Canadian Olympic Team member for Eventing Jessica Phoenix of Uxbridge, ON, moved into 28th position individually following cross-country, the second of three phases comprising the Eventing competition, on Monday, July 30, at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, GBR.
Phoenix, 28, was sitting in 50th position following the opening phase of dressage, having earned a score of 54.80 penalty points. On Monday, she and Exponential, a 14-year-old Canadian thoroughbred gelding owned by Phoenix, tackled the challenging cross-country track set in Greenwich Park. Phoenix and Exponential came home with a clear jumping round, incurring only 2.4 time penalties for exceeding the optimum time of 10 minutes, three seconds.
“It was amazing!” said Phoenix of her cross-country performance. “Exponential was phenomenal. He is such a fast, good jumping horse, and I just had so much fun out there. Jumping into the second water was such an awesome feeling; he gave it such a good jump.”
Phoenix’s cross-country ride was interrupted, however, when Irish rider Camilla Speirs fell on course ahead of her.
“I think the hold on course was the biggest part,” said Phoenix, who was held for approximately 17 minutes before resuming. “I have actually been in that position with him before. He’s so good – as soon as you stop galloping, you drop the reins and he walks and chills out and calms down. We were able to stay really focused and get ready to do our jobs.”
Phoenix, the 2011 Pan American Games champion riding Pavarotti, also had the added pressure of knowing that two of her teammates had been eliminated before she headed out on course. The best three scores from the five-member team are counted towards the team standings.
“Of course you are also going to be concerned for your teammates but, at the end of the day, you are brought here to do a very specific job,” explained Phoenix. “My job on Exponential was to post a clear round and we knew that coming in, so you just keep your focus and get your job done.”
Graeme Thom, Chef d’Equipe of the Canadian Olympic Team for Eventing, said, “Jessica had a good day and only had 2.4 time penalties, which was extremely competitive. Her horse is in great shape.”
Michele Mueller, 48, of Port Perry, ON, was the only other Canadian to complete the cross-country course designed by Sue Benson of Great Britain. First out on course for the Canadian team riding Amistad, a 13-year-old chestnut thoroughbred/Belgian-cross gelding owned by Julie-Anna Pring, Mueller incurred 63.20 penalties to bring her two-day score to 120.20 penalty points.
Hawley Bennett-Awad, 35, of Langley, BC, fell at fence three riding Gin & Juice, a 12-year-old American thoroughbred mare she co-owns with Linda Paine.
“Hawley suffered a concussion, which is improving significantly,” said Mike Gallagher, President of Equine Canada. “She also suffered a stable sacral fracture. Hawley was transported to hospital by ambulance and admitted for observation and pain management. We will continue to monitor her progress.”
Peter Barry, 56, of Dunham, QC, was eliminated riding Kilrodan Abbott, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Peter, Susan and Dylan Barry. Rebecca Howard, 33, of Salmon Arm, BC, fell at fence 14b with Riddle Master, an 11-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding owned by Blithe Hill Farm, and was eliminated.
With only two of its five members completing the cross-country course, the Canadian Olympic Team for Eventing is currently ranked 12th among the 13 nations competing with a score of 1,170.40. Germany sits at the top of the leader board with a two-day total of 124.70 followed by Great Britain with 130.20 and Sweden with 131.40 penalty points.
Individually, Ingrid Klimke of Germany riding Butts Abraxxas and Sara Algotsson Ostholt of Sweden riding Wega are tied for the lead with 39.30 penalty points, followed by two-time Olympic Champion Mark Todd of New Zealand with 39.50 penalty points riding Campino.
“All and all, it was a disappointing day for us,” said Thom. “Jessica showed herself as a true professional as an individual but, as a team, we didn’t rise to the occasion. It is a big change from our strong performance at the World’s two years ago, but we will continue to move forward.”
Canada won the team silver medal at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, and had also brought home team silver from the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Often referred to as the triathlon of horse sports, Eventing is comprised of three consecutive phases. The first phase of Olympic eventing competition, dressage, was held over two days, July 28 and July 29, while the second phase, cross-country, was held July 30. Following a mandatory horse inspection, the third and final phase of competition, show jumping, will take place on Tuesday, July 31. Team medals will be decided following the first round of show jumping, while the top 25 athletes in the individual rankings, limited to a maximum of three representatives per nation, will advance to a second round of show jumping to determine the individual medals.
The Canadian Olympic Team for Eventing is supported by Coach/International Technical Advisor David O’Connor; Chef d’Equipe Graeme Thom; Veterinarian Christiana Ober; Stable Manager Deb Furnas; Farrier Randy Pawlak; Team Manager Fleur Tipton; and Therapist Jo Ann Wilson. Kerri McGregor is the Team Leader for the Canadian Olympic Team for Equestrian and Tina Collins is Assistant Team Leader. Grooms include Meghan Baillie, Dana Cooke, Natalia Gurmankin, Amanda Jones and Colleen Loach.
For more information, including results, please visit the equestrian sport section of the official 2012 London Olympic Games website at www.london2012.com/equestrian.