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 🙂
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).
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.
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.