August 7, 2016 — The top of the leaderboard held steady through the second day of the three-day eventing competition on Sunday, August 7th at the Rio Olympic Games, with Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt still in the lead and Australia’s Christopher Burton in 2nd place after eventing’s dressage phase. But a strong performance from French rider Mathieu Lemoine helped narrow the gap in team standings to bring France within .20 of a point of Germany, which sits in Team Gold position going into the cross- country phase.
Germany stands on 122.00 penalty points, while France has 122.20 and in 3rd place sits Australia on 126.40. Those medal positions have every chance to shuffle around after what everyone agrees will be an influential day on Monday.
Lemoine and his horse Bart L, 10-year-old KWPN gelding by United, moved into 3rd place in individual standings on their score of 39.20 penalty points, and Germany’s Ingrid Klimke put in a test that she called “pure fun” with Hale-Bob Old to go into 4th place on 39.50 penalty points. Fox-Pitt’s 37.00 penalty points that he earned on Day One of eventing dressage held the lead throughout the day.
All of Germany and France’s riders sit within the top 20 after the dressage phase.
“My horse is nervous and looks around a lot, so during every single test I try to keep him calm,” 32-year-old Lemoine commented through a French translator. “I’m quite happy with the result but I know that I could have done better with my score in the counter canter. But now I will look forward.”
Fresh Weather, Fresh Horses
After another hot and steamy morning in Brazil, temperatures dropped dramatically with the arrival of a thick cloud cover rolling over the steep hillsides that surround the Deodoro Olympic Park. Cooler temperatures and the Olympic atmosphere caused freshness in some horses, such as Klimke’s, a 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Helikon.
“He was quite excited outside; when he heard the applause from the stadium he was bucking,” Klimke said. “But when he came in he was like ‘here I am’ so I said, ok, we go for it. And it was pure fun. I really think he couldn’t do any better.”
Klimke broke into a big grin as she galloped down the long side for the extended canter, but not all riders were smiling through their tests.
Some mistakes were just pure bad luck as when Canada’s Colleen Loach dealt with a swap in the counter canter after speaker feedback spooked her horse Qorry Blue D’Argouges. Other riders, such as Shane Rose of Australia, felt they were harshly judged, but they tried to turn the page on disappointing scores as they emphasized how influential they expect cross-country day to be.
For the Brazilian riders, the audience was well behaved on the second day of dressage; they held their enthusiastic applause until the conclusion of the tests, and then let loose with extra vigor when a Brazilian team rider halted at X.
The United States sits in equal sixth place with New Zealand in team standings after riders Lauren Kieffer and Phillip Dutton rode their tests, with Dutton going second-to-last in the order aboard Mighty Nice.
Dutton, who can count Rio as his sixth Olympic Games, handled his team anchor position well with a test that landed him in 15th place.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my horse,” said the Australian-born rider who represents the United States. “It could have been a lot worse! I was hoping to get close to 40, and he did as well as he could do. He’s really coming along, he’s really liking being here and having Emma [Ford, his groom] by himself. He’s gotten better every day.”
Kieffer, who is competing at her first Olympic Games, was disappointed with the scoring after a mistake in the counter canter. She is riding the veteran mare Veronica, a 14-year-old KWPN mare by Pacific.
“She was really good, her trot work was probably some of her best trot work I thought. The walk tends to be her most difficult gait and I was quite happy with that,” Kieffer said. “I think in the canter she missed the one flying change but she seemed to really get punished at the end, so I’m really quite disappointed in her score. I was surprised by it, for sure. Now it’s on to the cross country.”
Great Britain and Ireland sit in 4th and 5th place after dressage, with the aforementioned New Zealand and USA in 6th. Italy, Brazil, Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada and Russia fill out the team standings in that order.
But as nearly every rider commented, everything can and will change out in the open, where 33 technical jumping efforts and a tight time allowed await these Olympic riders and their horses here in Rio de Janeiro. The cross-country phase of three-day eventing at the Rio Olympic Games will begin at 10 a.m. local time on Monday, August 8th.