U.S. Show Jumping Team Captures Gold

A first individual qualifying round that produced mostly clear, clean rounds might have lulled the jumper riders into a false sense of security at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong.

There were few penalty-free rounds Aug.17, the first of two consecutive nights of the Nations Cup (team) competition. At the end of the first night's competition, the Swiss team was tied for first place with the United States (McLain Ward/Sapphire, Laura Kraut/Cedric, Will Simpson/Carlsson vom Dach, and Beezie Madden/Authentic) with 12 total penalties apiece. In third was Sweden with a team total of 13.

Fans of Madden's horse Authentic were shocked to see the 2004 Olympic team gold medalist behaving erratically on course. Shaking his head, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding ran out at fence 11a and then pulled a rail when Madden re-presented him at the first fence of the three-element obstacle. Madden said later that Authentic sometimes shakes his head but not that badly, and that something--she didn't know what--must have irritated him.

Controversy, Decisions, and Appeals

The British jumping team found itself the target of unwelcome controversy during the jumping competition. Things got off to a poor start when Michael Whitaker had to withdraw his 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, Portofino, for unspecified veterinary reasons. Then the morning of August 17, Whitaker's older brother, John, withdrew his mount, the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Peppermill, after the horse came out of his stall strangely stiff.

U.S. show jumping team takes a victory lap

Good as Gold: U.S. team members (from left) Laura Kraut on Cedric, Will Simpson on Carlsson vom Dach, McLain Ward on Sapphire, and Beezie Madden on Authentic.

Then things started to get ugly. The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) Appeals Committee for the Olympic equestrian events issued a ruling allowing John Whitaker and Peppermill to compete in the second round of the team jumping competition August 18. The decision was greeting by displeasure by seven of the eight competing nations, which lodged protests with the FEI. Meeting just three hours before the start of the team final, the Appeals Committee reversed itself and declared Whitaker and Peppermill to be ineligible to compete.

Quite a Jump-off, Eh?

Rails went flying but horses and riders remained upright during the second round of team competition, August 18. Strong performances by both the U.S. team and the Canadians (Jill Henselwood/Special Ed, Eric Lamaze/Hickstead, and Ian Millar/In Style; Mac Cone on Ole withdrew) produced a tie for a jump-off.

Kraut, Ward, and Simpson went clean around the shortened jump-off course of five obstacles with seven jumping efforts and a time allowed of just 45 seconds to win the team gold medal for the United States. It was the second consecutive Olympic team gold for two horse-and-rider pairs: 2004 Athens teammates Madden on Authentic and Ward on Sapphire. Canada took team silver after the jump-off with Henselwood and Lamaze. Norway (Stein Endresen/Le Beau, Morten Djupvik/Casino, Geir Gulliksen/Cattani, and Tony Andre Hansen/Camiro) was awarded bronze, its first-ever Olympic team jumping medal.

"It's like a dream come true, amazing. And dreams do come true," said Kraut on winning her first Olympic medal.

On August 21, the top 35 horses and riders from the team competition advance to Round A of the individual medal final. Of those, the top 20 in Round A will go on to Round B. Cumulative penalty points from Rounds A and B will decide the individual jumping medals. A jump-off will be held in the event of a tie.

Don't miss award-winning equestrian journalist Jennifer Bryant Olympic Equestrian blog. She will be giving us behind-the-scenes looks and glimpses of what's happening at the Olympic equestrian events.

About the Author

Jennifer O. Bryant

Jennifer O. Bryant is editor-at-large of the U.S. Dressage Federation's magazine, USDF Connection. An independent writer and editor, Bryant contributes to many equestrian publications, has edited numerous books, and authored Olympic Equestrian, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604. More information about Jennifer can be found on her site, www.jenniferbryant.net.

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