Olympic Jumping Preview: Guerdat Goes for Gold Again

Olympic Jumping Preview: Guerdat Goes for Gold Again

Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets will be going for a record-breaking back-to-back double of individual gold medals in Jumping at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Photo: Kit Houghton/FEI

If defending champion Olympic jumping Steve Guerdat, of Switzerland, can claim back-to-back individual gold in Rio de Janeiro, he will be the very first jumping athlete to do so in the history of the Olympic Games.

Guerdat’s achievement would be all the more remarkable for the fact that he will be partnering the same horse that carried him to glory at Greenwich Park in London, Great Britain, four years ago: Nino des Buissonnets.

Guerdat’s individual jumping gold was the first for Switzerland in 88 years, the previous one claimed by Lt. Alphonse Gemeseus and Lucette in Paris, France, in 1924. It was quite a moment for the then-30-year-old rider, who was just edged out for top honors in the closing stages of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Cup Jumping Final three months earlier.

“But that was an important step to this medal,” he said after claiming the London 2012 title. “He (Nino des Buissonnets) had a big break after the World Cup and just four shows before he came here. I wanted to keep him fresh and confident. I know I have a freak of a horse under me and I knew that if I took time with him it would be easier when he came here (to London).”


Now 34, Guerdat is a veteran of three Olympic Games as he arrives in Rio with the 15-year-old Nino who has been given a well-planned lead-in to the big event once again. Their last major victory together was in the Grand Prix at Geneva, Switzerland, in December, with the brave and quirky horse otherwise mainly kept under wraps apart from a stunning double-clear in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping leg in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in June where the Swiss team finished second.

And Guerdat is in exactly the right frame of mind himself, having secured the prestigious Longines FEI World Cup Jumping title for the second time in two years at the final in Gothenburg, Sweden in March. He will, however, be facing formidable opposition when he rides in to the Deodoro Arena for the first Olympic competition on Aug. 14. And arguably the greatest threat to his quest for double-gold will come from America’s McLain Ward.

The 40-year-old from Brewster, New York, is also a three-time Olympian, taking team gold in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Riding with supreme confidence and with a fabulous string of horses, he has been like an unstoppable train with wins in both the United States and across Europe this year. And in his 10-year-old mare Azur he has a willing and able partner as he sets off on his Olympic glory trail.

It’s interesting to note, however, that one other who has been attracting a lot of positive attention is Sweden’s Peder Fredricson with the 10-year-old gelding All In, runner-up in the Grand Prix in Rome, Italy, in May before throwing down two stunning double-clears at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping legs in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in June and Falsterbo, Sweden, in July. Anyone who has studied this horse in action knows the ease with which he tackles the biggest tracks. And this has possibly contributed to the sense that the Swedes could come out with all guns blazing in the Olympic team event. Malin Baryard-Johnsson has a new ride in Cue Channa, and with Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Unita) and Henrik von Eckermann (Yajamila) also on call-up, the Swedes look set to make a serious impact.

Jumping Facts and Figures

  • 75 horse and rider combinations
  • 27 nations
  • 15 teams
  • 12 countries represented by individuals only
  • The London 2012 individual Olympic jumping champions, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets, will defend their title at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
  • The previous five Olympic individual jumping champions have also been selected: Ludger Beerbaum (GER) Barcelona Olympic Games 1992, Ulrich Kirchhoff who took gold for Germany at Atlanta in 1996 and who is now competing under the Ukrainian flag, Sydney 2000 gold medalist Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED), Athens 2004 champion Rodrigo Pessoa who is reserve rider for the Brazilian squad, and Beijing 2008 champion Eric Lamaze (CAN).
  • Kirchhoff was also member of the winning German team at the Atlanta 1996 Games along with Ludger Beerbaum, who claimed the first of his three team golds in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988 and the last in Sydney, Australia, in 2000.
  • The United States took the team title at Athens, Greece, in 2004 and Beijing 2008. McLain Ward and Beezie Madden were on both of these teams and line out again in Rio de Janeiro alongside Will Simpson who was on the winning Beijing team and Lucy Davis, with 2008 team gold medalist, Laura Kraut, in reserve.
  • The British are defending team champions, and just one of the London 2012 gold medal winning horse and rider combinations will start in Rio: 58-year-old Nick Skelton with Big Star. He is joined by two members of the Olympic silver medal winning team in Los Angeles in 1984: brothers Michael (56) and John (60) Whitaker. Completing the British side is Ben Maher (33) and reserve is Jessica Mendoza (20).
  • The Netherlands come to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games with team and individual gold from both the Alltech Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games 2104 in Normandy, France, and last summer’s FEI European Championships at Aachen, Germany.
  • Germany's Hans Günter Winkler holds the record for most Olympic jumping medals. He claimed seven during his long and illustrious career, three of which were with his great mare Halla.
  • No female athlete has ever won individual gold in jumping, but Britain’s Marion Coakes and the extraordinary pony Stroller came closest, taking individual silver at Mexico City in 1968.
  • Jumping at the Olympic Games goes back to 1900 when Alme Haegeman from Belgium took the individual title with Benton ll in Paris.
  • Germany leads the medal tables in jumping, with five individual and eight team titles since 1912.

The Dutch team will be hoping to continue the run of form that has seen them crowned world champions in 2014 and European champions last summer. To pile Olympic gold on top of that would be quite an achievement for Harrie Smolders, Maikel van der Vleuten, Jur Vrieling and the man who also claimed individual gold on both of those occasions, Sydney 2000 individual gold medalist Jeroen Dubbeldam.

Defending Champions

The defending team champions from Great Britain send out two of their 2012 side in Nick Skelton and Ben Maher. The age profile of the majority of the British side is on the upper end of the scale, and 58-year-old Skelton joked recently that some of them might have to be “stretchered” into Rio, but nobody is going to underestimate the threat they pose. Skelton has nursed his London 2012 partner, Big Star, back to good health ahead of these Games and they have produced some seriously impressive recent performances. Meanwhile, although it might be 32 years since the legendary Whitaker brothers, Michael (56) and John (60), took Olympic team silver in Los Angeles, they are also right on top of their game.

There was a glitch, however, in the preparations for the defending champions because Michael Whitaker is suffering from broken ribs following a freak fall at home while training a horse just a few days ago. But the younger Whitaker insists he will be ready for action with Cassionato when the moment arrives.

The team competition looks set to be a fierce contest between 10 powerful nations, and the hosts from Brazil have plenty to be excited about because one of their quartet, 25-year-old Stephan de Freitas Barcha, has been really impressive with the 13-year-old gelding Landpeter de Feroleto in recent months.

What is Jumping?

Jumping is an equestrian sport in which horse-and-rider combinations jump fences consisting of poles inside an arena, with penalties for knock-downs, refusals, horse and rider falls, stepping in water jumps, and for going over the time limit. There are a variety of competitions including speed events, and some will conclude with a jump-off for combinations that have been penalty-free over previous rounds. The jump-off can be compared to a penalty shoot-out in soccer, and the result is just as unpredictable.

How It Will Play Out

After a horse inspection on Aug. 12, the first competition gets underway on Aug. 14 with one round of jumping and no jump-off against the clock. The starting order is decided by a computerized draw. The second competition is run over two days (Aug. 16 and 17)—a qualifying round and a final round—over different courses, with the first day open to all and the second open to the top eight teams.

If the scores for any of the medal placings are equal, teams will jump a shorter course against the clock and if there is still a tie, the times of the best three athletes per team are added together to decide the winning team. There is also the possibility of a jump-off for the bronze medal and this will take place before the jump-off for gold.

The horses still in contention for individual honors will undergo another horse inspection on Aug. 18, before the individual final the following day. The individual final is open to the Top 35 horse and rider combinations after the first three days of competition. All participants start the individual final on zero penalties. The Top 20 from this round then go through to the final round to decide the individual medals, with the horse and rider on the lowest score winning gold.

If there is more than one clear round, the medals are decided by a jump-off against the clock. If jumping penalties are the same over a shortened course, then the fastest time wins.

The Jumping Officials

The technical delegate for jumping at the Olympic Games is Spain’s Santiago Varela Ullastres, and course designer is Brazil’s Guilherme Jorge.

The jumping ground jury consists of Stephan Ellenbruch (GER), president, and members Elaine Zander (BRA), David Distler (USA), Alfred Boll (SUI), and Kazuya Hirayama (JPN). The footing expert is Germany’s Christian Bauer who will work alongside FEI footing specialist Lars Roepstorff, DVM, PhD.

Venezuela’s Cesar Hirsch is both overall chief steward and chief steward for jumping. The team of jumping stewards is Maria Hernek (SWE), Eric Straus (USA), Shigeru Hashimoto (JPN), and Kate Horgan (IRL).

Other Officials

President of the Veterinary Commission is Brazil’s Thomas Wolff, DVM, and he will be assisted by associate members Kirsten Neil, BVSc (Hons), MACVSc, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, ACVSMR, CMAVA, Cert. ISELP, from Australia and Mexico’s Sergio Salinas, MVZ. There will be two thermography vets: Germany’s Gerit Matthesen, DrMedVet, and Tracy Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, from the United States.

Great Britain’s Tim Randle, BVSc, MRCVS, is the foreign veterinary delegate and the FEI Medication Control Program veterinary experts are Britain’s Colin Roberts, BVSc, MA, PhD, FRCVS, and Hungary’s Miklos Jarmy, DVM.

The Appeal Committee is headed up by Pierre Ketterer from France with Colombia’s Yolanda Matallana as vice president. The jumping member of the Appeal Committee is Belgium’s Freddy Smeets. Henrik Arle from Finland is vhairman of the FEI Tribunal.

The FEI Medical Officer is Great Britain’s Peter Whitehead, MSc, MFSEM(uk), MBBS, DA.

The Teams

  • Argentina: Matias Albarracin (Cannavaro 9), Jose Maria Larocca (Cornet du Lys), Bruno Passaro (Chicago Z), Ramiro Quintana (Appy Cara). Reserve: Jose Maria Larocca (Eliot DWS).
  • Australia: Scott Keach (Fedor), James Paterson-Robinson (Amarillo), Edwina Tops-Alexander (Lintea Tequila), Matt Williams (Valinski S).
  • Brazil: Stephan de Freitas Barcha (Landpeter do Feroleto), Alvaro de Miranda Neto (Cornetto K), Eduardo Menezes (Quintol), Pedro Veniss (Quabri de l’Isle). Reserve: Rodrigo Pessoa (Cadjanine Z).
  • Canada: Yann Candele (First Chioice), Tiffany Foster (Tripple X), Eric Lamaze (Fine Lady), Amy Millar (Heros). Reserve: Kara Chad (Bellinda).
  • France: Roger Yves Bost (Sydney Une Prince), Simon Delestre (Ryan), Penelope Leprevost (Flora de Mariposa), Kevin Staut (Reveur de Hurtebise). Reserve: Philippe Rozier (Rahotep de Toscane).
  • Great Britain: Ben Maher (Tic Tac), Nick Skelton (Big Star), John Whitaker (Ornelaia), Michael Whitaker (Cassionato). Reserve: Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T).
  • Germany: Christian Ahlmann (Taloubet Z), Ludger Beerbaum (Casello), Daniel Deusser (First Class van Eeckelhem), Marcus Ehning (Cornado NRW). Reserve: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Fibonacci).
  • Japan: Daisuke Fukushima (Cornet 36), Toshiki Masui (Taloubetdarco KZ), Taizo Sugitani (Imothep), Reiko Takeda (Bardolino). Reserve: Koki Saito (Capilot).
  • Netherlands: Jeroen Dubbeldam (Zenith), Harrie Smolders (Emerald), Maikel van der Vleuten (Verdi), Jur Vrieling (Zirocco Blue). Reserve: Gerco Schroder (London).
  • Qatar: Hamad Ali Mohamed Al Attiyah (Appagino), Ali Yousef Al Rumaihi (Gunder), Sheikh Ali Al Thani (First Devision), Bassem Hassan Mohammed (Dejavu). Reserve: Faleh Suwead Al Ajami (Armstrong van de Kapel).
  • Spain: Edduardo Alvarez Aznar (Rokfeller de Pleville), Sergio Alvarez Moya (Carlo), Pilar Lucrecia Cordon (Gribouille du Lys), Manuel Fernandez Saro (U Watch). Reserve: Gerardo Menendex Mieres (Cassino DC).
  • Switzerland: Romain Duguet (Quorida du Treho), Martin Fuchs (Clooney), Steve Guerdat (Nino des Buissonnets), Janika Sprunger (Bonne Chance). Reserve: Paul Estermann (Castlefield Eclipse).
  • Sweden: Malin Baryard-Johnsson (Cue Channa), Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Unita), Peder Fredricsson (All In), Henrik von Eckermann (Yajemila). Reserve: Charlotte Mordasini (Romane du Theil).
  • Ukraine: Ulrich Kirchhoff (Prince de la Mare), Cassio Rivetti (Fine Fleur du Marais), Ferenc Szentirmai (Chadino), Rene Tebbel (Zipper). Reserve: Ference Szentirmai (Chaccland).
  • United States: Lucy Davis (Barron), Kent Farrington (Voyeur), Beezie Madden (Cortes C), McLain Ward (Azur). Reserve: Laura Kraut (Zeremonia).

The Nations Represented

Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Taipei, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, the United States, and Venezuela.

The full list of horse and rider combinations is available online

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