Individual Show Jumping

Who to look out for in individual show jumping.

NameMeredith Michaels-Beerbaum, riding Shutterfly
CountryGermany
CredentialsA two-time world championship bronze medallist (in 2006 for team and individual), Michaels-Beerbaum won gold at the 2007 European championships and her team won silver. She's ranked no. 1 in the world.

NameLudger Beerbaum, riding All Inclusive
CountryGermany
CredentialsHe is a four-time Olympic gold medallist (three times for team, once for individual) and a four-time world championship medallist. Beerbaum has won five gold medals at the European Championships and in 2007 placed 3rd. He is ranked no. 4 in the world.

NameEric Lamaze, riding Hickstead
CountryCanada
CredentialsHe won three major competitions at Spruce Meadows this summer - the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, CN Grand Prix and Nexen Grand Prix - and is now ranked no. 3 in the world. Lamaze won bronze at the 2007 Pan American Games.

Name Albert Zoer, riding Okidoki
CountryNetherlands
CredentialsHe finished 4th at the 2007 European Championships and his team placed third. Zoer is ranked no. 2 in the world, but broke his leg on July 8 and is questionable for the Beijing Olympic Games.

 

On a roll

Canada's Eric Lamaze. "He's been so strong the last few months," says CBC show jumping analyst, Beth Underhill. "He's been performing incredibly well." Lamaze recently won three major events at Spruce Meadows, including a $1 million purse, improving his world ranking to no. 3.

On a slide

Belgium's Jos Lansink. The reigning world champion's no. 1 horse, Cumano, was injured and has only recently returned to action. "They were at the top of the game, but because of the injury they've been off the radar," says Underhill. Lansink was part of a team that won show jumping gold at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

The X-factor

For North American horses, jumping under the lights during evening events in Hong Kong will be a challenge. Night-time jumping isn't as common in North America as it is in Europe, says Underhill, and the 2008 Olympics will feature show jumping competitions in the evening.  "The North Americans don't jump as much under the lights, so there's that spookiness factor of it being nighttime with the lights that riders are concerned about," she says. "The Europeans don't seem too concerned about it, though, because they jump at night more often."

What the Europeans are worried about is the weather. "They're concerned about the weather conditions, because they don't really know how that will be for their horses," says Underhill. "The European horses aren't used to jumping in so much heat, which will be a factor in Hong Kong."

Under the radar

Ireland's Dennis Lynch. While the Irish team is generally strong in show jumping, Ireland failed to qualify a team for the Beijing Games. Lynch will be representing the country on his own in the individual competition. "He's under the radar because he's by himself, but he could pop up and do something interesting," says Underhill.

The Canadians

Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, Ont. Lamaze is ranked no. 3 in the world and the 2007 Pan American Games bronze medallist is coming off three major victories at Spruce Meadows. "I would literally put him in the top four individual riders in the world," says Underhill. Hickstead, she adds, "has all the qualities we need in an Olympic horse." Lamaze is a precision rider who performs well under pressure, which will work to his advantage in Hong Kong. He is Canada's best hope for an individual show jumping medal. Underhill's prediction: top 5.

Ian Millar of Perth, Ont., is gearing up for a world record-tying ninth Olympic Games with his Olympic horse, In Style. The 61-year-old has yet to win an Olympic medal. "Ian is such an amazing rider and at his 9th Olympic Games, I think he'll be in a position to bring out the best in his horse," says Underhill. "He is a master at bringing the best out of the horse at the right time." Millar is ranked no. 29 in the world. Underhill's Olympic prediction for Canada's show jumping veteran: a top 10 finish.

Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ont. The 2007 Pan American Games gold medallist will be riding Special Ed, "a seasoned horse who she knows really well," says Underhill. "The difficulty for that horse would be the spookiness factor under the lights. He can be tough in spooky environments, so with the atmosphere and the brand new jumps nobody's seen before, that's going to be a factor." Underhill says Henselwood's experience will play in her favour and "she should be able to handle anything that comes her way." She is ranked no. 40 in the world. Underhill's prediction for Henselwood in Hong Kong: a top 15 finish.

Mac Cone of King City, Ont. The world's no. 82-ranked show jumper is riding a less experienced horse in Ole. "This is his first year doing international events," says Underhill. "That makes it tough for an inexperienced horse to make its debut at the Olympics when he's so young." That being said, the learning curve for Ole has been steep and he has come a long way since a year ago. "He's improved so dramatically over the past six months, so I have a lot of confidence in Mac being able to pull it off even though he's on a less experienced horse," says Underhill. Her prediction: a top 15 finish.

The lowdown

It's a tough field to predict because the conditions - weather and night competitions - in Hong Kong could play a major role. "It depends how those horses react in that ring," says Underhill.

Another contributing factor will be the pressure created by the Olympics themselves. "No rider has ever been Olympic gold medallist twice, ever," says Underhill. "There's so much atmosphere with the jumps and the crowd and the fact that it's the Olympics, so that can make it a big pressure test, a pressure cooker. It depends on how the riders and horses react to that."

Underhill's prediction for Olympic gold, silver and bronze: Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Dutch rider Albert Zoer and Canada's Eric Lamaze.

If Lamaze wins an individual equestrian medal, it will be the first time for Canada since Michel Vaillancourt won silver at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.