On Top of the World; US Show Jumpers Win Team Gold at 2008 Olympic Games
RELEASE: August 18, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Joanie Morris
Hong Kong, China – A jump-off between the United States and Canada decided the Team Gold medal tonight at Sha Tin.
Gold for the USA (Shannon Brinkman)
Two countries, tied on a score of 20, after two rounds.
The US won.
In the Olympic rules, all team members return to the ring to jump-off. Canada began the evening a horse down because Mac Cone withdrew Ole. This meant that they did not get to drop a score.
Under the watchful eye of Chef d'Equipe George Morris, McLain Ward led it off again for the US on Sapphire. He jumped a masterful clear.
Canadian Jill Henselwood had one down with Special Ed.
Laura Kraut on a horse that even she thought might not be here because he was so inexperienced, repeated Ward’s effort with Cedric and slowly the misfortune of Team USA over the last two weeks began to lift.
As expected the next Canadian, Eric Lamaze, jumped clear with Hickstead.
The pressure was on Will Simpson… and he delivered with Carlsson vom Dach.
Three clear for the US meant that Canadian Ian Miller and anchor rider for the US, Beezie Madden, didn’t have to jump as they couldn’t be beaten.
“I can’t believe it,” said Kraut after they won. “The Canadians really made us work for it.”
The Norwegians win bronze in a very consistent effort.
The night got started off with Ward having four faults with 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, Sapphire, owned by Blue Chip Bloodstock, Ward and Tom Grossman. She is consistently brilliant. The mare’s score is four after three rounds. The 2004 Team Gold medalists from Athens jumped a brilliant first round, just putting a foot in the water on the landing side in the first round.
“She jumped phenomenal,” said Ward after the first round. “The water caused a lot of trouble and she just put a foot on the tape. I was a little slow to it and didn’t have enough momentum. I was a little slow, it was my fault. You can’t fault her.”
Kraut and 10-year-old Cedric were next in the ring for the USA and the grey Dutch gelding seems to be thoroughly enjoying his first Olympic experience. At only 15.2 hands, Cedric (owned by Happy Hill Farm) jumped clear in the first round after having the very last fence down last night.
“Each night he’s been more relaxed, and I’ve been more relaxed,” said Kraut.
Tonight, the pair was incredible. The least experienced horse on the team delivered big time.
“He couldn’t have been better,” said Kraut. “I was worried about the Liverpool line and I actually didn’t ride that very well. I stood way off it. Once I got through that I knew I just had to not make a mistake. He’s an amazing animal. I’m so excited.”
Olympic rookie Will Simpson rode El Campeon Farm’s Carlsson vom Dach to an eight fault performance. The 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding faulted at the water again but barely touched the tape. They also had the last fence down, getting down the line on eight strides instead of seven.
“I didn’t know I’d had the water,” said Simpson. “The horse didn’t know. I’m disappointed because he put in a great effort. He’s such a smart horse. He was jumping so well.”
Simpson, from Thousand Oaks, CA, is making an impression in his Olympic debut, putting in dependable performances over the first three rounds. The top three riders from each team will move forward into the final round to determine the individual medals on Thursday. Simpson finished on 16, one more than Beezie Madden.
Anchor rider Madden bounced back from an uncharacteristic performance with Abigail Wexner’s Authentic in yesterday’s first team round. The 13-year-old KWPN gelding had something bothering his head as he approached the triple and never saw the first element, running right by it. They came into tonight’s competition with 11 penalties which is very unlike him.
Tonight he was back to normal, just barely touching the tape at the water. It was these four faults that forced the jump off with Canada but Madden didn’t have to jump again. Madden has been the anchor rider for countless Nations Cup, but this time it didn’t come down to her score in the jump-off.
“I was relieved (I didn’t have to jump-off). I was just sorry I made these guyss have to jump-off.” said Madden. “I wish I had sealed it for them but it was a great feeling to have won the gold medal.”
Madden, from Cazenovia, NY, was also Ward’s teammate on the 2004 gold medal winning team.
51 horses returned to jump in the Sha Tin arena to decide the Team medals. Nine teams (the top eight scores – Germany and Australia were tied) jumped over a different course designed by Leopoldo Palacios and Steve Stephens. The Olympic Games is the only time when two different courses are used in the Nations Cup. 15 horses and riders were jumping as individuals as this class also served as the third Individual Qualifier.
Dressage freestyles take place tomorrow night at 7.15 for individual medals and the final day of show jumping (also for individual medals) is Thursday August 21.