Raining Medals in London

I wrote most of this Monday night, and it is now Wednesday morning, the first chance I’ve had to send it.? We were so busy yesterday with two medal events, and then I encountered connection difficulties again, not to mention the need for sleep, so now I will play catch up.

Monday?s cross country was amazing on several levels ? hope you got to see it.? I understand coverage in the U.S. was good.? The course wasn?t high, but the terrain was hilly and tight.? It blew my mind that there were a dozen falls out of 74 riders.? We heard no one?horse or human–was hurt, but I am going to check for updates.

The cross country course set up in such a way that you either got around with no jump penalties or else you fell.? I think there were more falls than refusals. ?It was clear that experience made a real difference.? The crafty older riders got around fine.? The Germans, British, Kiwis and Swedes were smokin? round the course, and the Americans rode really well.? Only a few faults, but a few faults made a big difference.?? It was wonderful to have the event in the center of the city and feel the city was close but that the venue and cross country course were still a separate green island.?

At past Olympics the horses have been separated from the media and public areas, so at times We’ve had limited access.? This time, our bus rolls right by an exercise track where there are horses galloping maybe 10 feet from where I’m sitting and there are horse crossings everywhere.? There are still a lot of fences and barriers, but at least it still feels like a horse show.? Jen Bryant mentioned that you can take a deep breath and actually smell the horses, which is comforting.

Yesterday was a very long day ?? horse inspection before the eventing show jumping, then two rounds (team? and individual) of jumping plus medals of course, and finally the trot-up (Brit-speak for the vet check) for the grand prix dressage due to start Thursday, much it in the rain. I felt deeply sorry for the American riders, who mostly just made small mistakes, but any mistake is costly in the current format that no longer includes roads and tracks and has smaller cross-country fences.? The winners pretty much finish on a low dressage score, plus they are clean cross country and clean, or nearly so, in jumping.

With the Americans out of the running for medals, I was rooting for the British, both because it was on their home turf and because the whole British Olympic team hadn?t won gold yet.? If the eventers won gold, with Zara Phillips on the team, it would have given eventing a boost not only in England but as a worldwide story.? As it is, they were terrific with their silver.? The Germans keep on rolling, team and individual gold both here and the last time around in China.? And Michael Jung ? who seems very quiet and unassuming ? is now currently Olympic, world and European champion.? To top it off, his two gold medals came on his 30th birthday.?

By the way, Zara’s family, as they say here, was just a few rows below us, but we mostly saw backs of heads or umbrellas.

As a side note, Tom Curley, who is the outgoing president and CEO of the Associated Press decided to come out to Greenwich Park to see the eventing final.? For any of you who have done the stats on eventing, much less a team competition, it can be daunting.? With Nicole and I writing and chasing quotes, we put Tom onto the job of stats.? He figured out, with several horses left to jump, that there was no way the Germans could be caught for the gold, so we were able to jump ahead of our competition onto the wire.? It was our own little gold medal moment, with some very special help.

I keep thinking about the folks back home in Tryon NC, which is a town (very horsey area!) at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.? There are easily more people here in London in a square block than there are in all of Tryon, maybe even more in just our hotel.

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