Olympic jumping final: what the riders said

Britain's Ben Maher and Tripple X, who finished ninth equal.
Britain’s Ben Maher and Tripple X, who finished ninth equal. © London 2012

Comments from the riders in the Individual Olympic Showjumping final at Greenwich Park at London 2012.

Steve Guerdat (SUI), when told that 2008 individual Olympic champion Eric Lamaze (CAN) had tipped him for the gold medal: “I heard about that! I knew my horse had everything even though he’s not so experienced at this level. I felt if I could ride him good enough I could be Olympic champion!”

When asked about his father, Philippe Guerdat’s, role in his success: “There have been many people involved in my success and my father has always been there since day one. He doesn’t train me anymore but he gives me 100% support every day and every night. He’s always there for me.

“I am just happy for myself and my team. I am proud but I am more happy for the people behind me. They have helped me so much as a team and this gold medal is theirs, not mine.”

Switzerland’s Guerdat win Olympic jumping gold

Cian O’Connor (IRL): “Last night I told my wife, Ruth, that I knew I was going to get into the final today and that I’d go clear – and she laughed!” He also said: “I’m not the greatest rider in the world, but I’m the most organised!”

Gerco Schroder (NED): “London did a great job, he jumped great every day. On both days in the Nations Cup we had one down but today he jumped three rounds clear. I’m really happy with him. London always fights for you in the ring.  He’s very light in the mouth so I ride him in a hackamore (bitless bridle).”

Eric Lamaze (CAN): “I didn’t wake up this morning seeing myself on the podium, so I am not disappointed. [Derly Chin de Muze] has jumped a lot of big tracks this week, which she’s not used to, and maybe it was just fatigue.  She’s young, but she gained experience and came out of this a better horse. These were supposed to be Hickstead‘s Games and when the tragedy happened, we just didn’t have time to prepare.”

Ben Maher (GBR): “Once or twice we just over jumped, it’s an Olympic Games. There is only one day like this. I did not want to go out there thinking we could have done more. In Beijing I was in a medal position and I chose not to change something and it went wrong. Today I said we were going to go out and try. It was pretty hard. I struggled for speed in the first of the water jumps.”

He continued: “I can’t remember when we last had a combination down, he is a great combination jumper yet it’s caught us out both times. In the first round, if I was to analyse it I could perhaps say we were going a little strong into it. However, in the jump off I felt we were coming at it perfectly, but he just took a breath eyeing up the second part of the fence and it made him get in short to the first element resulting in us having it down. This just goes to show though the talented horse that he is as he did exceptionally well to jump his way out of the middle and latter part.”

Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS):  “I was really upset after the first round. I seemed to be waiting too long there and he [Itot du Charteau] got a little bit cold. He was just a little flat, not too many mistakes. He just felt a little more empty in the second round. It was tough … he’s one of the oldest ones here. That’s probably where Nick (Skelton, of Great Britain) had an advantage with a much younger horse. So on that side a little of a disadvantage for me that it wasn’t spread out more”

Ian Millar (CAN): “Each Olympics stands out well on their own; London is outstanding. The public have been so supportive and sympathetic. I am very much a team rider, and I would have liked more team company with me today.”

Of the course, he said: “There are so many subtleties to this thing. The rider and the horses are so good, and the course designer has to be so good.  The competition is really against the course designer.”

Saudi Arabia’s Kamal Bahamdan, who finished in fourth place with just two time penalties with the mare Noblesse: “I cannot say enough about my mare, she surprises me every time. She loves the atmosphere and grows a foot taller every time she gets into the arena. She understands how much I want this.”

On just missing the individual bronze Wednesday, coming in fourth after two time faults but no dropped fences in two rounds at Greenwich Park: “We smelled the medal. We didn’t get it but we smelled it.”

And on female showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas failing to qualify for the Olympics because of a horse injury: “She is young, but there are many others like her. And the good news is that when we see (Canadian show jumping veteran) Ian Millar competing in his 10th games, I think it’s never too late.”

McLain Ward and Antares F, who finished 29th equal.
McLain Ward and Antares F, who finished 29th equal. © London 2012

McLain Ward (USA): “It was a great course. It was hard but fair. At this point you’re starting to run on fumes. But my horse [Antares F] should have been better. I felt like I rode the course better today than I rode a Nations Cup so I was pleased with my riding. As always, I will look to see what I could have done better down the last line.”

On the US team’s performance: “It started well. It’s been kind of a disappointing week for us. To be honest with you I don’t think we had the team we had going into Hong Kong without the two horses (Sapphire and Authentic) but we were trying to be a bit above par and we weren’t able to do so. Maybe the horse ran out of gas a little bit coming down the last line. I’m disappointed but it’s back to the drawing board and I hope to do better. I think all of these horses are great horses but they certainly don’t have the record of consistency those horses had and unfortunately I think it showed itself this week. It comes down to sponsors and owners, we have top riders and I think we have good programs, but you’re only as strong as the horse stock you’re on.”

Nick Skelton (GBR) on Big Star: “Riding a horse of the quality of Big Star is the reason I get up in the morning and he just makes my life easy. Whatever he does in the Jump Off I won’t be unhappy with, hHe’s just been outstanding, he’s gone great, he’s brilliant and I really can’t fault him. I’ve not once met a course that he has struggled with, his talent is limitless and I really do believe there isn’t anything that you could build for him that he couldn’t jump.  Jumping courses like this is difficult, they’re big and they’re technical and what people don’t realise is that just a few inches too close or too far off means a jump down. When you have a horse like Big Star on your side, then you’re in with a chance as he’s not only incredible in his talent but also how he works with you.”

And on dropping a rail: “What can I say other than it’s one of those things. He jumped great, he hasn’t touched a fence all week. It’s one of the worst times to touch one but it’s the way that it is and he’s still a brilliant horse. We would have settled with a Team Medal before we came and I have to remind myself of that. I just feel so sorry for everyone , those that are part of the team supporting me and the crowd that hoped we would be picking up another medal for them today. We will now be positive, look forward and start again.”

Rich Fellers (USA): “It seemed really easy for him [Flexible]. He didn’t feel tired at all in there. I expected him to feel a little fatigued but he did that pretty easily. He did that as easily as he’s jumped any massive Grand Prix.”

Legendary Canadian rider Ian Millar, when asked, at the age of 65, if he intends to compete in the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016: “Star Power wants to go and he cannot go without me.”


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