July 29, 2012, London, England - Hawley Bennett-Awad of Langley, BC, is the highest-placed member of the Canadian Olympic Team for Eventing, holding down 31st position following the conclusion of dressage, the first of three phases comprising the Eventing competition at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, GBR.
Bennett-Awad, 35, completed the dressage phase on Saturday, July 28, riding Gin & Juice, a 12-year-old American thoroughbred mare she co-owns with Linda Paine, to score 48.70 penalty points.
Teammate Rebecca Howard of Salmon Arm, BC, competed on Sunday, July 29, with Riddle Master, and is currently tied for 34th position with a score of 50.60 penalty points following dressage.
"Riddle Master was actually quite good considering this was his first time in this situation," said Howard, 33, of the 11-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding owned by Blithe Hill Farm. "He was good in warm-up, but got a little behind me in the ring."
Jessica Phoenix of Uxbridge, ON, also competed on Sunday, earning a score of 54.80 penalty points to tie for 50th position. Like Howard, Phoenix is also riding a Canadian-bred horse. Exponential is a 14-year-old Canadian thoroughbred gelding owned by Phoenix.
"Exponential was incredible!" said Phoenix. "That's the best he's ever performed in the ring in his life, and I'm so thankful that he picked this event to do it.
"He went into the ring and he just completely pumped up with the crowd, and then I could clearly communicate with him and he just completely relaxed and did his job," continued Phoenix who is the current Pan American Games Champion, having claimed the individual gold medal in Guadalajara, Mexico, last year riding Pavarotti. "I could not have been happier with him."
Michele Mueller, 48, of Port Perry, ON, earned a score of 57 penalty points to place 56th following her dressage test riding Amistad, a 13-year-old chestnut thoroughbred/Belgian-cross gelding owned by Julie-Anna Pring. Peter Barry, 56, of Dunham, QC, is currently ranked 67th in the individual standings with 61.70 penalty points riding Kilrodan Abbott, a 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Peter, Susan and Dylan Barry.
Counting the best three scores from the five-member team, the Canadian Olympic Team for Eventing is currently ranked 11th overall with a score of 154.10 penalty points among the 13 nations contesting the team medals. Germany leads the way with 119.10 penalty points, followed by Australia in second with 122.10 and Great Britain in third with 127.
Individually, Yoshiaki Oiwa of Japan currently sits at the top of the leader board with 38.10 penalty points riding Noonday de Conde. Italy's Stefano Brecciaroli is second with 38.50 riding Apollo vd Wendi Kurt Hoeve while two-time Olympic Champion (1984 and 1988) Mark Todd of New Zealand is third after scoring 39.10 penalty points with Campino.
With only the first of three phases of Eventing competition completed, the leader board may change following Monday's cross-country phase. Great Britain's own Sue Benson has designed a course over Greenwich Park's hilly terrain that features 28 fences with 39 jumping efforts.
"The cross-country course looks amazing," said Phoenix. "I'm am really thankful that our team was down in Virginia for three weeks preparing on that mountain, because I think we need a lot of fit horses. We have great jumpers, so we're really excited for tomorrow."
Bennett-Awad is also eager to tackle the cross-country portion of the Eventing competition.
"I think the first six minutes are going to be quite twisty, turning and hilly," said Bennett-Awad of the cross-country course, which has an optimum completion time of 10 minutes and three seconds. "I will probably be down on the time at six or seven minutes, but I am hoping to be able to make it up on the top half. Being on a fit little thoroughbred, it should play to my advantage. I'm ready!"
Often referred to as the triathlon of horse sports, Eventing is comprised of three consecutive phases. The first phase of Olympic eventing competition, dressage, was held over two days, Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 29. The second phase, cross-country, will be held Monday, July 30, while the third and final phase of competition, show jumping, will take place on Tuesday, July 31. Team medals will be decided following the first round of show jumping, while the top 25 athletes in the individual rankings, limited to a maximum of three representatives per nation, will advance to a second round of show jumping to determine the individual medals.
The Canadian Olympic Team for Eventing is supported by Coach/International Technical Advisor David O'Connor; Chef d'Equipe Graeme Thom; Veterinarian Christiana Ober; Stable Manager Deb Furnas; Farrier Randy Pawlak; Team Manager Fleur Tipton; and Therapist Jo Ann Wilson. Kerri McGregor is the Team Leader for the Canadian Olympic Team for Equestrian and Tina Collins is Assistant Team Leader. The grooms for the team include Amanda Jones, Dana Cooke, Natalia Gurmankin, Colleen Loach and Meghan Baillie.
For more information, including results, please visit the equestrian sport section of the official 2012 London Olympic Games website at www.london2012.com/equestrian.
Photos: Canadian Olympic Team members for Eventing Rebecca Howard and Jessica Phoenix competed in the opening phase of dressage on Sunday, July 29, at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Photo Credits - Cealy Tetley, www.tetleyphoto.com