Behind the Scenes at the Rio Olympic Games Part Three: Show Jumping

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Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Lucy Davis, 23, (Los Angeles, CA) was the youngest rider on the U.S. team and an Olympic rookie, although she was also member of the U.S. squad at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France. Davis rode Barron, her long-time equine partner a 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Old Oak Farm. Davis and Barron jumped well to help the team to silver and then qualified for the first round of the individual finals. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

Here’s our final post from Rio de Janeiro and the 2016 Olympic Games. If you missed them, go back and read part one, where we look at the eventing competition and some of the scary events that took place around the equestrian venues, and part two, where we discuss dressage and everyday life for residents of Rio.

The last three weeks have flown by and been filled with too little sleep, lots of picture taking and with the highs (lovely people, beautiful sights and top-notch competition) and lows (rampant crime, questionable water quality and thousands of mosquitoes) of life in Rio.

Show Jumping Caps Olympic Equestrian Competition

By now you know that the U.S. Show Jumping Team, under the guidance of Chef d’equipe Robert Ridland, performed very well and took the silver medal in commanding fashion, finishing with a total of only five faults. They were just two points behind the team from France – a team which was on fire during the entire competition and only racked up three time faults over the two team final rounds to take gold.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping

The show jumping team medal winners from left to right on the podiums: Team U.S.A., bronze; Team France, gold, and Team Germany, silver. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

There was a jump-off for bronze between Canada and Germany with the German riders performing flawlessly in that round to take the bronze. Team Brazil had high hopes for a medal in their home country. They were neck and neck for third for awhile, but had rails down in the final team round and had to settle for fifth. That didn’t stop their fans from thunderous applause any time a Brazilian rider entered the ring and we couldn’t help rooting for them too.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Show jumping legend George Morris was the Brazilian Show Jumping Team’s guru in preparation for the Rio Games. He and Brazilian rider Pedro Veniss conferred during a course walk. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Laura Kraut, 50, (Royal Palm Beach, FL) and Old Willow Farms, LLC’s Zeremonie, a 2007 Holsteiner mare, were the traveling reserves for the U.S. Team. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

From the start of the jumping competition all the way through, there were bits of drama and suspense. Two riders on the first day of competition were disqualified by the ground jury, one for overuse of spurs (Belgium’s Nicola Phillippaerts who rode Zilverstar T) and the other for overuse of whip (The Netherlands’ Jur Vrieling who rode Zirocco Blue). Since team and individual competitions are considered separate events in the Olympics, both riders were allowed to continue as members of a team, but were not allowed to move on in the individual rounds.

Two days later two more riders were disqualified for overuse of spurs in the second individual qualifier/team round one: Cassio Rivetti from the Ukraine who rode Fine Fleur du Marais and Stephen de Freitas Barcha from Brazil who rode Landpeter do Feroleto. Since they were disqualified during the team competition their teams were each one man down. This meant the scores of the other three members on their teams counted and the luxury of a “drop score” was no longer an option. The same was true for Team France when their rider Penelope LePrevost, after posting a clear round in the first team round, fell from Flora de Mariposa and were eliminated in the second.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Olympic veteran and 2015 Pan American Games gold medalist, McLain Ward, 41, from Brewster, NY, rode Double H Farm and Francois Mathy’s HH Azur, a 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare. After their efforts were essential to help the U.S. team to silver, they competed in the final individual round, but had a rail down to finish in a tie for ninth place. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Competing on her fourth consecutive U.S. Olympic Team Beezie Madden, 52, Cazenovia, NY, rode Cortes ‘C’, a 2002 Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Abigail Wexner, in Rio. Just two years ago Cortes ‘C’ was named the Best Horse at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Madden and Cortes were anchor pair for the U.S. team, but their Olympic Games were cut short when he incurred a slight injury to a tendon on the second day of competition. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

Team U.S.A. really felt the loss of anchor rider Beezie Madden when it was announced that Cortes ‘C’ had injured a tendon and had to be withdrawn before the start of the third day of competition. “We are heartbroken to announce that Cortes ‘C’ sustained a tendon injury in yesterday’s competition and will be unable to compete for Team USA today. We are confident that he will make a full recovery. While we had hoped to do everything we could to help the USA towards a medal today, Tiny’s [Cortes ‘C’] best interests must come first.”

After a demanding team final course designed by Brazilian Guilherme Jorge, U.S. Chef d’equipe Robert Ridland was very pleased with his team’s silver medal and had high praise for his riders. “The course was tremendous, a real Olympic championship course. We knew that when we walked it. We were pretty sure that it wasn’t going to be won on zero [faults]. All our scores had to count today; we knew that. It didn’t affect any of them. They were all unbelievable. Unbelievably focused, they knew what their job was and they got it done.”

Rio Olympics Show Jumping

U.S. Show Jumping Team Chef d’equipe Robert Ridland walks one of the courses. He led the U.S. Team to a silver medal in Rio. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

Jorge commented on his thoughts about designing a course for the Olympics in his home country and on sharing the knowledge in order to further the sport. “For sure it’s a big honor to design the courses for the Olympic here in Rio. I was here already in 2007 for the Pan American Games, so I knew that it is a really nice venue for the competition. The team that I have here behind me – all of the design team – they have a reason to be proud.”

“Twenty years ago I went to my first Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 as a volunteer to work with Linda Allen,” he continued. “She gave me the opportunity to be there and I try to do this inviting as many course designers as possible to come. That is why I have this big group, because I think it is a fantastic opportunity and big for our sport. They helped me a lot throughout the whole process.”

Six Way Jump-Off for Gold In Individual Jumping

The big news in the individual show jumping competition was the six-way jump-off for the gold medal. Although we can’t confirm, this may have been the first time that six have tied for first to force a jump-off in an Olympic Games.

The jump-off contestants were: Sheikh Ali Al Thani riding First Devision, Qatar; Kent Farrington riding Voyeur, U.S.A.; Peder Fredricson riding All In, Sweden; Steve Guerdat riding Nino des Buissonnets, Switzerland; Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5, Canada, and Britain’s Nick Skelton riding Big Star, Great Britain.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Great Britain’s Nick Skelton and the Dutch Warmblood stallion Big Star made their second consecutive appearance in an Olympic Games this year and converted their team gold from London into individual gold in Rio. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

In the end it was Skelton, 58, and the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Big Star capturing gold with a blistering clear round as they were first to go around the course. Sweden’s Fredricson and All, who were the only other pair to go clear over the shortened course, took the silver and Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady had one rail down, but with a very fast trip to grab the bronze. Guerdat and Nino de Buissonnets were slightly slower with one rail down to finish fourth. The U.S.A.’s Farrington and Voyeur, who had jumped clear in every round over the four days of competition up to the jump-off, dropped two rails to finish fifth.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Peder Fredricson and All In jumped their way to silver as part of the six-way jump-off for medals. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Olympic medals are nothing new for Eric Lamaze of Canada who piloted Fine Lady to a very fast round, but dropped a rail in the jump-off to capture bronze. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Kent Farrington, 36, (Wellington, FL) and Amalaya Investments’ Voyeur, a 2002 KWPN gelding, were the highest placed pair from the U.S.A. in Farrington’s first Olympic appearance. They jumped cleanly throughout the competition and qualified for a six-way jump-off for gold, where they had two rails and finished fifth overall. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

Skelton, who is the second-oldest Brit ever to win an Olympic medal and has come back from a broken neck and hip replacement over his long career, credited his staff and veterinarians for bringing Big Star back from two different injuries since 2013. Obviously very fond of Big Star, he hinted that when the stallion retired he would too. “Today [Big Star] was absolutely amazing. The last competition he won was the Aachen grand prix in 2013 – it has been two years to get him back. It has taken a lot of work, but I always knew if we could get him right then he could do this. He is an absolutely amazing horse. He has all the right attributes and he is the best horse I am ever likely to have. I have nursed him and nursed him, and he has come good for me – this is for him.”

Protests and Security at the Rio Olympics

The Rio Olympic Games were filled with contrasts. On one hand you had a modern city with many brand-new venues and on the other you had many residents living in poverty. Case in point was the new Olympic Main Press Center (MPC) and the adjacent Media Transportation Mall (MTM) which were situated just to the east of the Olympic Village.

It seems that the Olympic planners must have bulldozed and paved over what was a low-income neighborhood to construct the Olympic Village leaving only one small row of favela houses, and what appeared to be some sort of neighborhood center, remaining at the edge of the MTM. We passed these houses twice every day while in Rio as we used the media transportation system. During the first week of the Games, there was a graffiti message in Portuguese on the outer wall of the favela complex. From what we could decipher it referred to social injustice.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping
The protests scrawled on the favela wall near the Media Transportation Mall. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

By week two of the Games, the protest message had been whitewashed away. The next day a new message, this time in English, expressed outrage at the original message being erased. The day after that, the protest message was back and then painted over the day after and the cycle continued throughout our time at the Games. The protesters were determined that the media from around the world would see their plight.

On a related topic, when we returned home to Indiana our parents expressed surprise that there were no terrorist attacks during the Games in Rio. We’re not sure if it was simply because none were planned or because of the massive security force that we observed watching over the Games. Everywhere you looked you saw uniformed officers – police and military – and many armored vehicles from jeep size up to full-fledged tanks.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Brazilian army troops on guard at the entrance to the Olympic Equestrian Venue in Deodoro. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
An army patrol unit stationed in front of the Carioca Arena in the Olympic Village. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

Things We Will Miss From the Rio Olympics

The people:

Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Brazilian superfan
Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Three generations of Olympic spectators, grandfather, father and son attending equestrian events. Photos by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping

The tractor guys at the equestrian venue. These heavy equipment operators elicited more applause from the crowd than most of the competitors and they hammed it up waving a Brazilian flag on their final pass of the arena each time. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
The lunch crew at the concession stand just outside the media center in Deodoro. They spoke almost no English, we spoke almost no Portuguese, but we got along fine. The same faces greeted us with smiles each morning and stayed at their post until most of the media left for the day. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

The view from our media bus windows. Each day our bus ride to work served as a mini tour of the area and a roadmap to the Olympic venues.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Barra Olympic Park and Olympic Village sign;
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
View of Media Transportation Mall and adjacent, newly white-washed favela housing with some high-end Barra de Tijuca district condos across the lake;
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Brand new Olympic Highway from the Olympic Village in Barra de Tijuca to Deodoro where the equestrian competition was held;
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Olympic rings over the entrance to a tunnel through the mountain on the new Olympic Highway to Deodoro; All photos by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

The amazing sights that Rio has to offer. We only had part of one day off, but we were determined to make the most of it.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping

The Future Bridge in Rio – one of the cross-country fences was patterned after this bridge;
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
The view from our cable car as we traveled up to Sugarloaf Mountain;
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Looking down from Sugarloaf at Rio and Copacabana, Ipanema and the city;
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
A long-distance view of Christ the Redeemer situated on top of Corcovado Mountain;
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
The train to Corcovado;
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Throngs of visitors at the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado Mountain; All photos by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

The neighborhood restaurant a block from our apartment in Barra. We only had a chance to eat there twice and we were never quite sure what we ordered, but it was always good and served with flair by the waiters there. They even passed out mosquito repellant for those of us who chose to sit on the porch to dine.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Our restaurant in Barra. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Açai bowls – a frozen purple delight! We encountered the frozen, puréed açai berries at every restaurant, lunch counter and convenience store. They were offered with various toppings – nuts, sliced fruit, coconut or milk – but we enjoyed them plain most of the time. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping

Cute dogs everywhere. Brazilians seem to love dogs as much as Americans and Europeans. We saw many breeds from a sequin-bedecked Chihuahua to Bull Terriers, Border Collies, Shepherds, Jack Russells, Poodles, French Bulldogs and muts. We also saw many veterinarians’ offices and pet stores, one very fat black and white cat and a parrot in a cage being delivered to one of our neighbors. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Semi-precious stones are common in Brazil. Many types of quartz, crystals and semi-precious stones are available for purchase in Brazil. This quartz Cockatoo sculpture was displayed in the lobby of a hotel near a media bus stop. That’s us reflected in a mirror behind the artwork. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

Looking Toward Tokyo in 2020

The International Olympic Committee continues to put pressure on the Fédération Équestre Internationale (FEI) to look at ways to revamp equestrian sports to make them more viewer-friendly for the general public. The possibility that equestrian sports could be eliminated from the Olympic roster altogether also comes up from time to time. On the positive side for equestrian sport, however, it was announced by the FEI this week that for the second Olympic Games in a row all equestrian athletes, both human and equine, produced clean drug tests.

In 2012 in London each country who qualified a dressage team were allowed only three team members (but with a fourth rider competing as an individual being possible.) In Rio countries who qualified to send dressage teams were allowed four team members again. The debate of three versus four-member equestrian teams caused much heated discussion in the press room in Rio. Time will tell how this sorts out for Tokyo in 2020.

Looking ahead to Tokyo, the Japanese riders have made great strides in proficiency in recent years. Japan sent full teams of four to compete in dressage and show jumping in Rio and two riders from Japan competed in eventing. Oiwa Yoshiaki riding The Duke of Cavan finished 20th in eventing jumping clear, but with time penalties, over the very difficult cross-country course to prove their mettle against the world’s best.

Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Japanese eventer Ryuzo Kitajima riding Just Chocolate on cross-country. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Akane Kuroki and Toots, dressage competitors from Japan in Rio. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography
Rio Olympics Show Jumping
Japanese jumper rider Taizo Sugitani guides Imothep over an oxer during the competition in Rio. Photo by Allen MacMillan/MacMillan Photography

A Musical Farewell to Deodoro

As we were waiting to catch the bus back to the Main Press Center from the equestrian venue on the final day of jumping, a military band from the army base across the street marched toward us playing a tune. While their appearance seemed slightly bizzare, it was a fitting end to the 2016 Olympic equestrian competition. We cheered them on as we climbed onto the bus. So long Deodoro, it’s been an adventure!

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