The US may have edged out Canada for Olympic gold in the team show jumping event, but the individual competition belonged to Eric Lamaze and Hickstead of Canada. They helped anchor the Canadian team in winning the team silver, and kept up their consistent performances throughout today’s individual rounds.
After a two-way jump off for Olympic gold, Eric won while Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden took the silver. Beezie Madden and Authentic of the USA came out on top of a seven-way jump-off for the bronze.
Round A Recap
The 34 riders (supposed to be top 35, but Will Simpson wasn’t allowed to ride as only three from each nation may compete in the individual finals) had their scores to date wiped and started fresh in Round A of the individual show jumping finals. Nine riders had clear rounds, while 12 were right behind them with four faults.
The clear rounds included Beezie Madden, Eric Lamaze, Rolf-Goran, Camila Benedicto (Brazil), Angelique Hoorn (Netherlands), Stein Endresen (Norway), Tim Stockdale (Great Britain), Mar Houtzager (Netherlands), Ben Maher (Great Britain), and Jos Lansink (Belgium).
22 total riders moved on to Round B, all with no or just four faults.
Round B Recap
The Round B course was much less forgiving than Round A. It favored the horse and rider teams with slightly cooler heads, who sat back and relaxed through the course. The combinations were tight, and many horses dropped rails on the second or third fence because they had a little too much momentum and got too close. Beezie Madden was one who was having an excellent go and just got a little too much momentum through the triple and dropped a rail on the third fence.
Dropping rails seemed to be a domino effect; if you dropped a rail in the beginning or middle of the course, you dropped rails on several subsequent fences. More than a few riders left the arena with over 12 faults.
A very cool, unusual fence designed as a dragon was the downfall for many riders. It’s height must have been deceptive, because rider after rider came in to close and dropped the top plank. The crowd picked up on its difficulty, and cheered racously every time a horse and rider navigated the dragon fence successfully.
Ludger Beerbaum, one of the favorites who hadn’t performed as well as expected to date, had the first clear round. He took his time on the course and it paid off.
Jill Henselwood’s horse, who went well in the team competition to help Canada take silver, fell apart in Round B. He dropped his back end mid air (strangest thing I’ve seen), literally dropping his back end below his shoulders over the fence. They dropped a few more rails after that before he had it and refused a fence. Jill bowed out gracefully, and retired from the competition without completing the course.
Many of the show jumping greats who’d been less than stellar thus far brought their top game today and went clear in Round B, including Ludger Beerbaum, Roderigo Pessoa, and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum.
With only two riders left go, and no double clear rounds yet, the competition came to a screeching halt due to a malfunction on course. A jump with water underneath it somehow overflowed, or a pipe burst, and a huge puddle instantly formed on the landing side of the fence. A handful of ring crew members ran out with rakes to clean up the mess. As soon as it was ready again, it started raining.
The delay definitely didn’t hurt the final two riders, as they both went clear, sending them into a jump off for the gold and silver.
The jump-off began with the seven riders who were competing for the bronze medal: Beezie Madden, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Roderigo Pessoa, McLain Ward, Ludger Beerbaum, Marc Houtzager, and Angelique Hoorn.
The riders came in asking for a quick pace, cutting corners whereever possible. Ludger Beerbaum dropped a rail, and then Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Roderigo Pesso went clear, with Meredith taking the faster time.
Then McLain Ward and Sapphire came on course with the most memorable ride of the night. There weren’t many places the riders could take shortcuts to try to save time, so McLain made one. At one place in the course, riders had to rollback from an oxer to a vertical, going around some decorative landscaping in between. McLain turned Sapphire early, jumped the landscaping, took a few strides, and jumped the vertical — successfully. The crowd loved it. He started pushing to the final fence, a block jump instead of rails, and they kind of crashed through instead of over. Those final four faults kept them out of the medals, but it was a spectacular ride.
Two riders later, McLain’s teammate Beezie tried his approach, leaping the landscaping, clearing the vertical, and moving quickly through the rest of the course for a clear round. The shortcut shaved off just enough time for her and Authentic to come in one tenth of a second undr Meredith’s time and claim the bronze.
The final two riders were Eric Lamaze and Rolf-Goran fighting for the gold. Rolf went first, obviously playing it safe by keeping a slower speed. It was a solid run, but he came to the final fence at a little too much of an angle and dropped a block for four faults. Eric knew he just needed to go clean, so he kept it slow, took wide turns, and went clear to claim the gold.
All-in-all it was a very exciting competition for the 2008 Olympic show jumping individual medals.
1 Eric Lamaze (Hickstead), Canada
2 Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Ninja), Sweden
3 Beezie Madden (Authentic), USA
4 Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Shutterfly), Germany
5 Roderigo Pessoa (Rufus), Brazil
6 McLain Ward (Sapphire), USA
7 Ludger Beerbaum (All Inclusive), Germany
8 Marc Houtzager (Opium), Netherlands
9 Angelique Hoorn (O’Brien), Netherlands
10 Jean-Claude van Geenberghe (Quintus), Ukraine
10 Morten Djupvik (Casino), Norway
10 Steve Guerdat (Jalisca Solier), Switzerland
10 Edwina Alexandra (Itot Du Chateau), Australia
10 Camila Benedicto (Bonito Z), Brazil
10 Jos Lansink (Cumano), Belgium
16 Gerco Schroder (Monaco), Netherlands
16 Stein Endresen (Le Beau), Norway
16 Tim Stockdale (Corlato), Great Britain
19 Lotta Schultz (Calibra II), Sweden
20 Ben Maher (Rolette), Great Britain
21 Matt Williams (Leconte), Australia