With the dressage phase due to begin in a few hours, I’ve been musing about the likely final result. Reigning Olympic Champion Michael Jung’s incredible run of successes over many years now makes it easy to think that the Individual Gold is pretty much a formality for him, and while there’s no denying his immense talent in all 3 phases, and his rock-solid correct training and enviable horsemanship, there is a tiny chink in his armour, especially now that he is riding La Biosthetique Sam and not his first choice of mount, Fischertakinou.
Michael seems to deliberately pick really good jumpers over super movers, for all his boundless talent. His horses are beautifully trained and balanced, presented perfectly, but Sam is a case in point. Although he is the epitome of the modern event horse, and has won a formidable string of top events, his dressage would probably be his (slightly!) weakest phase. Michael has admitted that he nearly sold the horse when he was at 2*, because his dressage marks were so bad! Of course, he stuck with him and they have gone into the record books, with wins at the European Championships, WEGs, the Olympics, Luhmühlen, Badminton, and Burghley, (any Eventing Nerds who want to read his FEI results should check out this page) but in fact, at the Greenwich Olympics, he was… gasp… down in 11th after the dressage phase, pulled up to 4th after a double-clear cross-country, and up to 2nd after the first round of show-jumping, to clinch the win with another clear in the second round of SJ. He doesn’t make many mistakes (their final SJ down at Badminton 2013 was very atypical), and if he hasn’t led from the start, he inexorably climbs up the leaderboard as others incur faults.
But there are many combinations who can do awe inspiring tests on their super movers, who could head him in the dressage, and therefore (theoretically) stay ahead of him if they keep their sheets clean. Clark Montgomery with Loughan Glen for the USA. Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro for China. Kitty King and Ceylor LAN, or William Fox Pitt and Chilli Morning, for Team GB, Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo for NZ. Yoshi Oiwa, who led the dressage at Greenwich. Mark Todd, The Algottson sisters… who can forget Sara Algottson-Ostholt’s agonising last fence down at Greenwich which cost her the individual Gold? The other German riders, of course: Ingrid Klimke is a phenomenal talent, as is Sandra Auffarth and her much admired Opgun Louvo, reigning World Champions of course. So, I don’t expect Michael and Sam to lead the dressage, although I expect to see their usual flawlessly harmonious, correct and accurate test.
While the Germans are hot favourites in the Team competition, Team GB is fired up, and utterly determined to give them a run for their money, and France, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the USA are all fielding teams with enough experienced members on top mounts to have very realistic medal hopes. The XC should shake up the leaderboard, as it looks like a true test, with a plethora of skinnies, undulations, and big questions coming up fast everywhere.
It’s going to be an edge-of-seat competition from the first one cantering down the centre line, until the final show-jump is cleared (or not, as in Greenwich!) If you love our sport as much as I do, please remember to use the hashtags to try to keep it in the Olympics. #EquestrianEventing #TwoHearts #Rio2016
Rio photo by Lizzy Campbell