Home side hero Patrice Delaveau kept his French fans buoyed as he topped the individual leaderboard after the first round of the team Jumping competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy on Wednesday.
The Netherlands are at the top of the team standings, and Frederic Cottier’s exquisite course design again played a significant role. From a start-list of 144 horse-and-rider combinations only 20 managed to return without penalty, while just two teams managed to add nothing to their score lines.
Teams from Great Britain, Belgium, Switzerland and Denmark failed to make the cut.
For the Swiss Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat, his four-fault performance with Nino Des Buissonnets was disastrous as it saw his nation relinquish their all-important 10th and final team qualifying slot.
One of those that held onto a clean sheet was the Dutch side which, in overnight fifth, soared up to pole position, while three clear rounds from Brazil saw them rocket up from overnight 12th to fifth place. This earned them a spot in the team finale in which only the top 10 nations will compete. And it’s going to be a nail-biting fight to the finish, with less than one fence separating the Dutch leaders from Team USA who are currently holding second place, while Germany and France are less than one fence further adrift in third and fourth spots.
But Dutch Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens wasn’t getting over-excited by his team’s prominent position. “I’m really pleased,” he said, “all my riders did a great job between yesterday and today, but we are realistic. We are facing another difficult day tomorrow, but we are ready!”
The beauty of the fence material was little short of breathtaking. A medieval fortress, a Viking ship, the Bayeux tapestry, a tribute to Normandy’s impressionist painters, a cockerel representing the national symbol of France and a gun with its barrel tied in a knot, representing the theme of reconciliation, were just some of the extraordinary scenes through which horses and riders made their way. Competitors often commented on the fact that their horses were distracted by the creativity they encountered, but all agreed the course was, in every way, another work of art from the French master designer.
As the long day progressed, there was some juggling of positions amongst the leading teams, and in many cases the pressure was placed on the final rider to decide their side’s finishing spot. This was the situation for the Dutch who were relying on a foot-perfect run from Gerco Schroder and Glock’s London following clears from both Jeroen Dubbeldam (Zenith SFN) and Maikel van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Verdi), but a nine-fault total for Jur Vrieling (VDL Bubalu). Schroder obliged however, and with nothing to add to their first-day total of 4.83 they settled comfortably at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the day.
The host nation lost their first-day lead when Delaveau was the only one of his side to keep a clean sheet. Penelope Leprevost (Flora de Mairposa), Simon Delestre (Qlassic Bois Margot) and Kevin Staut (Reveue de Hurtebise HDC) all left just one fence on the floor which saw them slip down the order to fourth. Sweden lay second as the action began, but only their anchor partnership of Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Casall ASK could manage to leave the entire course intact, and with 12 faults to add the team dropped all the way to seventh.
This opened the door for the USA, and Beezie Madden’s last-to-go clear with Cortes C sealed their rise from overnight third to a hold on the silver medal position when they had only four to add after a foot-perfect run from McLain Ward and Rothchild at the start of the day. Meanwhile clears from both Marcus Ehning (Cornado NRW) and Daniel Deusser (Cornet D’Amour) saw Germany take over bronze medal spot.
Some of the gutsiest performances of the day came from Brazil and Colombia, the former showing the absolute determination instilled into the side representing the country that will host the 2016 Olympic Games. Guided by former French Chef d’Equipe, Jean-Maurice Bonneau, the Brazilians have formulated a clear plan on the road to Rio de Janeiro in two years’ time where they fully intend to be seriously competitive. And the clear posted by Doda de Miranda was indicative of their determination, as the rider who took a nasty fall from AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno in Tuesday’s competition cruised around this much tougher track to put them well on the way to an improved position.
Pedro Veniss (Quabri de L’Isle) collected four faults, but Marlon Zanotelli’s clear with AD Clouwni was followed by a brilliant anchor performance from Rodrigo Pessoa and Status. Another three clear rounds from this side on Thursday may leave those ahead of them under serious pressure.
As it stands, when the action begins on Thursday morning the team leaderboard is topped by The Netherlands, who will be joined by the USA, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, Sweden, Ireland, Colombia and Ukraine to decide the five teams that will be heading to Rio for the Olympic Games.
Sadly the Chilean team was eliminated following a nasty fall for Tomas Couve Correa, who parted company with his horse Underwraps at fence 8. He was fully conscious when he left the stadium by ambulance en route to hospital for evaluation.
Great Britain crashed out of contention when Joe Clee and Wonder Why’s clear round up to fence 11 turned into an eight faulter, and world number one Scott Brash’s horse Hello Sanctos left a hoof on the tape of the water, leaving them in 36th place individually.
Ireland’s Allen drops down rankings
Ireland’s teenage sensation, Bertram Allen, lost his grip on the individual lead with a single mistake at the second element of the bogey penultimate double. The fence down cost him dearly, dropping him to 14th place, so second-placed Delaveau stepped up to take the lead following his flawless performance. This must go a long way towards compensating the Frenchman for the deep disappointment of having to withdraw after sharing the early lead at the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Lyon four months ago when his horse was injured.
But the Frenchman’s lead in the individual standings is only a hair’s breadth. He carries forward 0.08 , but second-placed Beezie Madden has only 0.16 while third-placed Rolf-Goran Bengtsson has 0.34. Lining up in quick succession behind these three are Germany’s Daniel Deusser, Dutch riders Jeroen Dubbeldam and Gerco Schroder, Denmark’s Soren Pedersen, the USA’s McLain Ward and Qatar’s Sheikh Ali bin Khalid Al Thani, while The Netherlands Maikel van der Vleuten is currently in 10th spot. Ireland’s Allen is only a fence behind them all.
Despite recording no clear rounds, the Irish team finished in eighth place to qualify for the final.
The sole New Zealand showjumper at the Games, Bruce Goodin and Centina 10, bowed out after finishing 115th.
The top five countries in the Team Final earn a berth to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. As Brazil is the home nation, they are automatically guaranteed a starting spot.
Following a day of rest, the top 30 riders in the individual standings will compete over two rounds on Saturday, September 6. In a format unique to world championship competition, the top four riders in the individual standings will advance to Sunday’s ‘Final Four’. World championship titles do not come easy; in the ultimate test of horsemanship, each rider will complete the course with their own mount before jumping the track with each of their competitor’s horses.
Team Competition, results after first round:
Team standings: 1, Netherlands, 4.83; 2, USA, 8.72; 3, Germany, 8.82; 4, France, 10.08; 5, Brazil, 12.95; 6, Canada, 14.00; 7, Sweden, 15.01; 8, Ireland, 18.51; 9, Colombia, 21.86; 10. Ukraine, 22.98.
Individual standings: 1, Orient Express HDC (Patrice Delaveau) FRA, 0.08; 2, Cortes C (Beezie Madden) USA, 0.16; 3, Casall ASK (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) SWE, 0.34; 4, Cornet D’Amour (Daniel Deusser) GER, 0.70; 5, Zenith SFN (Jeroen Dubbeldam) NED, 1.25; 6, Glock’s London N.O.P. (Gerco Schroder) NED, 1.29; 7, Tailormade Esperanza de Rebel (Soren Pedersen) DEN, 2.49; 8, Rothchild (McLain Ward) USA ,2.56; 9, Vienna Olympic (Sheikh Ali bin Khalid Al Thani) QAT, 2.89; 10, VDL Groep Verdi TN N.O.P. (Maikel van der Vleuten) NED, 3.05.