Greenwich, UK - Hard luck continued for the U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team as they rallied for a sixth place finish in the Team Championship at Greenwich Park. American anchor rider Rich Fellers said "Clear rounds win medals" and today that proved true as Great Britain won Team Gold for the first time since 1952. They did it in classic style in front of a home crowd of 20,000 fans, jumping off with Holland for the Gold medal. It was a masterful effort by the home team. Saudi Arabia won Bronze.
Bob Ellis' track proved incredibly tough and scopey and only eight of the 51 starters managed clear rounds. The water line, from fences three to five proved very influential. The best American effort was turned in by Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, NY) who rebounded back from a rough start to the Olympic Games on Via Volo to fault at the third to last fence, a massive oxer.
"For sure its harder without saying," said Madden. "And more technical. The water is more difficult and the double to the vertical is quite difficult... and the last three jumps are just plain old big."
Madden and Coral Reef Ranch's 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare jumped a confident effort up to that point and were in good company on four faults. "I don't think she was so much tired as just a little aggressive," said Madden of her rail. "Instead of backing up there she went at it."
Madden feels like her mare is back on track after being eliminated in the First Individual Qualifier. "She felt great," said Madden. "It felt like a normal round out there for us today."
Fellers (Wilsonville, OR) on Flexible and McLain Ward (Brewster, NY) on Antares F both go forward to the Individual final on Wednesday despite the fact that they each had eight-fault efforts in the second round of the Nations Cup. They bookended the team and Ward and Grant Road Partners 12-year-old Baden Wurtenburger gelding were unlucky to have the second fence down, followed by a mistake in the triple combination.
"I think you have to assume the horses are fatigued," said Fellers. "But mine felt ok."
Fellers and Flexible hadn't had a first-round fault since March so their two rails were a surprise. But Fellers is still looking for an Individual medal - they had a cheap rail at fence six and then Fellers overrode Harry and Mollie Chapman's 16-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion at the front rail of the massive oxer at fence eight.
"It was quite a wide fence, probably the widest on the course, and I stepped on the gas pedal a little hard off the ground, thinking about the back rail and disregarding the front rail and ran him into it a little bit. I felt like he finished up great," said Fellers. "It will be nice to have a day of rest and then come back really good on Wednesday."
Everyone who starts the Individual Final starts on a score of zero.
Rookie Reed Kessler (Lexington, KY) was the youngest competitor in the entire field at age 18 (and the youngest ever on the U.S. Equestrian Team). She rode beyond her years and despite a 12-fault effort on Cylana she proudly represented her country along side two double Gold medalists (Madden and Ward) and the reigning Rolex/FEI World Cup Champion (Fellers).
"It gets bigger and bigger each day," said Kessler. "It's been a real test. I wish I could have turned in a clear for my team but this is my first major championship. I think she got little tired by the last line and I think the five (to the last fence) was a little far and reachy. But she jumped great and I couldn't ask for a better horse. For her to take someone of my age with my experience to the Games is more than anyone could ask."
The Individual Final is Wednesday - the top 35 (a maximum of three riders from each country) advance to the final.
Photo: Beezie Madden and Via Volo (Shannon Brinkman)