Wow is the best word to describe my experience at my first Olympic cross-country. The course was absolutely stunning. The fences were massive with a real Chinese theme. The layout was quite spectator-friendly where you could easily find a few vantage points that would enable you to catch a few jumps. The horses were magnificient and the riding was awe-inspiring. What more could you ask for?
The weather didn’t seem to be a factor. It was overcast for the majority of the competition with rain during the last hour. Definitely ideal conditions, although things did seem to get a bit slick for the last few horses that did the course.
The Canadians looked really fantastic out there. They really attacked the jumps and put in an Olympic effort. Both Kyle and Sandra went clean over the jumps and only incurred time penalties. Selena looked fantastic, but unfortunately pulled a shoe near the end of the course which resulted in Columbo slipping a bit on the footing and running out at a couple of jumps. It’s really a shame because I think had the shoe stayed on, she would have likely only incurred time faults. Mike also had a stroke of bad luck when his stirrup leather came off early on in the course and he had to stop in order to get it back in…..a wise decision considering the course required an aggressive ride. No coasting here! Samantha also looked fantastic but unfortunately had a couple of run-outs and time.
I’m very happy to say that there were no serious accidents and almost everyone made it home. There were 2 big surprises that happened: USA’s Amy Tryon and Poggio II (a strong medal favourite) were taken out at fence # 10 when Poggio hung a leg which caused him to stumble and flipped Amy over his head. Under the new eventing rules, a fall by the rider constitutes immediate elimination. The French team suffered another loss when Jean Renaud Adde and Haston d’ Elpegere also were eliminated….you might have heard that former 2004 Gold Medalist Nicolas Touzaint had to withdraw prior to the dressage when his horse suffered an injury while being lunged.
There were tons of people who came out to see all the action. I got up at 5:30 am, was eating breakfast by 6am and lined up for the shuttle by 6:30am. This got me to Beas River at just after 7am….enough time for the long walk to the first water jump to meet Mike G. who had brought Canada’s chef de mission (Olympic gold medal diver Sylvie Bernier) to check out the sport of eventing. Sylvie had brought her daughter with her as well, who was very excited to get as many photos as she could (Florence, Sylvie’s daugher, takes hunter lessons back home in Quebec). This was their first exposure to Eventing and they were both wowed.
The action began at 8am with Mark Todd the first rider on course. I managed to get a video of him doing the first water jump which he made look like a piece of cake (of course!). Mike G. said that he did the math and the course worked out to a jumping effort on average every 8 seconds. Holy smokes that’s a lot of jumping. Not to mention that the terrain was quite undulating and hilly in places. I bet there will be a lot of tired horses and riders tonight.
Everyone now packs up their gear from Beas River and the exodus begins again back to the Shatin venue where the final stadium phase gets underway tomorrow night. The Germans, Aussies and Brits are incredibly strong, so it will definitely be a photo finish. In the meantime, I’ve been dripping hot, then soaking wet, then freezing from the a/c on the shuttle bus. But never been happier! Till next time….. 🙂