presented by Gaitpost Magazine

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hey Hong Kong, are you Interested Yet?

According to W. K. Lam, the big Kahuna of the equestrian events, there were more than 10,000 spectators at the Beas River venue for the cross country yesterday. Hm. Ok, well there were 18,000 tickets for sale and according to reports pre-games, they were sold out. So either someone bought and lost a lot of tickets, or too many locals read the snore-fest article in the Sunday paper and decided it would be more fun to go to work on Monday morning. Whatever. It was still awesome and I enjoyed being able to see all the tough complexes from the ropes whenever I wanted. There were lots of people, but it was no Badminton out there. It is an undeniable fact that the entire course was eminently jumpable. Refusals and falls were in a minority, and the ambulances – both human and equine – never moved. As Mike Etherington-Smith predicted, time was a huge factor.

What does it take to keep these people awake?
Snoozing at the cross country.

All Good or All Bad

Oh how fitting it was that Mark Todd was first on cross country. He really did make a four star course look like a schooling exercise – hasn’t lost his mojo, not one little bit. Mike Etherington-Smith’s creation delivered good or bad results more or less along national lines. Countries seemed to have a very good day or a very bad one. It would be fair to say that the USA, New Zealand and France were considered strong medal contenders going into this three-day-event, and all three countries suffered similar fates yesterday. Only three horses fell on course: Amy Tryon’s Poggio II (USA), then Andrew Nicholson’s Lord Killinghurst (NZL) and finally, the French team was dealt the final insult when their third member and last hope, Jean Renaud Adde and Haston d’Elpegere, fell at the innocuous fourth fence. At the other end of the success-o-meter, the Aussies brought home five clear rounds; both the Germans and British had four out of five.

And Canada? Well, fate saved something special for our keen young team. Kyle and Sandra had our hopes so high with clear rounds and lower than average time penalties (the closest anyone got to the time was the last Australian, Shane Rose, 23 seconds over the 8 minute limit). Then our two youngsters Selena and Sam had a pair of stops/runouts each. It was all on Mike to bring us the third clear round we needed. When Kingpin blew past the skinny second part of fence 9, Mike’s stirrup caught on the side of the jump and was ripped off the bar. The runout was unfortunate; the 30-40 seconds it took Mike to put his stirrup back on was a kick in the crotch. Canada is very unlikely to climb up out of ninth place tonight in the show jumping. We trail eighth placed Ireland by more than five rails. If Canada doesn’t finish in the top eight, equestrian sport risks losing its Sport Canada funding. WAAAAHHHHH! Don’t quit on us DOC, we are getting better, really we are!

Press Conferences Are Gay

So far the press conferences have been totally lame. Almost no one asks a question and when they do, it’s a stupid one. I loved the way Mike E. Smith took care of the queries that were beneath his dignity. A German journalist asked if it was true that some of the fake rocks that covered sprinklers and drains on the track had been moved at the last moment, forcing riders to do an early morning walk before their rides. “Nonsense,” was his reply, followed by a reiteration that he didn’t know who her source was but it was utter nonsense. An American writer then asked him why, if he knew the time would be impossible to make, he made the time so tight. His dry reply: “that’s a very simple question with a simple answer.” He then explained that if you take the standard cross country speed of 570 meters per minute and divide it into the length of the course, you get a number. That is the time.

Then we had the Lucinda and Clayton Show. The husband and wife that make up two fifths of the Australian team have pretty much been THE Australian team at press conferences. In fact, after the dressage, with Australia leading, they were the only two at the conference, even though another Aussie rider, Megan Jones, was in the top four after dressage. The Fredericks pair also coach China’s single entry, nineteen year old Alex Hua Tian, who made it only as far as fence 8 before parting company with his horse Chico. During the press conference post-cross country, the first question asked when the Aussies took the podium came from a Hong Kong reporter who wanted Clayton to comment on Alex’s performance. Before Clayton could answer, the question was shut down. “Questions for Australian team only” was the message from the militant mystery woman in charge of the conference. Great! Way to be nice to your host country.

Brian! It’s Soo-goy!

In his trademark style, Brian O’Connor has already begun mispronouncing names. New Zealand rider Heelan Tompkins really threw him for a loop. I think I heard three different pronunciations during her eight minute round, none of them correct. Her horse, Sugoi, became Sugio. At least he was consistent there. It was Sugio every time.

Chefs or Godfathers?

Our dressage team was arguably the best dressed at the jog, but photos posted on Ali Buchanan’s online album reveal a somewhat incongruous outfit for Ali himself. Sure, his tie matches the ladies’ tops, but the rest of his look is pure Russian Mafia. If you don’t believe me, you can see for yourself here.

Another dressage team has bitten the dust, with a second head-shake from the ground jury for Nilo Vo, Rogerio Clementino’s horse. For anyone who read my Pan Am blog from Rio last year, here are a couple of tidbits that will bring back fond memories. When he was rejected at the first jog, apparently Mariette (who is here in the role of TD) couldn’t scuttle fast enough over to the ground jury. But they stood fast and when Nilo Vo looked no better the next day, that was that. And guess who the chef d’equipe of the Brazilian dressage team is? Why that Godfather of them all, Salin Nigri – who has been quoted in the press as vehemently disagreeing with the ground jury’s conclusion on Rogerio’s horse.

Onto the Night Shift

Finally the early mornings are done. The cross country was the last competition to take place before 7 pm. There will now be some late nights – actually a lot of them. It doesn’t really cool down at night, and I don’t think there is much difference in the heat between 7 pm and 7 am. I’m a morning person, but 5 am is a bit more than even I enjoy, especially if I have to walk the 1.5 km from my guest house to the train station, where I either catch a train or a taxi. I’ll take the nights, thanks.

Jenn Ward shows off her Canadian team swag at the Panda jump.

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