France Wins Gold and U.S. Takes Silver in Show Jumping at the Rio Olympics

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Yesterday’s first round of team show jumping competition at the Rio 2016 Olympics brought mixed emotions for supporters of the U.S. team. The Americans progressed with no faults on the team score and in a four-way tie for first place heading into the team final. But fan favorite Beezie Madden had an unfortunate round with Cortes ‘C’, racking up 8 faults on top of the four faults they were carrying from the first individual round, ending her Rio quest for an individual medal. She would have continued as part of the team, but in a statement released today, Madden announced that Cortes ‘C’, known around the barn as “Tiny,” had sustained a minor injury that would prevent him from competing.

“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 best interests must come first. We are so thankful to our teammates, sponsors, and most importantly, his owner, Abigail Wexner, for understanding that in this sport, sometimes winning means doing right by your best friend. We will be there today on the sidelines doing everything we can to support Kent, Lucy, and McLain.”

Only three horse-and-rider pairs are needed to compete for team medals, so the U.S. medal chances didn’t end there. It does put the pressure on a bit, though, as there would be no drop score; all three pairs would have to be close to perfect to have a chance at the podium.

Kent Farrington continued his stellar Olympic debut as the lead rider for the U.S. His horse, Voyeur, appears to still be fresh and full of go, and Farrington managed the gelding’s energy around the course for a jumping-fault-free round. They just barely missed the 82-second time allowed. The one time fault they incurred has to be annoying for Farrington, but he was in good company. Only one rider, Australian Olympic veteran Edwina Tops-Alexander, had finished within the time so far, and she had one rail down.

In fact, it wasn’t until about halfway through today’s session—29 riders in—that anyone went clear and within the time. Canada’s Tiffany Foster skillfully piloted Tripple X to the finish with a couple of seconds to spare, proving that it could be done.

The very next rider, Kevin Staut of France, managed to repeat what once seemed impossible, putting in a speedy round with Reveur de Hurtebise to go double clear.

Lucy Davis and Barron were next and also finished within the time. Unfortunately, a dropped rail on the second fence of a triple combination near the end of the course put four faults on their score.

By the time McLain Ward and Azur entered the ring, France had already secured gold. With their first three rides done, they had only three faults, and if their final rider had any more than a single fault, her score would be discarded. No other country could touch that. But it was Ward’s job to ensure the U.S. didn’t add any more faults to their current team score so that their hopes for a silver or bronze remained alive. And he and Azur delivered with a perfect, double-clear round.

As other nations dropped, the Americans’ position as silver medalists was secured. At the end of the day, there was only one question left. Which nation would take home team bronze? Germany and Canada finished in a tie for third, which meant all four riders from each team would come back for a shortened jump-off course to determine that third spot on the podium. As with earlier rounds, each team would have a drop score and the best three would determine the team score.

Canada’s Yann Candele had a rail, followed by clear rounds by Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Canada’s Tiffany Foster. When Amy Millar added another rail down to Canada, Germany almost had it in the bag. Daniel Deusser turned in a third clear round for Germany, and it was over. There was nothing Canada could do; with three clear scores to Canada’s two four-fault rounds, Germany had secured their team medal.

Individual show jumping competition continues at the Rio Olympics on Friday, August 19. The top 35 individual riders after today have qualified for the next round. The three remaining Americans, McLain Ward, Lucy Davis, and Kent Farrington are among the qualifiers and will compete for medals beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET on Friday; the final round is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET. It will be available on the live stream and is scheduled to be covered live on NBC. Get the Olympic equestrian TV coverage schedule here.

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