The US Eventing Team finished in sixth place out of 14 nations on the final day of competition with show jumping at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and ended the competition with a team total of 125.80 faults. Doug Payne and Vandiver added four jumping faults to their overall score to finish the team phase with a 43.80, and Phillip Dutton and Z added eight jumping faults to their total for a final score of 43.30. The anchor combination of Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg added a single rail to their overall total to finish on 38.70.
All three combinations finished in the top 25 and moved on to jump a second round for individual medals. Following their individual rounds, Payne and Vandiver finished as the highest-placed U.S. combination on a total of 48.20 for 16th place, Martin and Tsetserleg on a 52.30 for 20th place, and Dutton and Z with a 52.30 for 21st.
In the team competition, Payne, of Rougemont, N.C., and Vandiver, a 17-year-old Trakehner gelding (owned by Debi Crowley, Doug Payne, and Jessica Payne), jumped a great round, and barely tapped the hind rail of the oxer into the one stride combination, ultimately adding four faults to their score.
“He was jumping absolutely great and got a little shifty in the line, and we got caught out on the back rail at the red and yellow, and honestly I’m pretty frustrated at that, but he was jumping so well that I couldn’t ask a whole lot more from him,” said Payne. “He’s shown a lot of heart this week, and I’m just so thankful to have him.”
Dutton, of West Grove, Pa., and Z, a 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding (owned by Evie Dutton, Ann Jones, Suzanne Lacy, Caroline Moran, Simon Roosevelt, and Thomas Tierney), pulled two uncharacteristic rails around the course, to complete the team phase on 43.30 penalties. While disappointed with the round, Dutton commended Z’s effort and overall, the improvement of the team standings from the past several Olympic cycles and is looking forward to the continued growth of the program and team.
“I’m really disappointed, obviously,” commented Dutton. “He was trying really hard, and I was going to try and get down to the triple in six, and then I had to change my mind, and he had to work so hard to get out, that he had the out down and that rattled him a little bit.”
“It’s a good course, and you’ve got to be able to be on an open stride or add and you can’t try to do both,” continued Dutton. “You have to keep it all in perspective. This is certainly an improvement from the team perspective for the U.S. for a while now, and we had aimed for higher, but we hit the board.”
As the final combination in the show jumping rotation for the US Eventing team in Tokyo, Martin, of Cochranville, Pa., and Tsetserleg, a 14-year-old Trakehner gelding (owned by Christine Turner, Tommie Turner, and Thomas Turner), edged the same rail as Payne and Vandiver to add four faults to their score. Martin was proud of the round with “Thomas” as the jumping phase is notably his toughest phase, and he jumped well with Martin in the irons.
“I thought my horse came out and jumped very well,” said Martin. “He’s always a bit tricky in combinations, and I was dreading that red-and-yellow one-stride oxer to vertical, and I think in hindsight I got there a touch too early, and he just nicked it with a toe, so saying that I’m pretty pleased with him all around. He’s a great horse and tries hard, and he’s a champion.
With a sixth-place finish, the team felt the sting of being unable to deliver a podium finish, but overall, the improvement and depth of the team is something to be built upon with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games on the horizon. Chef d’Equipe Erik Duvander felt the team had the opportunity to reach the medals if things had gone more their way, but overall, the improvement and growth is something to be attested to for the future. In total, the team has been on the road for the past three-and-a-half weeks with a trip to Aachen, Germany, before their two-week stay in Tokyo, and Duvander commented on the logistics and travel associated with these Games.
“In all of my years of competing and coaching in championships in this sport, I have never experienced such an arduous trip for the horses,” said Duvander. “Our team handled the process without doubt and ultimately kept the welfare of our horses at the forefront of every decision. Our team truly showed their mettle on the cross-country yesterday. The horses gave their absolute all on the final day in show jumping and tried until the end with everything they had left.”
“Our grooms and staff who have worked so meticulously to care for these horses deserved a better result,” he continued after the US Eventing Team’s finish after show jumping at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. “It has been an extraordinary effort across the board since we left the U.S., from everyone on the long list—the reserve combinations who traveled to Germany and those who participated at the Mandatory Outing—everyone has fronted up for the U.S team and done everything within their power to support our success. I have a great belief in the future of the U.S., as I know we are on the right track.”