August 10, 2008

China's Alex Hua Tian was rewarded with a mark of 50.00 for his test with Chico on the first day of dressage at the Olympic games in Hong Kong yesterday, after recovering brilliantly from a spooky moment in the early stages.

"I wasn't sure what to expect because Chico is quite inexperienced," Alex said afterwards, "but I think he did very well. He only did his first three-star at the end of last season and a score of 50.00 is not bad at all. It's not so long ago that we were earning marks of 70 so I'm actually very pleased. And I'm hugely proud to be here, there is no better feeling," added the 19-year-old, who trains with Lucinda and Clayton Fredericks in England.

The Sha Tin arena looked wonderful under floodlights but some of the horses were distracted by their own image in the big corner-screen while others hardly noticed it at all. New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson wondered whether it was the screen or the Olympic flame that seemed to disturb his gelding Lord Killinghurst - "he was tense at the start but its hard to know what was bothering him" the rider pointed out. However he still earned a mark of 44.60 which was good enough for joint-12th place - "and we'll see what happens on Monday in cross-country" he said, clearly expecting to improve his position.

Belgium's Karin Donckers threatened the first-session lead established by Australia's Lucinda Fredericks as the second tranche of eventing riders took their turn in the dressage arena at Sha Tin in Hong Kong last night.

However, despite a brilliant performance from Gazelle de la Brasserie, Donckers had to settle for second place as the Australians took an even firmer grip on the team leaderboard when Megan Jones and Irish Jester charmed the Ground Jury to slot into fourth.

Rebecca Holder gave the US team a massive boost with a tremendous test from Courageous Comet. "Normally he's a show-off and I was hoping the lights and crowd would help him to bring out his best, and they did!" she pointed out, her score of 35.70 good enough to ensure that the USA continues to shadow the Australian leaders in the team rankings.

Brazil's Saulo Tristao created the biggest sensation of the evening when, instead of executing one of the difficult flying changes, his 10 year old mare Totsie boiled over and performed a movement that looked more like a cross between levade and capriole - much to the astonishment of the crowd.

The harmony between Megan Jones and Irish Jester however was a joy to behold, the 15-year-old Irish-bred content to please his rider to the very best of his ability and showing obedience and willingness throughout an accurate and athletic test. Megan bred, broke, produced and developed the handsome grey and admitted that this adds to her satisfaction at taking him to Olympic level, but she also got the prize for the coolest interviewee of the day.

"This isn't hot!" she insisted after giving Jester a well-earned kiss. Many of her peers were looking more than a little over-heated after their dressage efforts but Megan looked like she had just been for a quiet hack as she explained that she is well used to hot conditions as she is based in South Australia - "now it gets REALLY hot there!" she pointed out.

And to prove to herself that the Hong Kong climate was not going to take a huge toll on her horse on Monday the 31-year-old ran around the Olympic cross-country track earlier in the day. "I sweated a lot," she said disarmingly, "but I had already walked it once so I wanted to see what it would be like going a little faster and it wasn't so bad," she added - while her listeners stood gasping in amazement.

 

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