The dressage phase of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic eventing competition gets under way today, and already there have been changes to the starting lineups.
Following the first horse inspection, the Polish reserve combination of Jan Kaminski and Jard has been called up because Pawel Spisak’s gelding, Banderas, did not get through. Ireland’s Cathal Daniels has been forced to withdraw his mare Rioghan Rua from the opening dressage competition for veterinary reasons, and will be replaced by team reserve Austin O’Connor with Colorado Blue. Daniels and Rioghan Rua now revert to being the reserve combination and can be called upon if required later in the competition – subject to the veterinary report.
Castle Larchfield Purdy, competed by Lauren Billys from Puerto Rico, was sent to the holding box but was subsequently declared fit to compete. Canada’s Jessica Phoenix did not present her gelding Pavarotti, so the number of starters in the opening dressage phase has been reduced to 63.
There’s a 40-year gap between the oldest athlete in the field, 62-year-old Andrew Hoy from Australia, and the youngest, 22-year-old Lea Siegl from Austria.
A new Olympic dressage test, taking just under four minutes to complete, will be performed for the first time. There will be two sessions of dressage on Friday morning and another on Saturday morning before the horses are transported to Sea Forest in Tokyo Bay for the cross-country early on Sunday morning. They return to Baji Koen that afternoon and on Monday the final jumping phase will decide the team and individual medals.
Thomas Heffernan Ho, who is the first eventing rider to represent Hong Kong, will partner the stallion Tayberry, and both Thailand and China are fielding an Olympic eventing team for the very first time. First into the arena at 8:30am local time will be Thailand’s Arinadtha Chavatanont with Boleybawn Prince. The pair were on the bronze medal-winning team at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2018.
Second to go will be world No.1 Oliver Townend with Ballaghmor Class. The British rider will be aiming to put as much pressure as possible on reigning individual double-champion Michael Jung from Germany who will be second-last to go on Saturday morning with Chipmunk. France will be defending the team title.
Michael Jung aiming for third individual gold medal
If Germany’s Michael Jung can do the individual hat-trick in Tokyo then he will set a new Olympic record. Charles Pahud de Mortanges from The Netherlands came out on top in Amsterdam in 1928 and again at the following Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932, and New Zealand’s Mark Todd won in Los Angeles in 1984 and again in Seoul in 1988. Both riders partnered the same horse on each occasion, the Dutchman riding Marcroix and the Kiwi riding the legendary Charisma.
Jung was also riding the same horse, the mighty Sam, when coming out on top at London 2012 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This time around he will partner his 2019 European Championship horse Chipmunk. The 38-year-old has already made eventing history by becoming the first to hold the European, Olympic, and World Championship titles at the same time.
But there are further records hanging in the balance. Australia’s Andrew Hoy, Shane Rose and Stuart Tinney have 166 years of life experience and eight Olympic medals between them. And 62-year-old Hoy could make Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to win gold medals an incredible 29 years apart. He won his first team gold in Barcelona in 1992 and if he could do it again he’d break the all-time record set by Hungarian fencer Aladár Gerevich, who triumphed in 1932 and 1960.
Hoy went on to win two more team golds, at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000, and just by turning up in Tokyo, he will set an Australian record with his eighth Olympic appearance since his debut in Los Angeles in 1984 at the age of 25.