Aug 02, 2021

Julia Krajewski Becomes First Female Individual Olympic Eventing Champion

Julia Krajewski. Photo Copyright © FEI/EFE/Kai Försterling

Eventing has its first female Olympic champion after Julia Krajewski won individual gold for Germany at Tokyo 2020.

The 32-year-old, for so long in the shadow of her title-winning team-mates Michael Jung and Ingrid Klimke, punched in two perfect rounds of showjumping, adding just 0.4 of a time-fault in both the cross-country and the second round of jumping to her dressage score of 25.2.

It means that the Germans have won the individual Olympic title four times in a row - Heinrich Romeike took it in 2008, and then Michael Jung in 2012 and 2016.

Krajewski rode Amande De B’Neville, an 11-year-old selle Français mare she owns in partnership with Bernd Heicke. “Mandy”, as she is known at home, had only done two CCI4*-L competitions prior to this, but, when Krajewski’s much-medalled Samourai Du Thot was retired earlier this year, the mare stepped up, won Saumur and was selected for the German team.

Julia Krajewski and Amande De B’Neville. Equestrian Media Services Photo

She said: “I’m super proud of my horse. I’m relieved and happy that I made it happen. I’m very thankful to everyone who’s been with me all the way.

“For some time I thought the Olympics would happen without me – and that was fine. Then going to Saumur and winning there, and feeling that ‘Mandy’ really stepped up a level and could deliver something big, I thought ‘maybe I’ve got a little chance of going.”

“After the cross-country, I was fairly positive we could finish well because she’s such a good jumper and I thought, ‘if it goes wrong, it’s all in your hands.' Before we went in, I said ‘Mandy, we’re going to get it and I think she knew it was a special day.”

“I’ve got such a belief in my horse and obviously I felt some pressure, but I really didn’t think it’s about an Olympic gold now, I thought ‘we’re going to get a great round – it’s like jumping at home’. Then when I finished I thought, ‘ok, now it’s Olympic gold’.”

Tom McEwen, who had already secured team gold with Great Britain, showed exceptional coolness to deliver two showjumping clears, with 0.4 of a time-penalty in the second, to take individual silver on Toledo De Kerser.

Tom McEwen and Toledo De Kerser took the individual silver medal. Equestrian Media Services Photo

And in bronze, the only person to complete on their dressage score, was Australia’s eight-times Olympian, Andrew Hoy. His two showjumping clears were never in doubt, with Vassily De Lassos soaring over the fences and powering on between them. This, combined with the team silver he had led the Aussies to a couple of hours earlier, means Hoy, 62, has six Olympic medals - three team golds, one team silver, one individual silver, and now an individual bronze.

Hoy said: “We got Vassily De Lassos on 13 May 2017 – the day that Stephanie and I got married. I got him from [French rider] Tom Carlile, and it’s been an absolute joy for me to work with this horse every day – every day when I finish working with him, I have a smile on my face.

“He’s very clever, he’s very quick and he’s got a very calm mind – I ride him with exactly the same bit and bridle for the dressage, the cross-country, in the showjumping, with no running martingale and we’ve just got this wonderful relationship. He’s got Anglo-Arab in him and so he just runs and jumps, which definitely helps him and he helps keep me young.”

Andrew Hoy and Vassily De Lassos rode to bronze position. Equestrian Media Services Photo

Fourth, only just off the podium, was Japan’s own Kazuma Tomoto, whose extraordinary journey from never having jumped a cross-country fence to oh-so-nearly a medal at his home Olympics will hopefully make headlines. It was a magnificent performance. Having knocked one pole down in the first round of showjumping, Vinci De La Vigne rose to the occasion in the second and the pair were clear with 0.4 of a time-fault. What a shame the Olympic stands weren’t full of excited Japanese spectators cheering their hero on.

Nothing has quite gone the U.S. team’s way this week, and this final round of show jumping continued that trend. Doug Payne and Vandiver, the 17-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall II x Visions of Grandeur) owned by the rider, Jessica Payne, and Debi Crowley, third of the three all the way until now, did very well just to hit the second part of the double at 7b and finish one second over the time. That was the best performance of the trio in this round and gave them eventual 16th place, with Boyd Martin and Phillip Dutton behind them in 20th and 21st respectively.

“What’s left to say about this horse’s heart?” asked Payne. “He helped Team USA finish sixth with the best team result since the Athens Olympics. While always looking for ways to improve, now is the time to reflect and be thankful for what has just happened.”

Tsetserleg, the Turner family's 14-year-old Trakehner gelding (Windfall x Thabana) collected 13.6 faults under Martin - they faulted at the first two elements of the treble (5a and b), and then at the penultimate oxer, fence 8. Like so many in this round, they also picked up time-faults - in their case 1.6.

Martin said: “Of all the horses I’ve been lucky enough to ride, ‘Thomas’ is just such a trier. What he lacks a little bit in natural talent he absolutely makes up with his heart and desire, and having a horse that digs deep for you when the going gets tough is priceless.”

Dutton looked rueful as he left the arena on Z, 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Asca x Bellabouche) owned by Thomas Tierney, Simon Roosevelt, Suzanne Lacy, Anne Jones, and Caroline Moran; having rattled the first part of treble, they then found the two strides tight from the oxer to the upright second part and had that and then the third element down, plus 2.8 time-faults.

He said: “While our final day here in Tokyo didn’t go to plan, Z tried really hard and we did our best. I’d like to thank his owners for making this opportunity possible.

“Unfortunately, I think Z really was feeling the effects of yesterday. He didn’t jump quite as well as I would have liked to have done, but I was very proud to be a part of this team with Boyd Martin and Doug Payne and the horses we had. We live to fight another day!”

The individual medal winners. Equestrian Media Services Photo

Britain’s Oliver Townend and the lovely flea-bitten son of Courage II, Ballaghmor Class, had been in individual gold position overnight. However, one rail down in the first round moved them into silver, and they hit fence two in the second to drop down to fifth place.

Townend stayed ahead of France’s former double European champion Nicolas Touzaint, who jumped one of only two clear rounds inside the time in the second round. This moved him and 11-year-old Absolut Gold up to sixth; an impressive climb from their starting position of 32nd after dressage. This was 41-year-old Touzaint’s best Olympic performance in three Games appearances, beating his eighth place on Galan de Sauvagère at Athens in 2004.

His French teammate Christopher Six excelled at his first Olympics, and the scopey grey Totem De Brecey followed up his first-round clear with just four faults at the third part of the treble combination. Considering France lost what might have been thought their “A team” when first Rio team gold and individual silver medallist Astier Nicolas’s horse was injured, then the highly experienced Thibault Valette and finally, before the first horse inspection, Tom Carlile and Birmane, they did superbly to take the team bronze medal.

The great Michael Jung, individual Olympic champion in London and then Rio, led the dressage on Chipmunk. An 11-penalty score for breaking a frangible device across country put paid to his chances of a third title, and, after a world-class clear in the first round of showjumping, 13-year-old Chipmunk just knocked the second part of the double down this time for eighth place, one ahead of Britain’s Laura Collett. She and London 52 looked fantastic until getting a bit flat and fast and dropping the last two fences for eight faults.

There is irony in the fact that Julia Krajewski rode Chipmunk at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, and, after they had a stop across country, the horse went to Michael Jung. In fact, all of the highly intelligent and articulate Krajewski’s senior championship performances have been disastrous until now.

Aged only 22, she retired across country when riding as an individual at the 2011 Europeans in Luhmühlen when her Tokyo teammates, Michael Jung and Sandra Auffarth, took gold and silver. Five years later she was eliminated across country at the Rio Olympics, and then a positive test for a controlled substance meant that she lost the Germans their team silver from the 2017 European Championships in Strzegom. Then Tryon didn’t go to plan, as explained, so this brilliant performance has been a long time coming.

Women first rode in eventing at the Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, and it seems fitting that the one honor in the sport that has so far eluded them, individual gold, was theirs in Tokyo 57 years later.

Click here to view the final results.

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