presented by Gaitpost Magazine

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mom! I’m having fun!

Based on the conversation I had with my mother on Skype today (with help from my husband – the technology just about blew her mind), I’m a little worried some of you are getting the wrong impression of the quality of experience here. My mom thought I was frustrated and depressed by the Canadian result. Well, actually I am. But that accounts for just one part of the experience – the rest is just awesome. Good sport is good sport, no matter who wins. The eventing competition was probably the highest caliber we’ve ever seen in that discipline. There were many, many memorable performances and wonderful horses, such as the huge, and huger hearted McInlaigh, who won individual silver after almost getting spun at the jog yesterday. Sure I’m here for Canada, but when they don’t manage to fill my cup with happiness, I just get it elsewhere.

Feels like 43

That’s what the Weather Network says about the 31 degrees it currently shows on the mercury here at noon. Make no mistake; it’s hot, and it’s humid. I hate air conditioning but I’m using it almost constantly in my room. It’s the strangest thing if I wake up in the middle of the night. The fan of the A/C runs constantly, which is what heaters in hotels in Alberta do when I’m there every February. So sometimes when I awake, I’m not sure if I’m too hot because the heat is too high (Alberta) or if I’m too hot because the A/C is too low (Hong Kong). Right now I have the A/C switched off for a little while to take a break from the white noise. Soon I’ll have to turn it back on because my fingers are starting to stick to the keys, and I’m starting to feel like having a beer even though I just finished my morning coffee.

Not What We had Hoped For

One reason Rio was so great last year was because Canada did well in all three disciplines. I’m sorry to say that our eventing team result has fallen far short of expectations here. I am scratching my head because I would have thought we could pull off one clear round in the show jumping, or at least a four faulter. We were the ONLY team not to do that last night. To quote the 22 year old Dutch rider Tim Lips, who proved that youth and inexperience are not impossible to overcome (he finished 15th), “it’s a good course, not too big and with easy lines. I think there will be a lot of clear rounds.” Even the two teams that finished behind us – Brazil with only three riders and France with two – managed to squeak out a clear round or two. Of course, Laura Kraut was helping the US riders on the course walk, and the individual gold medalist Hinrich Romeike (more on him in a moment) had his personal show jumping coach fly in from Deutschland yesterday morning.

Why, oh why, are the Canadian eventers not getting help in dressage and show jumping from the best in those disciplines? Goodness knows we have people in our own country who could be called upon. The overall quality of performances by our team here was better than in Athens, and we can’t forget that it was a young, inexperienced group. The trouble is, we are not getting better fast enough. The rest of the world is not standing still; everyone else is also improving. I know I shouldn’t be whining when I don’t have a solution to offer or a couple million bucks to throw at athlete development and horse shopping sprees. But the first step to finding a solution is identifying the problem…

A Lovable German

My heart had already melted for Hinrich the individual gold medalist in the post-cross country press conference, because he almost cried talking about how great his horse is. He was the undisputed star of the conference after the medal ceremonies; no one even bothered to ask the other Germans questions, in spite of the fact that they have won team gold and vindicated themselves after it was snatched away by Bettina’s extra circle four years ago. But Hinrich is just so sweet and funny and humble and…I have to say it, un-Germanic. The man is a dentist for goodness’ sake – an amateur (rider, not dentist). He rides in the evenings after work. I mean, how can you not love a guy who wins double gold at the Olympics and says, “I don’t want to get philosophical. When you do this well you just go and party.”

I wish Hinrich was my dentist. I’d go a lot more often.

I noticed that even though the stands were about three quarters full for the team show jumping round, they had emptied considerably after the one hour break that preceded the top 25 second round. Jenn Ward, always on top of things, knew the reason. “An hour break? What are they supposed to do? They can’t all get into the souvenir shop!” I thought I saw some protesters in the stands early in the evening, but it was just Germans trying to do the wave. The loudest noise around me in the press tribune (besides the constant yakking of two Americans nearby) was the whirring of about 50 camera shutters all taking the exact same shots from the exact same place at the exact same time. There were no photo positions inside the stadium, so most of them were sitting down in front of me in the stands. I have to say I agree with my husband Jan when he wonders why there is a need for so many people to take the same pictures.

No Thoroughbreds in Eventing?

It seems that those who predicted that the short format would spell the end of Thoroughbreds in the sport were right. Breed information is displayed on the start lists, and there was not a single Thoroughbred identified out of more than 70 horses. However, an awful lot of the 20 horses whose breeds were identified as ‘not listed’ looked suspiciously like Thoroughbreds. I happen to know for a fact that Poggio II, Madison Park and Livewire are all registered Thoroughbreds. I’m sure that their riders and owners are not ashamed of that fact, so I don’t understand why the FEI decided that Thoroughbreds are not worthy of identification as such. The second most common bloodline after ‘not listed’ was Irish Sport Horses. Four out of five on the British and Irish teams, as well as three out of five of the Americans, are ISH. The FEI press release today pointed out that every last one of them made it through to the show jumping.

Far from the Madding Crowds

As the photo here attests, I have found myself a little bit of peace and quiet to come back to at the end of the day or night. The university guest house is just a five minute taxi ride from the venue (or two ten minute taxi rides and two circuits of the venue if I get a driver who doesn’t speak English). Actually, if I squint a little I can almost imagine that I’m in Hawaii. Except for all the Chinese restaurants. Okay, I swore to myself I wouldn’t talk about food because some bloggers talk about it just a little too much, but I’ll allow myself this: I might, just might, be getting tired of rice. And rice crackers. And rice noodles. I would like to eat a potato.

Check in tomorrow, following the first leg of team dressage. I will get my knives out and start sharpening them in preparation for my judging commentary.

Look! Just like any other tropical island!

Ok, there are just a few (dozen) skyscrapers too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think I might actually GO to a dentist if he was Hinrich. Karen, I'm enjoying reading this! Can't wait for the dressage....go canada go! And the fix for all the rice: find yourself some italian. I know, it might sound crazy to eat italian in HK, but one of the best meals of my life was italian and tai in where else, HK! Stay well and I'll check back tomorrow~! Ariel