Klimke Leads Olympic Eventing after First Day of Dressage

German riders filled the top two places in the individual rankings as Olympic Eventing got underway at Greenwich Park in London today (July 28) with the first of two days of dressage.

Ingrid Klimke (GER), team gold medalist in eventing at the 2008 Olympics, steered Butts Abraxxas to a score of 39.30 for a narrow lead over Dirk Schrade (GER) partnering King Artus. The host nation’s Mary King (GBR) and Imperial Cavalier slotted into third, just one penalty point further adrift, but it is Australia that heads the team standings. (See all the day's eventing results here.)

A total of 37 horse-and-rider combinations lined out, but just seven of the 12 competing nations fielded three riders--the remaining four sending in just two of their five team members, while only one of the three-strong Dutch squad took their turn in accordance with the draw. So while the team leaderboard shows the Aussies on top, with a score of 133.20 for a four-point lead over Germany, and almost 17 points ahead of the third-place team from the United States, there is likely to be some considerable change when the action resumes tomorrow morning.

Boyd Martin (USA) and Otis Barbotiere kept their cool as pathfinders to score 50.70. That was immediately relegated by the 46.20 posted by Chris Burton (AUS) and HP Leilani which gave the Australians a very strong start indeed. And when Sam Griffiths (AUS) on Happy Times put 45.79 on the board and Andrew Hoy (AUS) on Rutherglen was even more impressive with 41.70, then the men from Down Under were sitting pretty. 

The Australian team has not had the easiest lead-in to Games time, with both Shane Rose and Megan Jones suffering the disappointment of horse injuries leading to a very late call-up for Griffiths just two days ago. But they seem to be coping with all the hiccups with consummate ease and look a real threat at this early stage.

The home fans were given plenty to cheer about when King, whose career as an Olympian spans 20 years, produced yet another of her trademark polished performances with Imperial Cavalier. Nicola Wilson (GBR) managed to contain the exuberant Opposition Buzz to kick-start the British effort with a mark of 51.70, but King’s 40.90 has pinned them into a secure position. With Zara Phillips and High Kingdom, Tina Cook and Miners Frolic, and William Fox-Pitt on Lionheart still to come, the home side can look forward to further improvement. 

King said her horse was “a bit tense and we made a few little mistakes, particularly at the last flying change, when I lost him. But I’m absolutely delighted to think this was probably the second best Olympic dressage test I have ever done”. The six-time Olympian was feeling very emotional as she left the arena to resounding applause: “I’m not going to cry but I’m close to it with the home crowd all around me and so behind me!” the popular 51-year-old admitted.

It was Klimke who clinched pole position, however “I enjoyed the ride, he did a good job,” she said of the 15-year-old Butts Abraxxas. “He’s usually relaxed but he came into the ring a bit spooky,” she explained. “I was happy he listened to me. He was easy and supple to ride so I could go for the extensions, and he was relaxed in his walk so I was able to ride everything totally correct. When a horse is like that you have the chance to get everything totally correct,” she added

She’s already thinking ahead to Monday’s cross-country phase. “It’s a very beautiful course. When we walked it I thought that it’s very clear to the horses what they have to do and that is good. On Monday I will see how (team mate Peter Thomsen) goes. After he has gone we will have more information,” she said.

There is a lot more dressage to be seen before that happens however, and it is Japan’s Atsushi Negishi and Pretty Darling who are first into the arena tomorrow morning, while former World and European champion Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, will be a big crowd-puller when third to go of the remaining 36 who have yet to undertake their dressage challenge.

Tomorrow's dressage begins at 10:00 London time, 4:00 a.m. Eastern time.

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