I was so over-stimulated after Canada’s silver medal last night that I just couldn’t focus enough to write anything here. I don’t know how those Canadian riders managed to stay so composed under pressure yesterday – especially the last two for the team, Hawley and Steph. I could hardly watch Steph’s round – I covered my face and peeked out between fingers. She was annoyed at herself for having a rail – Ollie is a very good jumper and she told me afterward that was probably only his second or third rail ever in competition. But in the end it didn’t matter. Canada could not have caught the Brits, and Steph would not have finished better than fourth individually even if she had gone clear – I hope she doesn’t lose any sleep over that. She did so much right last week – as did all the Crazy Canucks – that a silly little rail is not worth fretting over. Rebecca also seemed disappointed about her stadium round, but her achievement with such a young and green horse was enormous – not to mention the time she lost recovering from her fall in March. I’m so in awe of that. Selena and Hawley both rode terrific clear rounds, and Selena was doubly relieved because Colombo is not always the very cleanest of jumpers.
But before I say even one more adoring word about the Canadian girls, let me just say how much I love Kyle – the token male on the team – and how thrilled I was to see him win a medal. He must be the most patient dressage rider in the world. I’m sure very few people would have the tact and perseverance to keep working at Madison Park’s ability to keep his head screwed on in the dressage. The horse more than compensates on cross country of course. In the press conf Kyle said the single most meaningful thing he could have when the team was asked what they thought this medal would do for the sport in Canada. He said that the riders all hoped the medal would motivate more owners to support the riders with horses. Not one of the six Canadians here could say they have enough upper level horse flesh in their stables. I know you are out there, you rich folks who enjoy top sport. Throw these fine, hard working lads and lassies a bone and buy them some horses. Event horses are cheap compared to dressage horses and jumpers. Pretty please?
Those of you who followed the eventing closely may be wondering what happened to Jessica Phoenix and Exponential. I happened to see them through the lake complex. Exponential is the other greenie in the group; like Riddle Master, he was galloping around his first four star (and what a four star it was). He took a tremendous leap into the water from the bounce bank and lost his front end on landing, submerging his head and stumbling very hard. His miraculous recovery is matched only by Jessica’s. I don’t know how she did it but she got back in the tack as he scrambled underneath her. It was as close to a fall as it gets without actually being one. Jessica even managed to give the air a punch with one fist as she galloped away. They went on to go clear, but a slight injury kept him out of the ring on Sunday. The Canadian riders confirmed that he is going to be fine.
After all the cock ups and persistent rumours of being millions in the hole (bankruptcy is to be declared the day after the closing ceremonies according to one very unconfirmed source), cross country day was the first day to go really well. And so it should. All that Rolex experience has to count for something. Which is why it’s so puzzling that they haven’t got the traffic figured out. The numbers on cross country day were almost identical to those at Rolex in 2008, at 50,000. Does it always take hours to clear the parking lots from this place? When we left the venue on Friday night – well over an hour after the medal ceremonies for the freestyles – the parking lot looked very much like it had during the competition: full. The only difference was that the cars were all running and had assembled in snaking lines. We sat for almost an hour just to reach the road. I heard reports of much longer waits for people who had left earlier than we did. Patience may be a virtue but it’s not one of mine. I hope Thrifty doesn’t notice the bite marks in the steering wheel when I return the car. I’m getting my revenge though – I haven’t paid for the $20 fee for parking in days (a little whining and a flash of credentials works wonders) and today I successfully bullshitted my way to the media lot which is right outside the gate but was made available only to the high priests of journalism. I’m a long way down that pecking order.
The show jumping started today, and even if I hadn’t known it I would have guessed it as soon as I stepped onto the property this morning. The whole atmosphere changes when the jumpers arrive – more frenetic, more party-ish, more wild. There were lots of cheap rails from some of the stars (Hickstead included) in the speed class, though America’s newest citizen, Mario Deslauriers, laid down the winning ride, even beating Sapphire. I have to say it really sticks in my craw to hear that Quebecois-inflected voice speak about how wonderful it is to be an American.