The aptly named Explosion carried Ben Maher to the individual gold medal in show jumping. I swear that horse has wings because the fences were enormous. They made the eventing show jumping fences look small. The fences started out at 1.55 m and went as high as 1.62 meters with spreads as wide as 1.75 m. Basically, my mother could walk under these fences without ducking.
The questions asked were tough with tight turns and a mix of very wide oxers and upright verticals that showed whether the horses could easily be adjusted.
When I first start to design a course, I sketch it out on paper with simple lines. It all needs to flow – the most important things in this sport are rhythm and pace.
We have been working on the courses for three and a half years but many decisions like the exact height and width of the jumps will be finalized in the arena.
We don’t have time to test the jumps in the arena. The final course is only put together on the day. We can test parts of the course or individual jumps by secretly incorporating them into other competitions.Santiago Varela, Course designer
What did the riders think of the course?
Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, who went on to finish fourth with King Edward, described parts of the course as a “little bit of a mind game”.
“It starts nicely,” he said. “[Then] the triple combination is of course difficult. It’s a very tall vertical in the middle, you have to be very quiet, but still get out of the combination. So it’s a little bit of a mind game.
“I think more that you stay quiet and the seven strides before that you don’t go too early or too slow in the end, that’s a bit the tricky one.”Henrik von Eckermann
“The course designer really asked whatever he could ask here – three combinations, water jump, new planks, new walls. Spooky fences, funny fences – whatever he was able to ask. Everything is very, very big, and the time is short.”Daniel Deusser
“The fences are absolutely massive and there’s absolutely no room for error. So, it’s tough. I can’t believe how many clears there are to be honest.”Harry Charles
Thirty horses made it through to the second round qualifier and of those six horses jumped clear within the time: Ben Maher on Explosion W (Britain), Daisuke Fukushima on Chanyon (Japan), Maikel van der Vleuten riding Beauville Z (Netherlands), Henrik von Eckermann, riding King Edward (Sweden) Malin Baryard-Johnsson riding Indiana (Sweden) and Peder Fredricson, riding all in (Sweden). Yes, you read that right. Sweden had three riders in the jump off. (Interesting fact: Two horses competed by Swedish riders in the final —Peder Fredricson’s All In and Henrik von Eckermann’s King Edward—are barefoot.)
In a very exiting jump off, Maher won by 17 hundredths of a second, narrowly edging out Peder Fredricson. Maikel van der Vleuten won bronze.
Here’s a nice video interview with Maher about the horse that he said “grew wings for me.”
Team jumping is coming up soon. Having binged watched the Olympic equestrian events, it will be a shock when they are finally over. I might have to check out some of the other sports!
Are you watching the Olympics? What has been your favorite moment so far? In addition to the equestrian events, I was most impressed by Sifan Hassan who fell in her heat for the 1500m, then got up and won! That takes both grit and speed.