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Brits Jump for Joy in London

U.S. finding it difficult to gain an Olympic medal in equestrian events.

British_three-day_event

The British riders celebrate their silver medal in eventing.

Looking for some perspective on what’s going on in the Olympic Games? Horse Journal‘s Margaret Freeman is in London covering her seventh Olympics for the Associated Press. Read on for her insight into what’s gone wrong (and right) and what we can expect in dressage.

This has not been a fabulous Olympics for the U.S. so far, with no medals in three-day, a disappointing team jumping (where the U.S. had won gold for the past two games) and medals aren’t likely in dressage.  The brightest possibility is individual show jumping on Wednesday, but the best U.S. horse in the team event, ridden by Beezie Madden, didn’t qualify because of a bad first round.

On the other hand, it’s been sparkling so far for the British, and the riders here have been talking about what a boost this might give riding in general in Great Britain.  At the outset, Britain predicted (golly, predictions are always tricky where horses are involved) three or four equestrian medals here and it looks good for at least that, maybe even with two team golds after dressage.  With all the enthusiasm here, it is very easy to feel good about the British successes.

Surprisingly, the Germans haven’t looked as good as I expected they would in jumping and their team didn’t get into the final.  The Netherlands won silver in a jumpoff with the Brits and the Saudis are the big surprise here with a very solid bronze.  The Saudis all live and train in Europe, mostly Belgium, and have made a concerted effort to field their Olympic equestrian team.  Apparently the Saudis tried to purchase a couple of the horses that ended up on the British team. The Saudi riders were also saying they would welcome a woman on their team – there has been controversy here since this is the first time Saudis have had women athletes at the Olympics.  There are two here, in judo and running. One Saudi rider was recently involved in a drugging controversy but he was cleared to ride by CAS, a court that arbitrates international sport.  I think we will hear more on that front at a later time, because there was some grumbling among the riders.

I haven’t been able to get out and about at all yet in London – maybe Friday after the last equestrian event.  My London experience so far is watching the architecture slide past my bus window and trying to figure out their hard currency — the paper is clearly marked, but the larger the coin doesn’t always mean the higher the pence value.  The buildings in central London are mostly older – centuries old brick structures. The newer buildings just don’t appeal to me by contrast –mostly rounded lines, with little sense of character or permanence.  I sort of compare it to the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, built in 1870 and still going strong, while the Tappan Zee needed to be replaced at 40 years. That was a decade ago, and I used to hold my breath every time I drove across it.

Tomorrow (today depending on when you read this) is the last day of team dressage.  They are using two tests for team medals, which is a change this year, both the GP and GP Special.  The individual medals will be determined by just the freestyle.  I t looks now like the U.S. will have only Ravel and Steffen Peters in the individual competition.  The teams at the top of the standings drew separately, so the teams currently below fourth (including) are at an even greater disadvantage to move up because they go earlier in the day.

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