Sunday, 3 October 2010

WEG 2010: Eventing - Cross Country: Best Fun With Your Clothes On

Hamish & Dave were spared a streak
Today's action from the World Equestrian Games really was one of the best cross country days I've ever watched, and we have the Germans to thank for what promises to be a breath taking finish tomorrow. The atmosphere here at home was pretty electric too, with so much 'edge of your seat' action, and we're all still buzzing, although one or two here recon they should have been riding for one or two of the teams instead!

Firstly, I really feel for the Germans. Simone Deitermann was going so well on her lovely horse, and then towards the end of the course you could see the horse started to tire, and I just felt she didn't respond to that, letting him just bowl straight into the bottom of the very last fence, on his forehand. Nobody could have foreseen the issues Andreas Dibowski had at the hollow, this horse has been round Badminton, Pau & Luhmuhlen finishing in the top 3, so spooking at a coffin was never on anyone's list of predictions, and Dirk Schrade just completely mis judged that second to last fence. I'm sure there'll be lots of reports about how the Germans became complacent, and let gold slip through their fingers, but I think they had a little hard luck too. The shake up in the leaderboard today has demonstrated how the format of our sport leads you to thinking if you're not in the lead after dressage, you don't win the event, someone else loses it.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous watching Opposition Buzz over the first few fences, was I going to be right in thinking the time was readily achievable? The answer was yes, and this was possibly the best round I've seen Nicola ride on this horse which can be very strong, but she kept him nicely balanced and barely touched a fence. From here on in I knew the Brits had a great chance, and all but Piggy French made it home inside the time. Tina Cook's error at the kingfisher pond must have been frustrating for all, and I have to say I'm not a big fan of this old fashioned riding style. What was evident though, was the experienced riders knew how to make the time, and this was predominantly down to riding lines and not terrain.

Pippa, has a very energetic riding style that is very exciting to watch, and this green horse of hers just had a growth spurt, completing his first 4 star with flair and style. Pippa is a very accomplished showjumper, so team or individual, I'll be very pleased to see her pull off a clear round tomorrow.

Paul Tapner | Retired Inonothing Due To Injury
It was a bad day for the Australian's too, Paul Tapner's horse cracked a stifle, and is currently laid up, and Sam Griffiths had a bit of a hairy start to the course culminating in a fall at the wall, where Buck Davidson, almost came a cropper earlier. Little consolation, but at least they can take some pride in half the American Team (2 of them are really Australian).

The Americans were probably the biggest gainers out of today, which in spite of Buck Davidson dropping the ball, the 2 Australian ...er 'Americans' and Karen O'Connor managed clear rounds to keep them nipping at the Brits heels, and only a pole away from gold. I'll be particularly interested to see how Karen's & Boyd's horses jump tomorrow. Becky Holder deserves special mention as her horse performed perfectly, and was deceptively quick, despite a few time faults. Becky has a real prospect of a medal tomorrow.

The Canadian team must be on cloud nine right now, if not they should be. Everyone of them rode well, but for me Hawley Bennett-Awad stands out, as one of the greatest rides of the day. A really well balanced rider, and at no point on the course did she seem to be at risk of using her air jacket. The Canadian team sit in bronze currently, but like both the Americans in Silver and the British in Gold, they really can't afford to roll a rail.

So what have you enjoyed most about the day? I managed to pick out 6 Oscar winning cross country rides I coud watch again, and again:

William Fox-Pitt
Along with the three I've already mentioned (Nicola Wilson, Hawley Bennet-Awad, Pippa Funnell), watching William Fox-Pitt go round, despite his 6ft 4ins, you could almost forget he's in the saddle going cross country, he has such a quiet rhythm and 'oneness' with his horses, it just looks so natural. Andrew Nicholson, for me, is one of the world's greatest cross country riders of all time (in the top 3), he can pretty much always get home on time, and always keeps his horses well balanced, focussed, and doesn't constantly interfere with the horse's job. As I was watching Stefano Brecciaroli go round I almost forgot he was lying in second place, and what I loved about watching this pair go round is how effortless he and the horse made this look, like a stroll round the park.

I spotted a photographer on TV which I think was Leslie Threlkeld, judging by a photo of Frank Osholt, and here's some photos from Leslie, including a lovely grey called Vettori. I'll try and remember to link to more photos etc as I find them, and it goes without saying that you should also tune in/download the WEG 2010 Radio Show, which has provided the best audio coverage from the WEG and always entertains, albeit with "WEG Flu".

The German losses, and the Austrailan's bad luck has shaken up the leader board making tomorrow a very open competition, that really could go any of four ways, and I'm so pleased to see the New Zealanders in with slim chance of medals should cracks appear elsewhere. It is pretty hard to imagine the individual Gold going elsewhere with such a gap between Michael Jung & William Fox-Pitt, but the other individual medals could easily fall else where. William is in flying form this year with a win at Kentucky and more recently at Blenheim, so here's hoping this makes three.

Team Results:
1. Great Britain 139.4
2. USA 143.3
3. Canada 147.5
4. New Zealand 150.8
5. Germany 192.7

Individual Results:
1. Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW (GER) 33
2. William Fox-Pitt and Cool Mountain (GBR) 42
3. Becky Holder and Courageous Comet (USA) 42.5
4. Ingrid Klimke and Butts Abraxxas (GER) 42.9
5. Andrew Nicholson and Nereo (NZL) 43.5

If you were one of those who made it around the course clear, you probably agree that was 11mins 14secs of the best fun you could have with your clothes on, if you were watching on course or on TV, it probably comes close to that....and if your name is Hamish or Dave you're probably relieved you didn't have to take your clothes off and streak!

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