Badminton blog: Cross-country of the century awaits

Megan Heath and St Daniel with Mark Todd.
Megan Heath and St Daniel with Mark Todd.

Today is definitely the most exciting, competitive days in cross country history!  Toddy may be the Rider of the Century but today is shaping up to be Cross Country Day of the Century.

The buzz about the “head to head Fox Pitt v Nicholson” battle is one thing, but adding in the Jung ingredient, you just have magic.  And yesterday Jock put his hand up as a serious contender as well, there’s a lot of talk about his chances, he’s rated highly here.

Michael Jung
Michael Jung

Yesterday was not just another day of dressage, either. All the predictions that the best scores would go up on the scoreboard in the late afternoon were correct.  The stands were packed for the final competitors, it was difficult to find a seat!  Well behaved crowds too, educated equestrians, so quiet during the tests you could hear only the cameras clicking.

Jock’s test was lovely to watch, and as for Andrew’s exhibition outside the ring and for most of the test, well that was breathtaking.  Unfortunately a few errors towards the end meant he wasn’t  in the lead, but right up there! I’m not normally a betting person, but couldn’t resist placing my first ever bet with a bookie. I thought I might get better odds on my pick, but those bookies are not silly. If my prediction comes off, my 2 quid will turn to 20 and Jock will be an international hero.

We’re continuing to experience technology challenges that belong in last century, however.  Yesterday after the dressage the media centre was packed with journalists and photographers, all trying to file their stories, upload their images and generally needing power and wifi. Issues, issues, issues. Not enough power points (Libby Law was one of the few smart ones to bring her own power box thingy).

But that wasn’t the main issue – it was getting internet access. Many of us couldn’t connect, the wifi was overloaded.  It took me back to days of dial up. Very disappointing and as I type this morning, I am still trying to upload photos from yesterday’s action from the cottage we are staying in.  We’ll get there!

The plan yesterday was to meet up with a few Kiwis after the dressage, but what with filing updates, technical hassles, we were a bit late and missed our meeting with Blyth, Laura Wallace and Dan Jocelyn which was a shame, would have been good to see them. We did catch up with Clarke Johnstone and then somehow ended up in the Bedgebury Park trade stand with a bunch of very fashionable young folk drinking champers.  Unfortunately the champers had run out, but we did get a lovely glass of Pimms.  As happens, one of the fashionable young things was originally from Rotorua – Michael Ashton.   Kiwis, they just pop up everywhere.

The best part about my job (besides the pay – yeah right!) is being able to interact with the riders after their endeavours.   Part of their duties is to come to the mixed zone where the waiting media ask them usually predictable questions.

“What do you think of the course,” being right up there in the most popular ones. All the riders, without exception, are very good at sharing their thoughts, even though they must have been asked the same questions so many times.

Kiwi spectator Michael Ashton checks out the Bedgebury Park trade stand.
Kiwi spectator Michael Ashton checks out the Bedgebury Park trade stand.

Andrew thinks the course will be testing, there’s a lot of technical questions towards the end of the course. Michael Jung thinks it is one of the hardest 4* courses he has seen. Jock thinks it is a galloping course so that time may not be the issue, but the technical fences will ask big questions. Mark says that some of the fences are more at three star level, but there’s some difficult elements as well. I didn’t stick around to find out what William Fox-Pitt thought – couldn’t be seen to support the opposition team!

Horse & Hound have printed t-shirts “Team Nicholson” or “Team Fox Pitt”.  I haven’t bought mine yet, but wouldn’t be seen dead in the other one!   It was cute to see Andrew’s young daughter wearing hers yesterday – albeit a bit swamped in the adult-sized shirt.

So it’s cross-country day today.  A few grey clouds out there this morning.  Nothing but nothing will dampen today’s building excitement.  Tweeters are already up and tweeting.  Many are on their way to the grounds, trying to beat the traffic. Predictions of crowd numbers have ranged from 150,000 to 250,000. It’s said to be the biggest single sporting event bar some car race.  I know which I would rather be at!

But in the meantime, it is back to loading photos.   Here’s the link.



Jane Thompson

Jane has always had a keen interest in horses, and was an active competitor in equestrian events from her early days until the late 1980s. » Read Jane's profile

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