What a great first day of show jumping at the London Olympics Saturday, complete with perfect conditions and an appreciative crowd. Seventy-five horses and riders representing 26 countries entered the new Greenwich Park facility for the first time over an inviting track that produced 32 clear rounds.
Canada turned in respectable rounds for the first day of competition in the first individual jumper qualifier, with all four members advancing to the next round.
Jill Henselwood on George was fourth to go and received a score of five penalty points. One knockdown and one time fault. George is known for being a little hard to handle but on opening day, given all the stadium distractions, he was in good form.
Tiffany Foster, riding Victor, finished with eight penalty points. They appeared to be a little rushed and lowered the height of two fences.
Eric Lamaze with Derly Chin De Muze was in top form, while the young mare was brave and careful. I think most watching this pair were wondering if the glitches we witnessed earlier in the summer at Spruce Meadows (refusals at the triple combinations) had been dealt with.
The pair looked relaxed and comfortable and produced what many have come to expect from Lamaze, and that is a clear round.
Anchoring the Canadian team, Ian Millar made the history books when he started Saturday with his 10th Olympic appearance. Riding Star Power, he finished with four penalty points.
Among Saturday's highlights:
- Team Netherlands was the only country that posted four clear rounds.
- The top three riders, according to the world rankings, posted clear rounds.
- Sweden's Rof-Goran Bengtsson, No. 1 in the world and silver individually at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was clear with a beautiful ride on Casall.
- France's Kevin Staut, No. 2 in the world riding Silvana, posted an easy clear round.
- Canada's Eric Lamaze, currently ranked third, gold individually in Beijing, was clear on Derly.
- Belgium's Philippe le Jeune who won gold at the World Equestrian Games in 2010, was penalty free with the same horse, Vigo D'arsouilles.
- Britain's hometown favourite Nick Skelton, on his nine-year-old Big Star, was clear and looked to be in top form.
- American Reed Kessler, at 18 the youngest rider participating in London, didn't disappoint her country or team by posting one time fault. She continues to demonstrate why she belongs on the U.S. squad.
However, with the numerous examples of impressive animals demonstrating their world-class greatness, there were several moments of disasters for these elite athletes.
- Brazil's Carlos Riloas, riding Wilexo, was eliminated with two refusals early on course at the combination that was placed close to the sides near the stands.
- Sweden's Lisen Fredricson had a fall at the early combination on course, her horse got distracted and took a misstep at the triple bar. Fredricson was eliminated.
- The real heartbreaker came with the last rider for the U.S., Beezie Madden on Via Volo. The little mare jumped beautifully until she got strong in the bridle going down a line to a combination and Beezie pulled her out before she could jump the "B" portion of the combination. She circled around and the mare stopped again.
A real shocker as this will take Madden out of the individual medal round but she will still ride in the team competition.
From the 75 entries that competed Saturday, the top 60 riders and all team riders qualify for Sunday's competition, Round 1 of the team qualifier.
A lot of jumping remains and the tests are going to get harder, along with an increase in the heights and widths of the obstacles.
The hunt for team medals begins in earnest Sunday, and Beezie Madden, Reed Kessler and company will certainly be chased by powerhouse Germany.
Back to accessibility links