Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Aug. 14, 2016 – The world’s best show jumping athletes kicked off competition at the 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday morning with the first qualifier in front of a packed house. The riders for the United States came out strong, with all four athletes delivering solid performances over the technical track.
The first qualifier narrows the individual field from 75 competitors to 60, and faults determine the order of go for the teams, but all teams automatically advance. On Tuesday, the first leg of the team competition will begin, and all of the teams will start on a score of zero, however individual scores will carry over towards qualifying for Friday’s individual final.
Kent Farrington was the first to go with Voyeur, owned by Amalaya Investments, and they were the pathfinders for the U.S. team, leaving all the rails intact as they sailed home for a clear round.
“It’s a good start,” he noted. “I think we still have a long way to go towards winning some medals, but we’re off on the right foot, so that always feels good. It’s good for confidence and a good boost for the rest of the team.”
Farrington added, “I think it’s a pretty technical course for the first day, not massive in size. I know that horse very well, and that’s part of my role as being a leadoff rider. I know my horse very well, and that’s one of my strengths—that I know what I want to do with him, and have a plan and stick to it.”
The last line, a scopey double combination with a steady five strides to the final vertical, caused problems for many of the riders, and the United States ended up being no exception.
Lucy Davis was second to go for the U.S. with Old Oak Farm’s Barron, and the pair was having a super round until the very last fence, when they lowered the height of the back rail for 4 faults.
“It’s a difficult line and a lot of horses are kind of sticking at that double,” explained Davis. “It’s riding really scopey and technical. Normally my horse is really careful, but he’s also really brave and I wanted to make sure that he was really getting across that. In hindsight, I probably rode it a little stronger than I needed to. That was enough to have that steady five to the last get a little too steady for me. I am really pleased with the round though, and not too upset with that rail. To have any rails on course, that one was perfect, because it was the last and now he’ll be extra ready for the next days!”
At just 23 years old, this marks Davis’ first Olympic experience and she is excited to join the teammates that were with her during the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG). She noted, “My trainer Markus [Beerbaum] told me right before I went in, ‘Don’t forget to enjoy the moment.’ I think that was the perfect thing to say, because I’ve worked really hard and my horse has worked really hard and everyone around us worked really hard to get here, and it’s a pretty special moment. I just went in really calm after that and my horse was jumping out of his skin.
“I think in France [WEG 2014] I was obviously two years younger, two years less experienced,” added Davis. “It was my first championship, and the first day there went way worse than the first day here, so I’d like to think that I at least improved on that level. It’s great to have the same team because it’s a really good group. After my round they were happy and that meant a lot to me.”
The final line would also prove problematic a few rounds later, this time for McLain Ward and HH Azur, owned by Double H Farm and Francois Mathy. The pair had the first part of the combination down for 4 faults, but Ward knew that an error today was not something to get too hung up on.
“I was very happy with Azur,” he expressed. “She jumped amazing as always. I kind of purposely left her a little fresh today. It’s a long week and we know the temperature is going up, so she was maybe a little bit aggressive after the water and took a little too much for granted the double. The horses are hanging at it; it’s a bit of an awkward approach. It was a very light rub and she jumped beautifully. Sometimes an unlucky rail early is a blessing.”
Beezie Madden rounded out the day for the United States with Cortes ‘C’, owned by Abigail Wexner. This time it was not the final line that proved problematic. A light tap on one of the blocks of a wall after the open water earned the pair 4 faults, but with the rest of the round going well Madden was happy with the final result.
“I had to ride the water a little strong because he was holding off of it a little and I think I took for granted that he would back up at the wall,” said Madden. “He did actually on the replay, but he clipped it coming down, so I think he stalled a little and I turned him a little in the air. It’s probably not a bad thing for Tuesday.
“I feel very good,” she concluded. “It’s always a good feeling to get the first round out of the way. I think on a whole it was a very good round. He jumped really well and I am happy with where he is right now.”
The first team qualifier will get underway at 9 a.m. on Tuesday. The U.S. Show Jumping Team finished in a four-way tie for eighth place after Sunday’s first qualifier, and will have a draw in the middle of the pack. Live results can be found at https://www.rio2016.com/en, or follow the USET Foundation on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/USETFoundation.