The second round of team competition ended with Canada tied with Germany for third place, but a jump-off settled the tie and Canada accepted fourth place. France earned a well-fought gold medal and despite working with a three-man team, the United States took home silver.
The day started with the announcement that Michael Whitaker’s stallion, Cassionato, had suffered a minor bout of colic overnight and had to be withdrawn. The pair had 9 faults and were tied for 42nd, so unlikely to continue into the individual final. Then the US team announced shortly before the class that Cortes ‘C’ had suffered a tendon injury during yesterday’s class and had to be withdrawn, leaving the US with a three-man team. As with the other withdrawal, this pair had accumulated 12 faults and were not likely to make the cut for the individual competition anyway.
As expected, course designer Guilherme Jorge made the course bigger today, but a very tight time allowed was also a major factor. So much so, when Yann Candele entered the ring as the first to go for Canada, there had only been one rider under the time allowed in 21 efforts. The pair were clear all the way around until the very last rail, but were under the time allowed.
“The strategy was to try not to have time faults. My horse is a fairly slow horse, so I had to take a few chances,” Candele said, and explained that being faster didn’t pay off, as it resulted in the rail. Despite the heat and humidity, he said that First Choice 15 felt good and liked his chances for qualifying for the individual.
Tiffany Foster and Triple X III were 30th in the ring and produced the very first clear round under the time allowed. “He was unbelievable today,” she enthused. “He was really, like on another level. We had a lot of pressure today, and knew that a zero would go a long way, because there are going to be a lot of ones. A zero on the board is going to be amazing for us.”
She credits competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival during the winter and Spruce Meadows this spring for giving her the right experience for competing under a tight time. “We prepare in Florida and Calgary, where we have to operate on hugely quick time alloweds – much shorter than you ever see in Europe. I think we have the advantage there, because we are used to running at that speed over big jumps and my horse in particular really loves it. Today I just picked up a gallop and I never pulled on the reins once!”
Third to go, Amy Millar and Heros were disappointed with their round, which scored 12 faults. “I can’t say I am pleased with the round, but I know what I have to work on and I am excited about the long and wonderful future I am going to have with this horse,” said Millar. Heros is one of only two nine-year-olds that made it to this round, and the gelding’s inexperience caught up with him. “I think today’s course was very, very difficult – the most difficult course my horse and I have ever seen, that’s for sure. We got caught a little bit with the lack of sophistication in the horse, because he’s so young.”
By the time Eric Lamaze entered the ring, the team needed him to be clear to remain competitive. While France and the US were the clear leaders, the fight for bronze with Germany and Brazil was alive. As the country has become accustomed, Eric and Fine Lady 5 delivered the clear round. Canada’s fate came down to the last Brazilian and German riders, the last two on course. When Pedro Veniss and Quabri de L’Isle had five faults to leave the team with a total score of 13, Canada’s hopes were alive. Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum and Casello were clear, however, forcing a jump-off for bronze.
The jump-off was to have all four riders from both teams compete in turn. Yann was first to go and dropped a rail. He was followed by Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z, who were clear. Tiffany had another clear round to keep Canada in the game, but Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Fibonacci answered with their own. Amy took her turn and a dropped rail, which left the door open for Daniel Deusser and First Class. The pair posted a clear round which delivered the bronze without the anchor riders even having to compete.
“We were for sure at a disadvantage coming into the ring against the Germans in a jump-off with the horses that we have on the team,” Eric said about the contest. ”I don’t think there’s any shame to be fourth at these Olympics.” The fourth-place finish betters the fifth-place finish at the London 2012 Games.
Horses and riders get a day of rest tomorrow, but Eric, Yann, and Tiffany will be among the top 35 to advance to the individual final on Friday.