Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – The Canadian Show Jumping Team finished fourth at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, following a jump-off for the bronze medal in the Team Final held Wednesday, August 17. Individually, 2008 Canadian Olympic Eric Lamaze of Schomberg, ON, was the only rider to post a perfect score of zero in qualifying competition to top the leaderboard heading into the Individual Final on Friday, August 19.
Yann Candele, Tiffany Foster, Amy Millar and Lamaze were tied with Germany with a total of eight faults to force a jump-off for the bronze medal following the two-round Team competition held August 16 and 17. France claimed the gold with a total of three faults while the United States took silver with five faults.
In Wednesday’s competition, Candele, 45, of Caledon, ON, was once again the pathfinder for the Canadian Show Jumping Team. Riding First Choice 15, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (For Keeps x Angard) owned by the Watermark Group, Candele made it all the way to the end of the course before dropping a rail at the final fence for four faults.
Foster, 32, of North Vancouver, BC, kept Canadian hopes alive by producing the first clear round of the Team Final riding Tripple X III, a 14-year-old Anglo European stallion (Namelus R x Cantango) owned by Andy and Carlene’s Ziegler’s Artisan Farms and Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stable.
“He was unbelievable today, he was on another level,” said Foster of her mount. “We had a lot of pressure today, and we knew a zero would go a long way. I picked up a gallop and never pulled on my reins once! I wanted to be clear, and I knew my horse could do it. He tried his heart out, and was there with me every step of the way. I’m so happy that I could produce a clear round today.”
As the third rider in the rotation, Millar, 39, of Perth, ON, picked up a total of 12 faults in the combinations at fences six and 11 riding Heros, one of only two nine-year-old horses contesting the show jumping events at this year’s Olympic Games.
The pressure was on Lamaze to deliver a clear round to keep Canada’s score to eight faults and in contention for the bronze medal. The 2008 Olympic Champion did just that, guiding Fine Lady 5 around the course fault-free with more than five seconds to spare.
With a team total of eight faults, Canada was in bronze medal position with only Brazil and Germany capable of forcing a jump-off. Brazil’s anchor rider Pedro Veniss picked up five faults riding Quabri de l’Isle to take the home side out of contention. However, four-time Olympic gold medalist Ludger Beerbaum would make no such mistake, jumping clear with Casello to tie Germany and Canada on eight faults.
Under Olympic rules, all four team members return for the jump-off with the best three scores counting. When the first three riders for the German team – Christian Ahlmann riding Taloubet Z, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum with Fibonacci, and Daniel Deusser aboard First Class – all posted perfect scores of zero, the bronze medal was secured as Canada could not drop the four faults incurred in the jump-off by Candele, despite another brilliant clear effort by Foster and Tripple X III.
“We were in a great position, and we were unlucky not to be in the medals,” said a disappointed Lamaze, who was part of Canada’s silver medal team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “Tiffany had the wall down yesterday and Yann had the last fence today. If you eliminated just one of those scores, we would have been silver. Could have, would have.
“Yesterday’s course was a bit friendlier but today was the real deal with an Olympic-calibre course and every rider at their best,” continued Lamaze. “To go clear today was a bigger task than it was yesterday. It’s hard to win a medal, but I also think we were very unlucky to be fourth. If you look at the teams we beat to be fourth, we really did our best. I’m incredibly proud of everyone’s performance.”
With the team competition finished, the top 35 riders in the individual standings, limited to three per nation, will move forward to Friday’s Individual Final. Following the first three individual qualifiers, Lamaze is alone at the top of the leaderboard, having been the only rider to produce three clear efforts. Kent Farrington of the United States, Peder Fredricson of Sweden, and Maikel van der Vleuten of The Netherlands tied for second with one fault apiece. Candele and Foster tied for 18th position with eight faults, and will both advance to the Individual Final for Canada.
All participants begin the Individual Final on a score of zero, with the top 20 qualifying for the second round where individual medals will be decided. It’s a format Lamaze is familiar with, having won the individual gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games with the legendary Hickstead. This time, his hopes are riding on Fine Lady 5.
“She’s incredible!” said Lamaze of the 13-year-old bay Hanoverian mare (Forsyth x Drosselklang II) owned by Artisan Farms in partnership with his Torrey Pines Stable. “She is possibly the smallest horse in the ring and she doesn’t have the power like some of the other horses, but she has strength and one of the biggest hearts. She has so much guts; she doesn’t know what she cannot do. She believes in herself and never questions if she can jump anything, plus she is extremely careful.
“I have to do my job and give her the right pace, but she allows you to ride her properly; she knows I can help her and she lets herself be helped,” said Lamaze of his 2016 Olympic partner. “For this little mare to be standing in this position at the top is quite something. She has yet to even exhaust herself. We are looking forward to the Individual Final.”
For more information on the equestrian events at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, visit www.rio2016.com