By US Equestrian Communications Department
Tokyo, Japan – The U.S. Jumping Team has qualified for the Jumping Team Final to be held on Saturday, August 7, beginning at 7:00 p.m. JST/ 6:00 a.m. EDT at Equestrian Park in Tokyo, Japan. The team finished the Team Qualifier competition in fifth place, earning their spot in tomorrow night’s final, with the top ten teams advancing.They will begin tomorrow night on a clean-slate score of zero, as the scores from this evening’s qualifier do not carry over to the team final.
Laura Kraut and Baloutinue led the team as the first combination to test the Santiago Varela (ESP) track and finished with four faults in a time of 80.78 seconds. Jessica Springsteen and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve secured another strong ride for the team, crossing through the timers in 80.67 seconds with only four faults. The anchor combination of McLain Ward and Contagious ensured the team would return for the second round of competition, finishing in 83.03 seconds with four faults and a single time fault. The new format saw a range of scores from the participating teams, ultimately with the U.S. finishing in the top five of 19 teams who contested the course.
Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) and Baloutinue, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by St. Bride’s Farm, needed to provide a strong foundation for the rest of the team to build on and the duo did just that. The track suited Baloutinue’s style and allowed the pair to position the team off with a strong start, only adding four faults to their score.
“He jumped beautifully. I had said when I walked the course that I thought it could be the bogie jump of the night and I myself probably could have gotten him six inches closer to it, and if I could do it again that’s what I’d do, but other than that he didn’t touch a jump and he did everything I asked of him, so I’m really happy,” said Kraut. “The objective today is to get in tomorrow and pull out all of the stops then.”
In her Olympic debut for the U.S. Jumping Team, Springsteen (Colts Neck, N.J.) and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion owned by Stone Hill Farm, looked sharp and competitive. The pair, who just barely missed qualification for the Individual Final earlier in the week, made sure to make the most of their time in the arena at Equestrian Park and secured a second solid effort for the team.
“I thought my horse jumped beautifully. I was thinking for the time allowed a little bit and I just needed to regroup before that last line, but I’m thrilled with the way he’s jumping,” said Springsteen. “I had a lot more nerves today as opposed to the first day. I want to make everyone at home proud and have a good performance for my teammates and I think we’re sitting in a good spot heading into tomorrow.”
Familiar with the pressure of being the anchor rider for the team, Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Contagious, a 12-year-old Deutches Sportpferd gelding owned by Beechwood Stables LLC, were impressive in their competition debut after being subbed in specifically for the team competition. With the new format, Ward and Contagious delivered, ultimately helping to punch the team’s ticket to tomorrow’s highly contested team final.
“My horse felt great. This was a new challenge for Contagious and me. We’ve been on the ice for the better part of four weeks and his last show was Rotterdam, which was over a month ago. Over the last ten days I think I’ve maybe jumped eight or nine jumps and to jump at this level is a real challenge,” said Ward. “He was right there with me and I’m proud of Contagious for stepping up. When I originally got the ride on him, I didn’t know if he was an Olympic horse, and he has proved that he’s capable at this level.”
The team is primed and ready for what will be an intense battle for team medals tomorrow with several strong teams also vying for positions on the podium. Feeling positive after tonight’s class, Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland commented on how pleased he is with the way the team’s strategy is playing out.
“The plan is working so far. We went into tonight looking for three solid rounds and we wanted to come in fresh, and also know that this is the first of potentially three rounds, specifically if we are fortunate enough to do well tomorrow and end up in a jump-off. The plan was to not leave too much on the table and I think that’s what happened tonight,” said Ridland. “I thought all three riders rode great and all three horses looked fresh and jumped great. There were three solid rounds and we easily qualified, so we have a good order tomorrow. We’re in good shape and it’s exactly what I was hoping would be the case for us heading into the final day.”
The Jumping Team Finals for medals will begin at 7:00 p.m. JST/6:00 a.m. EDT tomorrow, August 7.