Singapore - The Equestrian competition at the first ever Youth Olympic Games started today with the first round of the Team Competition at the Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre. The Nations Cup format is familiar (two round competition over the same course), but the similarities stop there because at this event there are six regional teams (Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America, and South America), each with five athletes; the best three scores from each of the two rounds to count. No country is allowed to have more than one athlete.
The event is contested on borrowed horses which have been in training for the past year in Australia and were brought to Singapore five weeks ago. As expected, they are a varied group, mostly thoroughbreds with a few warmbloods or even draft crosses thrown in, but all have ample jumping ability and well trained for the job at hand.
The North American team consists of Houston-based US athlete Eirin Bruheim, Dominique Shone from Vancouver, BC, Canada, Kelsey Bayley from Barbados, Alejandra Ortiz from Panama, and Juan Diego Saenz Morel from Guatemala. Perhaps the most interesting team is the one from Europe, which boasts well known Belgian rider Ludo Phillippaerts's son Nicola, and equally well known Swiss rider Thomas Fuchs' son Martin.
Australian "O" Course Designer John Valance built a fair, but challenging 1.20 meter track for today's round, which will also be jumped in Friday's final round. Seven of the 31 horses jumped clear rounds, with nine more finishing on four faults.
At the end of the first round, Australasia, Africa, and Europe are all tied with four penalties; Asia and South America are tied for fourth with 12, and North America is sixth with 16.
But the scores don't tell the whole story for the North American team. Bruheim was the pathfinder on her mount Lenny Hays, a 12-year-old TB who competed extensively in Australia in Childrens' classes. His big stride and tendency to be on the forehand was a challenge for Bruheim and four rails hit the ground.
Bayley was next in the ring for the team riding Virtuous Flare, a chestnut Thoroughbred mare. Unlucky rails at the first element of the last of two doubles and the last jump caught out Bayley, but otherwise her round went well.
The next two riders were Ortiz and Saenz Morel from Panama and Guatemala respectively. Ortiz had been adjusting to her hot Thoroughbred Sobraon Park Fancy Pants during the three practice days, so her eight fault score was a respectable result. The same was true for Saenz Morel, who has established a good relationship with his Thoroughbred gelding Little Plains, and came home with just four faults.
Shone was the anchor rider for the North American Team on the six-year-old Australian Warmblood mare Roxy Girl. Shone has a wealth of experience with young horses, and she gave her young mare a confident ride to finish with just four faults. This was an impressive result for a horse who has been jumping for less than a year.
North America will carry 16 faults into the second round, but with one round in the books on the borrowed horses, the second round will prove influential.
For more information, results and photos please visit: http://www.singapore2010.sg/public/sg2010/en/en_sports/en_26sports/en_equestrian.html
Photos: BRUHEIM Eirin of USA competes with the horse Lenny Hays during the jumping team round 1 of equestrian at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, August 18, 2010. XINHUA/SYOGOC-POOL/Duan Zhuoli
FUCHS Martin of Switzerland competes with the horse Midnight Mist during the jumping team round 1 of equestrian at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, August 18, 2010. XINHUA/SYOGOC-POOL/Duan Zhuoli