Team Show Jumping
|Credentials||The Germans are the reigning Olympic champions. They placed third at the 2006 world championships and second at the 2007 Continental Championships. Members of the team include the no. 1 and no. 4 ranked riders in the world in Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Ludger Beerbaum.|
|Credentials||Team Canada won silver at the 2007 Pan American Games and members of the team have put up top results at Spruce Meadows this summer, including three major wins for Eric Lamaze, the world's no. 3-ranked show jumper. Canada placed 13th at the 2006 world championships.|
|Credentials||The Americans won silver at the 2004 Olympic Games, placed 2nd at the 2006 world championships and finished 3rd at the 2007 Pan American Games. The top American rider is Beezie Madden, ranked no. 6 in the world.|
|Credentials||Reigning world champions, the Dutch team is headlined by the world's no. 2 ranked rider, Albert Zoer. He broke his leg in early July so Zoer is questionable for the Olympic Games. The team won the 2007 Continental Championships.|
On a roll
Germany. The 2004 Olympic champions continue to dominate on the world stage. "They've really commanded all the nations cup series in the super league," says CBC show jumping analyst, Beth Underhill. "They've been very consistent."
On a slide
The Netherlands. The world's no. 2 ranked rider Albert Zoer broke his leg July 8, so he's questionable for the Beijing Games. "They've gone from being really the top of the game, they're reigning world champions as a team, and now they're not doing as well because they've lost a rider and a horse," says Underhill.
For North American horses, jumping under the lights during evening events in Hong Kong will be a challenge. Nighttime jumping isn't as common in North America as it is in Europe, says Underhill, and the 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
Team Canada. The Canucks have ramped up their results in recent months, especially at Spruce Meadows. "They've come on so strongly, so quickly, and the team has really gelled in the last six months and had some great results," says Underhill. "They're not as well known, particularly in Europe as being a strong contender, but I think their horses are building and peaking at the right time. They could have some strong results and really surprise people."
The team to represent Canada in Beijing is an experienced one, led by nine-time Olympian Ian Millar, who is looking for his first Olympic medal. "He has a lot of confidence in this team," Underhill says of Millar, 61. "I have a lot of confidence in Ian being the anchor and supporter of the rest of our team." Eric Lamaze is ranked no. 3 in the world, Jill Henselwood won gold at the 2007 Pan American Games and Mac Cone has recently produced top results at Spruce Meadows with an inexperienced horse. "All our riders are over the age of 40, which I think is a good thing, because they've had a lot of experience, they know what it takes, they're used to the pressure," says Underhill. Her prediction for Canada at the Olympics: bronze.
Predictions are difficult here because the question remains how much the conditions in Hong Kong - weather and night competitions - will affect the outcome. "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, England, Canada.
If the Canadian team wins an Olympic show jumping medal, it will mark the first time since 1968, when Canada won gold.