Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - U.S. Olympic Eventing Team member Phillip Dutton capped off three days of brilliant riding by winning the Individual Bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games. Dutton finished on a score of 51.80. Michael Jung of Germany won the Individual Gold medal for the second consecutive time and Nicolas Astier of France took home the Silver medal.
The energy and excitement for the final day of the eventing competition washed over the Olympic Equestrian Center at Deodoro on Tuesday. There were 45 athlete-and-horse combinations that contested Guilherme Jorge's show jumping course that determined the team medals and the 25 individuals who would advance to the individual finals. Dutton and Boyd Martin, who sat in fifth and sixth, respectively, following cross-country, rode well in the first round, both qualifying for the finals. Dutton was in strong medal position, moving up to fourth entering the final.
Jorge's first show jumping course was open and inviting, although a combination fence at the beginning and a triple toward the end of the course caused many unnerving moments as rails danced out of the jump cups. Costly rails and time faults shifted the team standings and final positions on the podium. When all was done, France took home the Team Gold medal with a final score of 169.00, Germany secured the Silver with a score of 172.80, and Australia won the Bronze with a score of 175.30. With only two riders completing the cross-country phase, the U.S. team finished in 12th place overall.
In the first round, Dutton (West Grove, Pa.) and HND Group's Mighty Nice took advantage of the turns and gave a professional performance, adding only one time fault and no jumping penalties. This secured his advancement into the finals and put him in medal contention in fourth place with a score of 47.80.
"He jumped great," said Dutton after that first round. "He bumped his stifle and was not quite as loose as he usually is. My curb chain let go as I was coming to the first fence, not an ideal way to start, but he jumped beautifully."
With the team medals decided, the final individual round began with a course consisting of nine fences. Dutton's final round with Mighty Nice was strong but not clean as a rail down came down at fence 4c giving them a final score of 51.8. They would need faults from those ahead of them to make it to the medal podium. When Australia's Christopher Burton on Santano II, the leader following cross-country, dropped rails at the final two fences, Dutton was boosted onto the podium for the Bronze medal to go along with the two team Gold medals he won for his native Australia in 1996 and 2000.
"It's been a great weekend for the horse. It's a great achievement for him. The guy who owned him, Bruce Duchossois, would be proud of him," said Dutton. "I was happy with fourth but ecstatic with third! It was a grand achievement, although a disappointing day for the team yesterday. So we just had to get up and do our best today. I'm so pleased with the horse; I don't think I've had a horse with a bigger heart. He genuinely loves the sport."
Martin (Cochranville, Pa.) and Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate LLC's Blackfoot Mystery also rode well in the individual qualifying round and were able to secure a spot in the individual finals. Dropping rails at fences 6 and 7, they finished with a three-phase score of 58.90 and entered the individual finals in seventh place overall.
The final round proved troublesome for Martin and Blackfoot Mystery as they had rails down at fences 4b, 5, and the wall at the final fence, number 9. The three rails down dropped Martin to 16th place with a final score of 70.90.
"Obviously I wanted to jump a bit better," Martin said. "He was a little bit tired yesterday and, to be quite honest, I think I overrode the first rail (in round one) and tried too hard to make him jump it clear and shut his jump down a little bit. The last pole he had he just felt a little bit tired and weary. He really gave 110% yesterday, so he's not quite as fresh as he usually is, but he still did gut it out in there today."
"It's disappointing but I have to say this horse tried so hard all weekend. He just had nothing left in the last round. He'll get stronger and I think it's still an impressive result. I am very pleased for Phillip. That was huge effort. What a legend!"
In winning his second consecutive Individual Gold medal, Michael Jung of Germany, riding Sam FBW, ended on his dressage score of 40.90, the only rider to do so. Astier Nicolas of France, riding Piaf De B'Neville, took Silver with a score of 48.0.
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