August 21, 2008

New Zealand's Kirk Webby trotted up Sitah on Wednesday morning for the Olympic horse inspection and received the nod from the Ground Jury to start in the Showjumping Individual Final tonight.

Webby reported that his mare trotted up fine and looks great and has enjoyed having a couple of days off.

Thirty-five competitors will start in the competition, starting at 7.15pm (HK Time, 11.15pm NZT). Following the first round the field will be culled to the top 20 combinations who will then compete in a second round of competition, carrying forward their faults from the first round. If there is an equality of faults for for placings at the end of the second round a jump off will be held to determine the medals.

All competitors start from zero points, but the three qualifying rounds gave an indication of form.

Tony Hansen of Norway led after the three qualifiers. He and Camiro are unexpected contenders. Ranked 90th in the world, they jumped three clear rounds, incurring only one time penalty in each.

World Champion Jos Lansink of Belgium and Cumano stayed clear, but collected one time penalty more.

Double Team gold medalist Mclain Ward of the United States on 13-year-old Sapphire had one rail down in the third qualifier but stayed clear again in the jump-off for the team medal.

Edwina Alexander of Australia and Itot du Chateau were the only pair to deliver two faultless rounds in the team competition. Alexander finished fourth at the 2006 World Championship.

Team silver medalist Eric Lamaze of Canada and Hickstead, ranked No.3 in the world, had one rail down in the third qualifier, but stayed clear in the jump-off.

Ben Maher of Great Britain, riding Rolette, can be considered a surprise in sixth place. At 25, he is the youngest rider in the British team with six Nations Cup starts to his credit.

Defending gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil and Rufus, who are ranked seventh, collected one rail and time penalties.

Equal in eighth place are Irishman Denis Lynch, winner of the Doha Grand Prix, Dutchman Marc Houtzager, a replacement rider in the team, Canadian Ian Millar, Team silver medalist, and Swede Rolf-Goran Bengtsson.

Other competitors to look out for include Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany and Shutterfly, who are yet to have a clear round. But as the World No. 1, she should not be overlooked.

Multiple medalist and World No. 4 Ludger Beerbaum of Germany reaches the Individual final from 33rd but came from an even lower 44th position in the finals to win the gold medal in Barcelona in 1992.

World and European Team champion Gerco Schroder of the Netherlands, in 29th, can do better than he has shown so far.

Beezie Madden of the United States is a World Championship silver medalist and member of the defending gold medal team, but she and Authentic will have to improve from 17th place if they are to be among the medals.