Australia Holds Team and Individual Lead after Olympic Cross-Country

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As expected, the cross-country phase of eventing at the 2016 Rio Olympics made significant changes to the results on both the team and individual side.

Unfortunately for American fans, the U.S. team was among the hardest hit by today’s challenging course. Boyd Martin and his Thoroughbred, Blackfoot Mystery, gave the team a strong start, adding only a few time penalties to their score.

But trouble was evident very quickly for Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen; the Irish Sport Horse gelding appeared uncharacteristically unfocused and unwilling. Ultimately, Montgomery opted to retire on course.

In order to contend for team medals, a nation must turn in three scores, which meant the two remaining U.S. riders, Lauren Kieffer and Phillip Dutton, would need to avoid elimination in order to keep the team’s hopes alive.

Kieffer and her mare, Veronica, set off next for the U.S., and they displayed their usual cross-country competence, right up until a very unfortunate fall. Both horse and rider were on their feet quickly and no injuries have been reported, but their elimination meant teammates Martin and Dutton could only compete for individual standings.

Dutton and his Irish-bred Mighty Nice had only a few bobbles on course an finished with just 3.2 time penalties, moving them into fifth place at the end of the day, just ahead of Martin. So while the team’s hopes are dashed, the podium isn’t out of reach individually for these two.

Overnight leader William Fox-Pitt also took a big hit after a runout with his stallion, Chilli Morning, and time penalties totaling 30.4. He ended the day in 22nd place. British teammates Pippa Funnell, Gemma Tattersall and Kitty King also incurred jumping penalties on course that put team GBR in an unlikely position for any medals.

Team Canada also had a tough day with the elimination of Kathryn Robinson and Let it Bee and a boatload of penalties for both Colleen Loach and Jessica Phoenix. Rebecca Howard and Riddle Master stand in 15th place; if they go well tomorrow, a top ten individual finish isn’t out of the question.

Meanwhile, the Australians had a banner day, with Christopher Burton turning in a clear ride aboard Santano II to secure the top spot on the leaderboard. Teammates Sam Griffiths and Stuart Tinney had good rides as well, giving the Aussies a strong lead in the team competition despite Shane Rose having been eliminated.

New Zealand also fared well today, thanks in no small part to Sir Mark Todd, the oldest rider in the eventing at Rio, currently competing in his seventh Olympics. His equine partner this time around is a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Leonidas II. Fellow Kiwis Clarke Johnstone and Jonelle Price also had good rounds, keeping the team in silver position despite a fall early in the day by Tim Price.

As expected, 2012 gold medalist Michael Jung and Sam performed flawlessly with no penalties, moving up to second individually just ahead of France’s Astier Nicolas and Piaf de B’Neville. Ingrid Klimke and Sandra Auffarth stand 19 and 20, and the Germans are currently in fourth behind third-placed France. A team medal is possible, but a lot would have to go wrong for other teams in order for Germany to defend its Olympic gold.

The stadium jumping rounds take place tomorrow. In Olympic competition, team medals are decided by the first round of jumping, then the top 25 individually return for a second round to determine individual medals. Coverage will begin at 9:00 a.m. ET at NBCOlympics.com.

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