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Thursday, August 14, 2008

They’re Still Bo-o-red!

I guess the added excitement of passage, piaffe and tempi changes is pretty much lost on an audience whose only experience of horses involves gambling and great speed. Insight was offered today from Jennifer Anstey. “This started out as war horses, and now they can’t take the noise of a camera shutter?” Page 3 of the South China Morning Post has become my late night reading when I get back to the guest house and go down to the common room to use the microwave and warm up some post-midnight frozen Chinese delights. Today’s paper pointed out that one of the unpleasantries of dressage for the locals is that they aren’t allowed to cheer along. The eventing show jumping was a brief oasis in the dressage desert, though according to one reporter it was now too noisy: “there was even that ridiculous ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi” chant that Australians embarrass themselves with at big sports events.” I agree, it’s silly; but what can you expect from people who share their homeland with kangaroos and wombats?

Anyhoo, back to yawns and steadily emptying stands for the team dressage. They didn’t even stay for the sole Chinese entry, the first Chinese dressage rider ever to compete at the Olympics (I know I said I wouldn’t use the ‘O’ word, but as long as I don’t mention that little mountain nation whose name starts with a ‘T’ I think I’m safe). Daphne Bramham reports that her blog on the boredom of dressage in Hong Kong “topped the hit list for The Sun”. Being a certified (and certifiable) fan of the sport, I wasn’t bored, and if you were watching at home I don’t expect you were either. But the caliber of performances? More on that tomorrow.

Lucky 13, Not – Dressage Day 1, August 13th

It might be a lucky number in China, but it sure didn’t bring Canada any breaks. Our underwhelming performances have sadly continued into the dressage. Leslie Reid was worried about the Jumbo-tron, and it turns out she had good reason. Orion started the spook-fest before he even got through the gate at A; and as Leslie said later, when the judges see that already outside the ring, you are dead before you are born. Hm, a new term perhaps: Stillborn dressage test. It sure is a long way to come for 7 disappointing minutes…never mind. Leslie’s strong chin was as strong as ever when we talked at the end of the evening. It’s the Olympics, but it isn’t life or death.

I’d love to see Fouarge in the press conference so I can ask him what on earth moved him to ring the bell on Tinne Silfven from Sweden just as she and Solos Carex passed between C and his booth. The horse understandably spooked badly, and when Tinne tracked right at C after her entry, he broke into a canter. As I watched the test I wondered how she was managing to remember to ride her horse when thoughts of murder must have been justifiably racing through her mind. And speaking of Solos Carex, the IOC let a bit of verboten advertising slip by their censors. All those horses with double-barreled sponsor-acknowledging names are stripped to their essences here: Sunrise, Briar and Salinero, for example. But Carex’s sponsor managed to sneak onto the day sheets.

Sorry to disappoint, but if we get can get past Fouarge acting like a dick to the Swedes, there isn’t much else to report vis-à-vis the judging. Other than feeling personally affronted about Leslie’s score (and I am the last one to say I’m being objective in her case), the judges didn’t do anything too wacky. In fact, the Dutch and German judges – Fouarge and Reixinger – had the exact same first placed score for Heike Kemmer, and identical scores for second placed – and highly elated – Emma Hindle of Great Britain. There was a wee bit of disagreement between them when it came to Imke, however. Fouarges tied her with Emma, but Reixinger put her seventh, behind her own countryman Hans Peter.

Tomorrow is likely to be more interesting, though it’s hard to be really blog-worthy with my comments when the individual movement by movement scores ARE NOT AVAILABLE on the big screen. Four years ago in Athens, it was the same – a stupid, average percentage-so-far that confuses the most knowledgeable spectator and will utterly baffle innocents like the Hong Kongers. I really hope Mariette shows up at the press conference so that I can ask her why there are no live scores by movement. Her excuse last time was that it wasn’t available – but somehow in Athens, as here, it was used for the eventing dressage. I wonder what her story will be this time.

That’s the Spirit, Boys!

Apparently Ian Millar and Eric Lamaze have decided that the media is far beneath their notice, never mind their manners. At the request of Swedish TV, French radio and numerous print journalists from around the world, Jenn Ward (in her thankless role as volunteer press attaché) set up a press conference for tonight at 6 pm, after getting the thumbs up from Ian and Eric that it was a convenient time for them. I can’t imagine why there was so much interest in those two. Ian is only tying the world record for Olympic Games appearances, and Eric has been touted as a medal favourite in numerous places, including that bikini specialist Sports Illustrated. Not only did the boys not turn up, they couldn’t even bring themselves to pick up a phone and call Jenn to say they were passing on their play date with the media. I bet their sponsors would be pleased to hear that free publicity was brushed off like so many flakes of dandruff.

Big White Girl

My ankles are swollen. I am pretty sure I couldn’t get my riding boots on right now, but it certainly isn’t for lack of exercise. Walk, walk, walk. I wish Hong Kongers were bigger so that I don’t feel like such a giant gwilo around so many slender little people. At least I’m not as big as some of the other gwilo, and I’m not the only one to discover sponginess in the lower extremities.

Tune in to this station tomorrow for my commentary on the team dressage finals (I can’t keep a secret, the Germans won again). I will also share other secrets, such as how USEF’s Brian Sosby walked on water, and what I’m going to do to Brian O’Connor if I find out that he’s responsible for Pachelbel’s Canon playing at least 30 times over the past two days in the stadium.

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