An unscripted glimpse at the Canadian Equestrian Team's athletes, supporters & fans before, during and after major games. #CanadaStrong

Archive for August, 2008

Homeward Bound

This is going to be a bit out of sequence since I’m way behind in my updates. I figured I would update for today, then work backwards for the days I’ve missed. That way at least you’ll have today’s news today.

The jumpers were the last to leave today, along with Gran Gesto tagging along for the ride. The venue is like a ghostown. It’s even more depressing because you can still see the aftereffects of the Typhoon that blew threw the other day. There are broken trees and branches bundled up, torn posters, debris etc. Kind of adds to the overall gloomy mood.

The horses left at 2pm. I was still impressed as just how effecient the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Pedens are at loading up the horses for their trip to the airport. Those horse vans are absolutely incredible, and not one horse hesitated stepping onto them. The police escort was there and accompanied them to the airport, blocking off the intersections so that the horses just sail right through.

The only people left now are Kirsten, Samantha and Dominque (jumper grooms), Lindsay (Gran Gesto’s groom), myself and Mike. We’re all set to leave tomorrow on different flights. Unfortunately Equine Canada president Al Patterson is still stuck here. He was meant to leave this morning but Air Canada cancelled the flight to Vancouver so he has to wait until tomorrow morning. I keep checking Mike and mine’s flight to Toronto and it says it’s on schedule. Phew! As much as I`ve had a blast in Hong Kong, I`m really ready to come home. Although I will definitely miss my hotel housekeeper Ping! Somehow I don`t think I`m going to get the same service when I get back home ๐Ÿ™‚

So now it`s Para Equestrian`s turn. I think chef dรจquipe Elizabeth Bordeaux is arriving in the next few days with the horses following shortly. Already they are making some changes at the venue including putting down some plastic tiles on the gravel pathways for wheelchairs.ย  I hope that the Para Team enjoys much success!

all packed up and waiting for the horse vans to arrive.

all packed up and waiting for the horse vans to arrive.

Its go time!

Its go time!

Ole getting ready to board his limousine ride to the airport

Ole getting ready to board his limousine ride to the airport

World

World`s best horse with the world`s best groom (Hickstead and Jerome) making the trip to the horse vans

last view of Penfold Park from the shuttle bus......so many memories!

last view of Penfold Park from the shuttle bus......so many memories!

Advertisements

Way Overdue….

That can be used to describe not only my blog updating, but also the incredible gold medal Canada won in the showjumping thanks to Eric Lamaze and Hickstead.

I’m still alive and kicking, and will be updating this space soon with pictures from that fabulous gold medal day as well as some adventures to Stanley Market and Macau, the Typhoon that ripped through, and the biggest challenge that we have faced yet at these Olympics: getting home!!

More on the Judging

Apparently I can’t let this one go. It’s been on my mind since last night. I understand that judging is not the easiest job to do. And doing it at an event as big as the Olympics must be quite stressful as you are putting your neck on the line for all the world to see. Then again, I do have the expectation that if you’re an FEI O level judge, that you’ve got the necessary training and skills to be able to do the job.

I’ve already commented on Gotthilf Riexinger antics with bell ringing abilities (or lack thereof).Now I’m looking at the individual score breakdowns from the Freestyle and am having a real hard time understanding the logic, even though I am honestly trying very hard. You can see the scores by clicking here. Every judge had Steffen Peters and Ravel placed 3rd except for the German judge. He had Ravel in 8th place. Wow – I just can’t understand how that is possible. I was there watching all of the rides, and Ravel’s freestyle was definitely not an 8th place ride. Sure he had a couple of bobbles, but nothing too serious and the quality & flow was just phenomenal. Not to mention the interpretation of the music! It had all the ingredients there. Instead, Riexinger had Great Britain’s Emma Hindle and Lancet placed third. Don’t get me wrong, it was a cute freestyle – but no comparison to Steffen and Ravel. It seems that Riexinger doesn’t like Russia either as he had the passage/piaffe machine Balagur in 12th position. That one makes me scratch my head as well.

Interesting that Riexinger was the only judge to be on the panel for all 3 dressage classes. If nothing else, he is consistent as his judging defied logic each day. It’s really too bad that dressage doesn’t follow other subjective sports like synchronized swimming and figure skating where the high and low scores are removed. If that had happened, I think you would get a much more true ranking list….and Steffen would have been on the podium. Maybe the FEI Dressage Committee, when they are looking at ways to improve the sport, should throw that topic onto the discussion table. Global Dressage Forum anyone?

The “Big” Dressage Night

Tonight was the big night for dressage where the individual medals would be decided. Ashley was pretty stoked after watching the jumpers win the silver medal the previous evening. And I think everyone was wondering if Satchmo would have another meltdown in the piaffe.

But before those questions could be answered, the Canadian Equestrian Team was invited to a reception held in their honour by the Consulate General of Canada here in Hong Kong. The reception was held at the Happy Valley racetrack, and as I found out while I was there the whole development was built on swampland. The name happened because the developers wanted people to be excited about living there….and who wouldn’t want to live in a place called Happy Valley!

It was quite a nice reception, with a terrific view of the racetrack. The new consular general for Hong Kong, Doreen Steidle, who has only been on the job for a week, gave a speech congratulating our jumpers on their terrific silver medal performance. Equine Canada president Al Patterson also gave a nice speech recognizing the achievements of all our athletes in Hong Kong, and also congratulating Hong Kong on the stellar job they’ve done in hosting the equestrian portion of the Olympics. Chris Rudge, the CEO of the COC, was also on hand to give a quick talk where he touched upon the COC programs such as Road to Excellence (summer games) and Own the Podium (winter games), and also dropped some not-so-subtle hints to the consular general about expecting more funding from the government to support amateur sport ๐Ÿ™‚

Then Mr. Infinity took the stage and asked for our Olympic athletes to come forward (the jumpers and Leslie Reid…..Ashley was at the venue preparing for her competition that night) so that they could be recognized and given an Olympic memento (the same that were given to the dressage riders at our Canada Welcome Reception the other week).

Equine Canada president Al Patterson

Equine Canada president Al Patterson

Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee

Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee

Team Leader Mike Gallagher

Team Leader Mike Gallagher

Happy Valley racetrack

Happy Valley racetrack

driving back from the reception through Hong Kong

driving back from the reception through Hong Kong

the buildings still blow me away

the buildings still blow me away

The freestyle made for some interesting spectating. We made it back from the reception just in time to see Ashley and Pop Art. She rode around the ring, halted on the outside by K and waited. Then things got weird. Ashley signalled for her music to start, which it did, and Ashley started her passage entry with Pop Art. She made it to A only to discover that the gatekeepers hadn’t opened the gate…..and weren’t opening the gate! Her music kept going, and Ashley was stuck on the outside. The judges didn’t seem to be doing anything. I remember yelling out “the gate! the gate!”. Finally, after what seemed forever, the music stopped. The judge at C rang the bell and the gatekeepers opened the gate (seems that they will ONLY open the gate if they hear the bell). Ashley had barely enough time to turn Pop Art around when her music started again and she had to hustle that passage into the ring or she’d be behind her music. What a way to start your final ride at the Olympics!

Being the ultimate competitor she is, I don’t think it had that much of an effect on Ashley. She rode another trademark fluid test, but it seemed to me that it took a bit more effort tonight than in the Speciale. Going by how the judges were marking the tests tonight, I think Ashley should have ended up with a score in the low 70’s. But she did finish with an average of 70% and moved up one place to 14th which is terrific for such a young horse.

I have to make a mention of Danish rider Andreas Helgestrand’s freestyle music – Guns & Roses for the passage, Pink Floyd for piaffe, Stairway to Heaven for the walk and Godsmack for the canter. Pretty cool!

Everyone’s favourite police horse, Balagur from Russia, looked a little rattled tonight but showed off some amazing piaffe and passage work to show tunes from Gone with the Wind among others. (including that song “I’m so pretty” from WestSide Story)

My favourite freestyle of the night, hands down, was Steffen Peters and Ravel from the USA. Not only was it incredibly entertaining but the two of them looked just fantastic out there. I can’t wait to see them in competition again….they are going to be almost unbeatable at WEG 2010. Steffen’s music included the Rolling Stones (Sympathy for the Devil – awesome track!), and the Safety Dance (yay Men without Hats from Montreal!). His tempis were timed perfectly to the music and his canter pirouette straight into piaffe was jaw-dropping. Wow wow wow. My peanut-gallery opinion is that he should have beat Heike Kemmer for the Bronze and even Isabell for the Silver.

leftover from last nights jumping

leftover from last nights jumping

Jan Brink and Briar

Jan Brink and Briar

Hey Mr. Judge! I can't get into the ring!!

Hey Mr. Judge! I can

the ringmaster after he gave a talking to the gatekeepers. They were subsequently replaced by new gatekeepers.

the ringmaster after he gave a talking to the gatekeepers. They were subsequently replaced by new gatekeepers.

Ashley and Pop Art looking as elegant as always

Ashley and Pop Art looking as elegant as always

getting a hug from chef Ali for a job well done

getting a hug from chef Ali for a job well done

Courtney King and Mythilus

Courtney King and Mythilus

Everytime I pass this guy in the stables, he looks like the cutest schoolpony....but boy, does he transform himself under saddle!

Everytime I pass this guy in the stables, he looks like the cutest schoolpony....but boy, does he transform himself under saddle!

I dont think the photographers could get enough of this guy

I dont think the photographers could get enough of this guy

Isabell Werth and Satchmo started off strong but again had a meltdown at the piaffe...this time at A.

Isabell Werth and Satchmo started off strong but again had a meltdown at the piaffe...this time at A.

Isabell must have been disappointed...but the judges still awarded her a 78%. I cant say I understand the marking. I thought it would have been more like a 70%, but Im no O level judge.

Isabell must have been disappointed...but the judges still awarded her a 78%. I can't say I understand the marking. I thought it would have been more like a 70%. She did have some really great elements but more tension and mistakes than in the Speciale.... but then again I'm no O level judge.

even though Isabell had to know she just handed the gold to Anky, she still was smiling and waving to the crowds when leaving the ring.

even though Isabell had to know she just handed the gold to Anky, she still was smiling and waving to the crowds when leaving the ring.

Steffen Peters looked estatic following his ride!

Steffen Peters looked estatic following his ride!

Steffen and Ravel...I still think they should have medalled!

Steffen and Ravel...I still think they should have medalled!

Anky makes history by winning 3 consecutive gold medals in a row.

Anky makes history by winning 3 consecutive gold medals in a row.

So that’s a wrap for dressage at the 2008 Olympics!

I’ll be interested in seeing if there is any fallout about the judge at C, Germany’s Gotthilf Riexinger . Or as we were calling him tonight: the Bell Boy. From where I was sitting, he seemed to be pulling some pretty funny stuff with that bell. He either didn’t ring it, or would ring it so quietly that the riders couldn’t really hear it. This continued all throughout the night until the first German rider arrived (Heike Kemmer) and all of a sudden he rang it loudly. Then when Steffen Peters came in after Heike, he went back to the very quiet tap. Isabell comes around the ring and another loud ring. Anky goes next, and again with the very quiet tap (Anky had to yell over to Sjef and her groom to ask if the bell had gone yet!). I don’t know……pretty suspicious behaviour if you ask me and not at all what I would expect from an O leve judge at the Olympics. In fact, I wouldn’t expect it from our recorded or Basic judges back home in Canada!

And have you heard yet about the secret meeting held by Mariette Whithages (the technical delegate) following the Grand Prix Speciale to discuss the judging? A meeting where only Germany, the Netherlands, USA and Denmark were invited to? If there aren’t serious consequences for Mariette because of this, then I will be very disappointed. People get fired or are forced to resign for a lot less. A meeting was held early this morning as a result of this fiasco with all of the nations’ chef d’equipes attending. Canada, Great Britain and Sweden made it very clear that this type of behaviour is clearly unacceptable (way to go chef Ali! I hear you shattered the myth that Canadians are quiet and meek!). And even though the FEI Sports Director apologized for the inappropriate meeting taking place Mariette apparently still refused to apologize. I’ve heard a lot of things about this woman (rarely anything positive), but this one really tops them all.

Ok, enough negativity. Tomorrow is a day off for everyone so I’m looking forward to eating at the Village for lunch (hello my old friend Mr. Blueberry Cheesecake – I’ve missed you!) and doing a tour of the Hong Kong Harbour.

Team Silver for the Jumpers!

What an unbelievable night!!! After 40 years, Canada has brought home another Olympic medal in team showjumping. I don’t think I’ve seen such exciting horse action since I nearly bit my nails to the quick watching Ashley Holzer make history by getting into the dressage freestyle finals.

It was yet another visually stunning course which challenged the top horses and riders. Belgium’s Cumano and Los Jansik looked superb on course and left all the rails up but incurred 2 time faults. USA’s McLain Ward and Sapphire also left all the jumps up, but it was the water that proved to be their nemesis. Germany just couldn’t seem to pull it together with faults for all of their riders and some drama to boot when Marco Kutscher’s Cornet Obolensky had a rearing refusal at the jump following the water.

It was Canada’s Jill Henselwood who had to prove to the others that the course was jumpable with no faults as she rode Special Ed around the course. It was a little stressful as there was at least 1 rail that was jostled, but it stayed up.

So here I was, furiously doing my calculations as each rider from each nation went around the course. And when it came down to the final round where each anchor rider was to take their turn, Canada was in the lead!!! Stress levels were skyrocketing by then. When Ian Millar came into the ring, I was almost feeling sick to my stomach. I can’t even imagine the pressure Ian must have been under….he had to go clean if Canada was to have a shot at a gold medal. I’m glad there wasn’t a camera on me because I can only imagine what I must have looked like as In Style came up to each jump. And when they crossed the finish line with a big fat 0 on the jumbotron…..wow! Me and Dr. Jenn were screaming ourselves hoarse!

We sure gave the USA a battle for gold. And even while being down a horse (unfortunately Mac Cone and Ole had to withdraw before the class as Ole just wasn’t quite right and everybody wanted to ensure that Ole’s welfare was put first and foremost). It was close, but no cigar and the USA ended up being crowned the champions with 3 straight clears in a row.

Before I upload my millions of pictures from tonight, I want to salute Ian, Jill, Mac and Eric, their fearless chef d’equipe Torchy Millar, their superb team vet Sylvie Suprenant, their hardworking grooms Jerome, Dominique, Samantha and Kirsten, the always organized team stable manager Lori Green and the owner of these fine horses who provide incredible support to the riders and the sport. And last but not least, a special mention to reserve rider Jonathan Asselin, his groom Sergio Jacobo Martinez and the owners of Rayana Chia. It’s tough to travel all the way to Hong Kong with no guarantee that you’re going to ride, but having the reserve is so crucial in order to ensure that a full team can compete. Rayana left the other day to go back home with the Eventing horses. Jonathan stayed on and continues to be a full member of the team – attending training sessions and being there for every competition. Now that’s what I call true team spirit.

I sign off by saying what an honour and a privilege it has been for me to watch these teams in action during my first Olympic Games. Eventing achieved their best international placings since the 1970’s, Dressage made history by having a rider make it through to the top 15 for the individual finals, and the Jumpers have won their first team medal in 40 years. I don’t think even sleep will be able to wipe the smile off my face.

I arrived just when the course walk was taking place.

I arrived just when the course walk was taking place.

the first fence

the first fence

my favourite fence....absolutely gorgeous

my favourite fence....absolutely gorgeous

team huddle watching the early part of the competition

team huddle watching the early part of the competition

Mac Cone and McLain Ward

Mac Cone and McLain Ward

the German team analyze early rounds....unfortunately for them they finished the night with 34 faults

the German team analyze early rounds....unfortunately for them they finished the night with 34 faults

Jos Lansik and Cumano

Jos Lansik and Cumano

Ian Millar, Mac Cone and Torchy Millar

Ian Millar, Mac Cone and Torchy Millar

the media scrum area where riders are interviewed following their rides

the media scrum area where riders are interviewed following their rides

Eric looking pretty relaxed before his ride

Eric looking pretty relaxed before his ride

Eric and Hickstead on their way to the ring to do what they do best

Eric and Hickstead on their way to the ring to do what they do best

Torchy, Jerome, Mac and Jill

Torchy, Jerome, Mac and Jill

watching the last American rider to go to see if there will be a jump-off for Gold (Beezie Madden and Authentic)

watching the last American rider to go to see if there will be a jump-off for Gold (Beezie Madden and Authentic)

Jump-off time! Ian and Jill review the new shortened course.

Jump-off time! Ian and Jill review the new shortened course.

reserve rider Jonathan Asselin was there supporting his team all the way

reserve rider Jonathan Asselin was there supporting his team all the way

being interviewed after winning the silver medal

being interviewed after winning the silver medal

Eric posing with dressage groom Lindsay

Eric posing with dressage groom Lindsay

Ashley Holzer was there to soak up the excitement

Ashley Holzer was there to soak up the excitement

preparing for the medal presentations

preparing for the medal presentations

the flags.....

the flags.....

....and the medal girls

....and the medal girls

on their way to collect their silver hardware

on their way to collect their silver hardware

waving to the fans....

waving to the fans....

Princess Haya was one of the presenters

Princess Haya was one of the presenters

on the podium!

on the podium!

Princess Haya and the Silver medal team

Princess Haya and the Silver medal team

woohoo!

woohoo!

the 2008 Olympic medallists

the 2008 Olympic medallists

the silver medal victory gallop

the silver medal victory gallop

dressage chef Ali gets caught up in the excitement

dressage chef Ali gets caught up in the excitement

Sara Houstoun and Larry Evoy - owners of Ole

Sara Houstoun and Larry Evoy - owners of Ole

hanging up your jacket after a great job

hanging up your jacket after a great job

sorry Ali....I had to....makes me laugh too much!

sorry Ali....I had to....makes me laugh too much!

Brenley Cone and Tiffany

Brenley Cone and Tiffany

A very happy Mac and Brenley Cone with the silver medal

A very happy Mac and Brenley Cone with the silver medal

Eric and Tiffany

Eric and Tiffany

Jenn Ward and Eric

Jenn Ward and Eric

Dominique (groom for Ole)

Dominique (groom for Ole)

Jerome, Hickstead and Eric

Jerome, Hickstead and Eric

Jumping Team vet Sylvie with Dressage Team vet Jenn

Jumping Team vet Sylvie with Dressage Team vet Jenn

what a night! (Photo by Shawn Hamilton of ClixPhoto.com)

what a night! (Photo by Shawn Hamilton of ClixPhoto.com)

%d bloggers like this: