance to pick one up.
The throngs of people arriving was just amazing! But luckily we were able to find Mark and Rob without too many problems and off we went to check out some fences.
Mark was suitably impressed, and I think he managed to snap quite a few pictures in the short time he could spend with us before whizzing off to Canada Olympic House for Canada’s celebration of the first Olympic Medal at these Games (Bronze for Emilie Heymans & Jennifer Abel of Diving).
Unfortunately Mark wasn’t able to see any Canadians ride. As we were eagerly awaiting Hawley Bennett-Awad and Gin & Juice, we heard the announcer came on the loudspeakers to say they had a fall at Fence # 3. What a horrible sinking feeling, especially since we were a looooooong way away. Thankfully both horse and rider are ok, with Hawley suffering a fractured tailbone which while very painful, just requires rest & healing. I hear that Ginny tried to continue the course on her own, but was eventually corralled
It was funny because when the announcer explained to the crowd that the rules are once a rider has fallen, they are eliminated and cannot continue the course, I explained to Mark that Eventers are cut from some pretty tough cloth….they could have a bone sticking out of them and they would clamber back on and finish all the jumps!
Bad luck seemed to dog us Canadians throughout the day with Peter Barry and Rebecca Howard also experiencing falls, but both riders & horses walking away without any longterm problems.
As you know, Jessica Phoenix & Exponential totally smoked the course! And when I asked Jessica at the end of the day what it was like, she said it was a blast.
So all in all, a rough day, but also one where Tina and I felt so much immense pride for our athletes. They were incredible and dealt with the emotional rollercoaster with such grace & professionalism. And terrific to see our Dressage guys clambering all over the course in support of their Eventing comrades. And it was such an incredibly nice experience to have people from all nations come up to Tina and I asking with genuine concern and affection how our riders were, particularly Hawley.
I’ll leave you with some pics of the day. Funny thing being here at the Olympics within a team support role….you actually don’t get much of a chance to see the actual competition!