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Monday, August 18, 2008

Our Medal Drought Is Over!

OK, I am totally over-stimulated. Last night our media-phobic show jumpers won the first medal in that discipline since Elder, Day and Gayford took gold in Mexico City, 1968. I wrote my very first newspaper article as a result ( and today I have to persuade Ian to talk to me so I can put some quotes into the profile that I’ve been asked to write for Wednesday’s paper. I should get a chance to corner him on the bus on the way to the Canadian Consulate Reception to which I’ve been invited this afternoon. I will leave the reception by six pm so that I’m sure not to miss Ashley ride her freestyle, followed shortly afterward by Berna.

I have to keep detailed notes on the action tonight so that I can post a story tomorrow on as well as give my increasingly insatiable blog audience some new delights about the judging (that bitting article for the October issue is coming Amy, I promise!). And finally, I am being flooded with high-five messages from all kinds of readers – judges, trainers, editors, friends and complete strangers (yes I’ll be your new BFF!), who have made writing this blog one of the most exciting things I’ve ever put my name to. If it all gets any more fun I might suffer the same fate as the people who die in that Monty Python sketch about the world’s funniest joke.

But no joke – seriously everyone, thanks for emailing and posting comments on the blog. One helpful person has pointed out that the judges’ individual marks are indeed available on the website. I tried to find it by going to the site and following links, but the brain of whoever created the Olympic website doesn’t work the way mine does, so I gave up and used my old friend Google. Here is the link to the (very special) Speciale marks:

And while I’m sending you to virtual places, here are a couple more links. My profile of Ashley should be up on as soon as a certain photographer gets around to sending photos to accompany it, but in the meantime you can read about my favourite youngster of the Games, Dutch eventer Tim Lips. Cute as a button but make no mistake.
He is SERIOUS about his sport.

While I was erroneously looking for an article written by a Daily Telegraph writer on the Guardian’s website, I stumbled across this page with photos of athletes caught in strange and compromising positions – some of them are pretty awesome.
Number 22 is from the cross country course.

I hate to admit that I wished someone would make a mistake, and I hate even more to come to terms with the fact that I really did feel that way. But while I sat on the edge of my seat, waiting for just one more rider to score below Ashley so that she would be fifteenth and not sixteenth and out of the freestyle (it was Nadine Capellmann who finally came through), I must confess I did kind of stare at the horses’ legs, hoping they would land out of order in the tempi changes…and last night in the show jumping, how could I not hope that Laura Kraut would take just one little rail so that Canada could win gold? How does a person who professes to be a good sport and a fan of excellence above and beyond personal biases reconcile those natural human urges? Feel free to post advice in a comment to this blog.

Actually, it was so amazing that Canada won a medal at all with a three-rider team last night, that I must admit my feelings of elation far exceeded the small disappointment that the colour of the medal was silver. And the Americans earned it, after all. McLain and his big thighs on the homely but honourable Sapphire; Laura and the shooting star whose name I just love, nine year old Cedric; Will Simpson living a moment he will never forget in his first Olympics; and Beezie, who might describe winning Olympic gold as ‘nice’ because she is so outwardly lacking in personality.

I don’t need to talk about Jill’s Darkest Hour any more, because she had such a bright hour last night. She did admit that her bad round of the day before invaded her dreams and every waking moment until her redemption. But as she said to someone, she put the ‘Special’ back in Special Ed.

Four means death – that clever, clever Jenn Ward made the connection with the unlucky fences on course over the past two nights. In the first round of team jumping, the water at number 4 caused so many problems that Leopoldo was pretty roundly chewed out by riders for making a poor choice in his course design. In the second round it was number four again that caused grief: a dragon plank vertical with inverted cups. When I pointed out the coincidence to Jenn, she coolly remarked that four is the unluckiest number in Chinese culture because it sounds like the word for death. Leopoldo, you crafty devil.

It was, however, round three and not four that spelled the end of Patrick Lam’s Olympic moment. He became like a gauge that measured the increasing difficulty and size of the courses: clear on day one, a couple of rails on day two, and pick-up-sticks on day three. But he did wake up the crowds, and they seem to be staying both until the end of the night and more-or-less awake.

Weather or Not

The reason I haven’t been writing about the weather is because I’m thankfully not short of more interesting material and because there is nothing to report. I stopped looking at the forecast days ago – in spite of all the hoop-la, it isn’t any more reliable than the weather forecast for Vancouver, and it doesn’t affect what I wear anyway. Either I’ll be hot and sweaty or hot and wet with a mixture of rain and sweat. The humidity has dipped to a positively desert-like 60% after the first days of 98%, but riders are still commenting that their horses tire more easily than they would normally.

Pachelbel Keeps Going, and Going, and Going

Thank goodness the dressage riders are supplying the soundtrack for the competition tonight. Ali Buchanan has been listening to Mariette’s musical highlights for far longer than I have – he says that they were playing constantly on the sound system for the entire week of training before the competition started. “It just goes on, and on, and on, and on,” he said with a mixture of resignation and desperation.

Protest? What Protest?

Due to popular demand, I will continue telling Mariette stories for as long as she supplies them, which she has obligingly done pretty constantly so far. Amazing how front line she is, considering she’s just the TD. Not one jury member has been to a press conference yet. So, you know that game where someone whispers something into the ear of the person next to them, and then that person turns to the next person and so on and by the end what the last person heard only faintly resembles what the first person said? Just so with the protest-that-never-was from the Swedish dressage team. Now, I SAW something happen. I SAW Solos Carex spook badly when the bell was rung right in his ear as Tinne rode past the C judging pagoda. I also SAW him break into a canter as she tracked right at C, and I SAW the substandard first part of her test. The grapevine story was that Fouarges knocked his chair over when he went to sit down after standing to receive Tinne’s salute. I don’t know about that, because I didn’t SEE it.

When someone in the press conference after team medals asked Mariette about the protest, she smiled that benign smile of hers and replied that there was no protest. The questioner didn’t let her off the hook so easily, and asked her to explain what the protest would have been about. Mariette then gave some story about ‘one of the Swedish riders’ being distracted by a cable that was hanging out of the judge’s booth (huh?) and that she felt it compromised concentration (her own, not the horse’s). The main concern was getting into the Speciale though, so when she made the cut, the protest about the cable was dropped. So was Mariette at the end of the whisper line or were we?

More Boring Dressage Analysis

Some of you may want to skip tomorrow’s blog, though I know there are an awful lot of you out there who will tune in. I will do my very best not to disappoint, that is if I don’t die first from accidentally eating one of the packets of desiccant they put right in with packaged food here. Or from having too much fun.

Full moon causes judges to go squirrelly

Sweatin' yet, Ian?

We aren't dancing until the stands are full!

Healthy diet goes to hell in Hong Kong - I bought them, but I haven't been eating them.


Amanda (Victoria BC) said...

Karen the blog is great, I only found it last week but it's nice to have some analysis of what's happening from a well-informed Canadian perspective. (CBC just doesn't do dressage coverage it seems!)

Anonymous said...

Karen.....You are hilarious!!! If there were medals given for best Equestrian win hands down!!

Amanda (Victoria BC) said...

On a related note - is Modern Pentathlon being held in Hong Kong or Beijing? I can't find any info on it and it will interesting to see the horses that are provided for the athletes...