During the qualifier for the Olympic Team Jumping medals in Tokyo, the air was “so thick you could cut it with a knife,” as the old saying goes. Not only was the weather extremely hot and humid (the high was 92, with the temp down to 89 by the time the jumpers started, and still extremely humid), but the tension in the stadium was also palpable.
Everything was on the line for the 19 nations hoping to perform well enough to be among the top 10 to move on to the team final competition, which will be the final day of equestrian competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games. The nations competing were Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Ireland, Japan, Great Britain, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and the United States of America.
Sweden’s team was foot perfect again after stellar performances in the individual competition. All three of their riders, Peder Fredricson, Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Henrik von Eckermann, jumped clear and within the time. Notable for Sweden was that their individual silver medalist from two nights ago, Fredricson and his horse All In, have now put in 10 clean rounds over two successive Olympic Games, which is really an amazing feat!
Following close behind Sweden is the team from Belgium with all three of their riders (Pieter DeVos, Jerome Guery and Gregory Wathelet) jumping clear, but two having a few time faults. Germany’s team of Andre Thieme, Maurice Tebbel and Daniel Deusser all jumped clean as well, but all three also incurred a few time faults so they are a less than point behind Belgium. Switzerland’s team is in fourth.
The USA lies in fifth. They swapped out Kent Farrington and Gazelle and put in McLain Ward and Contagious in their roster for the team competition, while Jessica Springsteen and Don Juan van De Donkhoeve and Laura Kraut and Baloutinue remain on the squad with Ward. All three U.S. horse and rider pairs had one rail down, plus Ward had a time fault with Contagious. Still, the effort was good enough for fifth place, qualifying them for the team medal finals.
The other teams who qualified for the team final are France, Great Britain, Brazil, the Netherlands and Argentina. When the team medal final begins, all the scores start back at zero for the 10 teams that qualified.
The night ended up not going as planned for the home team, Japan, as well as Ireland, Israel and Mexico. After the first Japanese rider, Diasuke Fukushimi riding Chanyon, laid down a good trip with only one rail down, the next rider up for Japan was Koki Saito with Chilensky. However, in the warm-up arena Chilensky sustained a minor cut, but deep enough to bleed and cause concern so they had to drop out. The third Japanese rider, Eiken Sato, chose not to ride Saphyr des Lacs since their team score with only two riders would have not been enough to qualify in the top ten to move on. So, sadly for Japanese Team the Games were over.
The first rider out for Ireland tonight, Shane Sweetnam, had a very rough go when his horse, the big grey Alejandro, seemed quite rattled in the ring, met a fence awkwardly and got his feet tangled up in the rails causing both horse and rider to fall. The horse popped up and trotted around the arena and was caught by his groom. Sweetnam appeared uninjured as well, but again, the Irish Team’s hopes for a medal were dashed too.
Perhaps the scariest moment of the evening was when Israel’s second rider Teddy Vlock and Amsterdam 27 had a face-plant fall of both horse and rider at fence number 8. They took off from a very long spot, then the horse’s legs became tangled between the rails of the oxer. After a few minutes for medical personnel to check over Vlock and for grooms to attend Amsterdam, both walked out of the arena on their own. Thus the Israeli Team was out, too, since they chose not to send in their third rider.
Mexico’s team was looking stellar after Enrique Gonzalez and Chacna jumped clear and incurred only 1 time fault. Their second pair, Eugenio Garza Perez and Armani SL Z, had two refusals on course at fence number seven and were eliminated. In this case, the final Mexican rider Patricio Pasquel and Babel, did indeed choose to compete, and they had one rail and a time fault. So, they received a team score for Mexico, but it was not enough to qualify for the finals.