Great Britain in Gold Medal Position after Cross Country

Mt. Fuji Drop. What the photo doesn’t show is that there’s a fence at the bottom of the hill.

Great Britain is in gold medal position after cross country, with Australia in second and France in third. The Brits kicked off their rides with Oliver Townend, who was the second rider on course. His double clear on Ballaghmor Class was repeated by Laura Collett on London 52 and Tom McEwen on Toledo De Kerser.

The course in Tokyo was tough. Out of 60 starters, 49 completed the course at Sea Forest Park, with nine eliminations and two retirements. Only seven combinations finished clear and inside the time, including all three British riders. The most influential obstacle on the 23-fence course was 14C, a left-handed corner that followed a large oxer, where there were two refusals and the frangible device was triggered seven times — including by Michael Jung and Chipmonk. Although for my money, the scariest fence by far was the HUGE Mt. Fuji Drop. Not only was that an enormous drop, but the riders had to rebalance immediately and take another fence. You can see all the fences in the “walk through” here.

Sea Forest Cross country course

Compared to most Olympic courses, the course designed by Derek di Grazia is short. The optimum time was 7:45 — down from the originally planned time of 10:00 — mostly because the weather in Tokyo can be extremely hot and humid, but also because there isn’t that much room in the venue. Sea Forest island is a man-made island made from a former landfill site. To fit the course into the space, riders criss-cross and double back, with multiple jumps and pathways in the water complex. As a result, jumps came up really quickly, which meant riders and horses had to be on their toes.

It also could be confusing. Oliver Townend said:

“It was fairly disorientating for horses, they didn’t quite know when they’d finished. When I slowed Ballaghmor Class before the drop at fence 16 he thought he was done and again galloping past the tents to fence 18 he started slowing up. He wasn’t physically tired, but mentally it’s tiring and confusing going up and down the same track again and again.”

It took five years to build the course — the venue was just The site was just a big open piece of ground with a lot of trees on it.

Certainly the heat and the undulating terrain took its toll on the horses. Many looked visibly tired as the course progressed and the Brazilian horse Fuiloda G simply stopped only 3 fences from home and wouldn’t continue. Although the weather wasn’t as hot as it could have been, and even though cross country was run early in the morning, it was quite humid.

There was one tragedy during cross country. Jet Set, competing for the Swiss team,

Jet Set, ridden by Robin Godel on the Swiss team, was euthanized after incurring an injury at the Mount Fuji Water (fence 20abcd). Although he jumped clear, but “pulled up extremely lame” after that fence. Ultrasound scans revealed an irreparable ligament rupture in the lower right limb, just above the hoof, and on humane grounds and with the agreement of the owners and athlete, the decision was taken to put the horse to sleep.

US Team Cross Country
This video shows the US Team. I can’t embed it, but if you click on the photo (or here) you can watch it.

For everyone struggling to find the equestrian events streamed in their entirety, I finally did come up with a solution that worked for me. I purchased a promotional SlingTV subscription for $10 and used it to log into NBC’s stream and watch on demand. The coverage — finally — has been great and I spent a good deal of today watching cross country. I still think it should be easier to watch and not require so many workarounds, though.

For cross country:

For eventing dressage:

Here are all the equestrian events:

Can’t wait for showjumping!

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