Aug 02, 2021

Great Britain Wins Olympic Team Gold for First Time in 49 Years

he podium - gold Great Britain, silver Australia, bronze France. Photo Copyright © FEI/EFE/Kai Försterling

The British team has won Olympic eventing gold for the first time since 1972. They topped the dressage, increased their lead considerably after cross-country, and, despite both individual leader Oliver Townend and third-placed Laura Collett both having a show jump rail down, they finished 13.9 penalties ahead of the Australians, who took silver.

Team GBR were the only ones to finish on a total score of less than 100 (86.3) - according to EquiRatings, it was the lowest team score in the history of the Olympics.

Laura Collett, Oliver Townend, and Tom McEwen. Equestrian Media Services Photo

The U.S. team finished sixth. Doug Payne and Vandiver, first to jump of the American squad, picked up four faults at the fence that had the most influence in this round, the first part of the double at 9a, the result of how the curving line from fence 8 was ridden. The 17-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II x Visions of Grandeur) is owned by the rider, Jessica Payne, and Debi Crowley.

Doug Payne and Vandiver. Equestrian Media Services

Phillip Dutton had two fences down. Z, the 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Asca x Bellabouche) owned by Thomas Tierney, Simon Roosevelt, Suzanne Lacy, Anne Jones, and Caroline Moran, fought for his head going into the treble and, while they got away with it over the first two elements, they knocked the third and then also faulted at 9a.

Phillip Dutton and Z. Equestrian Media Services Photo

Dutton said: “I’m really disappointed obviously. He [Z] was trying quite hard and I was going to get down there in six strides to the triple, and then had to change my mind. He had to work so hard to get out that he had that down, and that kind of rattled him a little bit.

“It's a good course, but you’ve just got to be on an open stride or you’ve got to add - one of the two.

“It’s a hot day and they are not at their best, because they’ve had quite a day where they really exerted themselves, but he felt fine today. Keep it all in perspective, it’s certainly been a big improvement from a team point of view for the U.S., certainly for a while now; we’re on the board and you can always try to do a bit better.

“We had a good crack at it yesterday and are doing the same today. We were aiming for more, but it’s not horrible. It’s the Olympic Games, so you’ve got to be at your best and a couple of things didn’t go right in the dressage, we had a bit of time [faults] yesterday, and then today. Everything has got to go right on the day, and we didn’t do that.”

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg, last to go of the team and the highest placed individually of the U.S. riders in 14th, also collected four faults at 9a and 0.4 of a time-fault. It was enough for Martin and the Turner family's 14-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall x Thabana) to hold on to that 14th place after this team round, and all three riders will progress to the second round, which decides the individual placings. Dutton is in the 18th spot and Payne in the 19th.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg. Equestrian Media Services

Martin said: “I thought my horse came out and jumped really, really well. He’s always a bit tricky in combinations, and I was dreading that red and yellow one-stride oxer to vertical. I think in hindsight I got there a touch too early, and he just nicked it with a toe. Saying that I’m pretty pleased with him all round; he’s a great horse and tries hard. He’s a champion.

“It’s hard - there were a lot of distances where you had to make a decision whether to go on the forward one or the steady one. This is Thomas’s hardest phase and just to have one pole down . . . Obviously in hindsight the whole weekend - I just missed every phase a little bit. It wasn’t our best performance, but it is still a good effort and something to be proud of.

“The first thing I’d say is that [team coach] Erik Duvander absolutely gave his heart and soul to making America great again; no one has sacrificed more than Erik, and to do what he’s done the last couple of years is phenomenal. I’m a competitive person and I’ve been dreaming of doing well at this, and I’ve come up a little bit short from what my hopes were. But, saying that, this is the best in the world and we’re not far off them.”

Asked about the second round of jumping, he replied: “I’ve been doing a lot of jumping training with Thomas with Peter Wylde and taking him to shows, and he jumps pretty well in the second round, but saying that we pushed him pretty hard yesterday, so hopefully he’s got some juice left in the tank.”

No team medals for the U.S. at Tokyo 2020, but three solid performances.

Andrew Hoy led the Australians into that silver team medal on possibly the best jumper in the competition, Vassily De Lassos. They will be a threat to the two above him - Britain’s Oliver Townend, in silver after Ballaghmor Class also touched 9a for four faults - and the German rider Julia Krajewski, whose foot-perfect clear on the mare Amande De B’Neville means she is in gold.

Team bronze went to France. Going into the individual final their best-placed rider Olympic newcomer Christopher Six, was sixth place behind Britain’s Laura Collett after jumping clear in the first round on Totem De Brecey. Nicolas Touzaint (Absolut Gold) was clear with 0.4 of a time-fault, and Karim Florent Laghouag had the middle part of the treble down on Triton Fontaine.

The German team finished fourth - Michael Jung put up his customary immaculate jumping display on Chipmunk, but of course it was not enough to compensate for the 11 penalties the individual leader after dressage received for breaking a frangible device across country, while Sandra Auffarth was also clear on Viamant Du Matz. They were the only team to post three clear show jumping rounds inside the time.

The New Zealand team dropped to fifth when Tim Price and Vitali messed up the approach to the treble and faulted at both the first and third elements, and then had a further fence down for 12 faults.

The mistake that dropped Laura Collett out of individual bronze was a dramatic one - London 52 appeared to spook and back off the oxer over a water tray at fence four, and clattered right through it.

She said: “Obviously I’m gutted and it’s a shame but I think it could have been a whole lot worse in that situation, so I’m just relieved that we managed to scrape it back. I think I’d have been even more annoyed if it had been an unlucky rub of a pole – I was no doubt in that fence was coming down, and luckily we didn’t come down as well.”

Tom McEwen was first to jump for the Brits, and confidence soared after he and Toledo De Kerser delivered a faultless, rock-solid clear.

McEwen said: “He felt incredible. He’s come out super-fresh again, feeling very well. He was popping away. I think he was enjoying the clicking of the cameras underneath the fence – they were making him go even higher at points! He’s class, everyone that knows eventing knows he’s a great jumper, so it’s just up to me on top.”

There were 11 clear rounds without time penalties in this round. Poor Alex Hua Tian looked fantastic for the Chinese team on Don Geniro, until the spooky chestnut slammed on the brakes at the final fence.

Click here to view the final results.

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