Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa is no stranger to success, having claimed double gold at last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta (INA), and the three-time Olympian has put down a strong marker for the home side by taking the early lead after today’s dressage phase at the Ready Steady Tokyo test event.
Riding the talented Bart L JRA, previously ridden by Frenchman Matthieu Lemoine on the gold medal team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Oiwa earned top marks from all three judges to lead the field on a mark of 24.5. The 43-year-old has been based in Europe for almost 20 years, but his heart lies in Japan.
“I’m a home country rider and I’ve been based in Europe for the last 18, 19 years”, he said after his dressage performance at the Equestrian Park this morning. “So many people are supporting and helping me, but they’ve never seen what I’m doing, so this is a very very good chance to show what I’m doing and what this sport is about. Hopefully, we can do the best performance and all the Japanese people do their best and get medals.”
Among a star-studded cast, Australia’s triple Olympic team gold medalist Andrew Hoy is 3.2 penalties adrift in second with Bloom Des Hauts Crets, fractionally ahead of Germany’s double Olympic champion Michael Jung on Fischerwild Wave with 28.0.
The top five are all under 30 penalties, with Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima and Vick Du Gisors JRA fourth on 28.2 and Germany’s Peter Thomsen with Horseware Nobleman fifth with 29.50.
Kuzuma Tomoto is another of the contingent flying the flag for Japan and he sits in sixth with Tacoma d’Horset on 30.4, a single point but three places ahead of his trainer, British legend William Fox-Pitt with Summer At Fernhill.
The Japanese athletes are increasingly a force to be reckoned with, finishing fourth and just out of the medals at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (USA). Looking ahead to Tokyo 2020, Tomoto commented: “Our team is really tough and has got strong quickly. We’re aiming to get a medal, that’s why we have to improve more and more. We have lots of nice riders so we can do it for sure.”
Final horse into the arena, GHS Calvaruise ridden by Kazuya (JPN), has now been withdrawn after placing last of the 17 starters in today’s dressage on 40.8. The rest of the horses have been transported to the stables at Sea Forest where they will spend the night before tomorrow’s cross-country.
Derek Di Grazia’s 3,025 meter track incorporates 20 fences with 31 jumping efforts, but the American designer is giving nothing away about his track for the 2020 Games. Even so, the 20 National Olympic and Paralympic Committees that are onsite for the official observers' program are making the most of the opportunity to see the terrain at Sea Forest and test the facilities at both venues.
On Wednesday, the action returns to the equally stunning new facilities at Baji Koen, site of the Olympic equestrian events at the 1964 Tokyo Games, for Wednesday’s final show jumping phase.
The Baji Koen refurbishment has been funded independently by the Japan Racing Association and will provide an extraordinary legacy for the residents of Tokyo, as will the park that will be created on the reclaimed land at Sea Forest, which also hosts rowing and canoe sprint next year.
Ready Steady Tokyo equestrian test event (placings after dressage):
1, Japan’s Bart L JRA (Yoshiaki Oiwa), 24.5;
2, Australia’s Bloom Des Hauts Crets (Andrew Hoy), 27.7;
3, Germany’s Fischerwild Wave (Michael Jung), 28.0;
4, Japan’s Vick Du Gisors JRA (Ryuzo Kitajima), 28.2;
5, Germany’s Horseware Nobleman (Peter Thomsen), 29.50;
6, Japan’s Tacoma d’Horset (Kuzuma Tomoto), 30.4.
While Great Britain has a strong lead in the team competition at Tokyo 2020 after the second session of dressage, the USA has climbed up two places to ninth courtesy of Phillip Dutton’s score of 30.5 on Z.
The world number one Oliver Townend has put Great Britain in gold medal position after the first of three sessions of dressage at the Tokyo Olympics.
Second into the arena, Townend delivered an extremely accurate performance and did not waste a mark on the flea-bitten grey 14-year-old Ballaghmor Class to score 23.6 - the fifth-best mark by a British rider at an Olympics, according to EquiRatings.
It’s the turn of the world’s best eventing athletes to stand under the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games spotlight over the next few days as all but one of the horses presented at this morning’s horse inspection at Baji Koen Equestrian Park were confirmed for action by the Ground Jury.
And they're off! Eventing kicks off today in Tokyo (Thursday, July 29 – 7:30 p.m. ET), with the first of three Olympic dressage sessions. Competitors from 29 nations will go head to head, vying for a spot on the coveted Olympic podium.