presented by Gaitpost Magazine

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Freestyle Day!

For the first time I made it through security without any confiscations. Jan put a couple of sandwiches in his vest pocket too. Whee! Food when we want it! But now our bathroom privileges have been revoked. The first day we were using a real bathroom (you know, flushing toilets, sinks, water, soap). Then it was decided that those would be for the exclusive use of VIPs. The VIP part of the stands is right now, at this moment, just before the final five freestyles, populated by three people. We have been granted outhouses. Just in case any of those VIPs try to sneak into them they are marked with paper signs that say ‘for the exclusive use of the press’. Exclusive! Yes, because who wants to wash their hands anyway?

I am, however, fully enjoying the high speed internet on site. The organizers were planning to charge media US$900 per person to use ADSL (can you say Internet Café? $3 per hour thank you very much), but there is a big fight among the media and the organizers about the exorbitant fee. In the meantime it’s free. You got it, my thumb is up.

I’m managing to make myself pretty well understood to taxi drivers and waiters now. I link my few Portuguese words (the important ones, like ‘cerveja’ and ‘vinho’) with Spanish, throw in the odd French word and swap some of my ‘S’ sounds for ‘SH’. The result sounds kind of like Portuguese. Unfortunately I still can’t understand much of anything that is spoken back to me.

Wheels are falling off buses like crazy for the top five freestyle riders, but the scores are not reflecting some of the booboos that are taking place. (For the record, our bad girl Mariette who was president of the jury today subsequently used the word ‘booboo’ in response to my question about today’s performances.) Clean rides are as rare as food around here today. Tom says, quite rightly, that his ride was mistake free, but gosh Beaumarchais’ head was high in the pirouettes. Not one of the three who placed ahead of him and made the podium had clean rides. But anyone who has been to the Olympics or WEG knows that isn’t usually what determines how the cards fall in the end. Tom missed bronze by 0.05%. That’s gotta hurt!

I had three clients compete in the freestyle. I was chest-puffy proud of my Mexican JoséLuis – he nailed his music, and his wonderful 20 year old stallion Lohengrin really put out for him. Andrea’s horse finally decided to join the team completely, and she had her best ride of the Games – so I got to have more prideful goose bumps . My third client was from Guatemala, Christa Dauber; she had a big problem getting her horse to trot from canter, and the whole ride was unfortunately coloured by that.

Okay, now the part you dressage queens have been waiting for: my daily detailed judging analysis. Let’s look at that score sheet (I believe you can find it on the site if you try hard enough) and see what goodies we find. Mariette was certainly consistent to her policy from day one in some regards. She killed Lauren Sammis once again, ditto Andrea Bresee and Diane Creech. By how much? Not enough to have influenced where they ended up. With two tests being counted, and the judges giving out both technical and artistic marks in the freestyle, the spikes have less meaning. Which might suggest the format for individual medals works as well as anything when you put all the power in the hands of five human beings. And in spite of some FEI judges’ protestations, man is a political animal.

But how about Tom’s marks? One little change could have meant the podium for him. Stephen Clarke had him first in the freestyle. Good old Nigri had him sixth artistically, with a lower artistic score than technical (that only happens when someone really hated your music and even then it’s hard to justify). So let’s blame the Brazlian judge. Yeah.

Nigri, that crazy guy. He was the loosest cannon in the booths this week. Guess how many riders he had first artistically in the freestyle. Give up? Four! And they ranged from gold medalist Chris Hickey all the way down to eighth placed Diane Creech. I think the man needs a freestyle symposium.

And of course this final installment from the dressage phase of the Pan Ams wouldn’t be complete without a final look at Mariette’s work. She was the proverbial bad girl for six out of fifteen riders, half of which were the entire Canadian team (Nigri was meaner to Tom in his placings compared to the others but Mariette was actually Tom’s low score in the freestyle). The farther down you go on the score board, the higher her marks are, comparatively speaking. Conclusion? No conclusion. It’s like trying to read the future by swirling tea leaves around a cup. Some people may claim to be able to make sense of those tea leaves, but I’m not one of them.

So on that note I bid goodbye to dressage, and hello to eventing. Four teams, 24 riders, should be a blockbuster. At least my days will be short.

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