Good Day for Jumping, Eh? Canadian Wins First Individual Jumping Gold

Two unusual delays marred Round B, the final round of the 2008 Olympic individual jumping competition, in Hong Kong Aug. 21. The first was a heavy-set man wearing only a pink tutu and black shoes, sporting an advertising slogan inked on his chest. He vaulted the arena fence and "cantered" around the arena, delaying the start of the first rider to go, a startled Lotta Schultz of Sweden on Calibra II, before being removed by event officials.

The second delay was a leaky liverpool: fence 7, the Dragon Boat, which either sprang a leak or got jostled, turning the take-off point into a shallow sea of puddles. The nineteenth rider out of the field of 22, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden riding the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Ninja, was forced to walk around the arena for a good ten minutes or so after an official halted the competition and footing expert Oliver Hoberg and a crew of workers armed with rakes and shovels filled the holes and smoothed the surface.

The delay didn't shake Bengtsson's focus: He and Ninja went on to turn in one of the only two clear rounds, the other being Canada's Eric Lamaze on the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Hickstead, a member of the recently crowned silver-medal-winning Canadian jumping team.

Jump-off for Bronze

Seven horses and riders jumped off for the individual bronze medal: Ludger Beerbaum/All Inclusive (Germany), Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum/Shutterfly (Germany), Rodrigo Pessoa/Rufus (Brazil), McLain Ward/Sapphire (United States), Angelique Hoorn/O'Brien (The Netherlands), Beezie Madden/Authentic (United States), and Marc Houtzager/Opium (The Netherlands). Setting a blistering pace over the shortened course, Madden bested the field to secure the bronze with no faults and a time of 35.25 seconds (time allowed: 40 seconds).

Canada's Eric Lamaze and Hickstead

Canada's Eric Lamaze and Hickstead

Jump-Off for Gold

Then it was down to a jump-off between Bengtsson and Lamaze for the gold medal. First to go, Bengtsson had a rail down at the final fence for 4 faults and a time of 38.39 seconds. Lamaze matched Bengtsson's time exactly but with no faults, making him the first Canadian in history to win an individual Olympic jumping gold medal and only the second Canadian after Michel Vaillancourt, who won an individual silver aboard Branch County in 1976, to win an individual Olympic jumping medal.

"He's a very careful horse," Lamaze said of Hickstead. "When you need for him to keep the rails up, you can count on him." He found the Dutch stallion in Belgium, he added, and Hickstead "wasn't the easiest to handle, but he has fantastic instincts and talent." Mare owners are sure to be delighted at the news that Lamaze intends to begin breeding his champion stallion sometime next year.

Things haven't been without trials for Lamaze. Hickstead, for one, had colic surgery last October. Luckily, "by the time they opened him up, everything had fallen back into place and nothing had to be removed." After four months off, he started back to work.

Competition Format

Twenty-two horse/rider combinations started in Round B, the final round of the 2008 Olympic individual jumping competition.

Riders had to complete three rounds of competition to advance to the individual final, with penalties being totaled. The top 35 riders after the three qualifiers started in Round A--which necessitated some last-minute phone calls and preparations after four qualified horses tested positive for the FEI-prohibited substance capsaicin and were suspended from competition.  


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. More information about Jennifer can be found on her site, www.jenniferbryant.net.

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