Defending Olympic eventing champ Jung takes dressage lead

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Michael Jung (GER) and Chipmunk have taken the lead after the dressage phase of the Tokyo 2020 eventing competition.
Michael Jung (GER) and Chipmunk have taken the lead after the dressage phase of the Tokyo 2020 eventing competition. © FEI/Christophe Taniére

Defending double Olympic champion Michael Jung has overtaken Oliver Townend in the individual rankings on a morning of dramatic changes to the leaderboard as the dressage phase of eventing came to a close at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Baji Koen.

It was a fitting 39th birthday gift for the German rider, whose sublime test with Chipmunk FRH earned a score of 21.10 and rocketed the German team from overnight fifth to silver medal spot. Overnight leader Oliver Townend sits in second, and the British team maintains its lead after final team member Tom McEwen posted 28.90.

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And a brilliant performance from Tim Price and Vitali saw New Zealand climb from overnight sixth to bronze medal position ahead of Japan in fourth, Sweden who dropped from second to fifth and Australia who are now within reach of the leading pack having risen from tenth to sixth going into the cross-country phase.

» Tokyo’s Olympic cross-country: 5 years in the making, 8 minutes to ride

Jung was pleased with his 13-year-old gelding Chipmunk. “We had a very good partnership today, everything worked like I wished. Since the European Championships in 2019 I’ve had more time to train with him. We had a long winter to work more and have had many more competitions this year, so everything is going much better,” he said.

He may not have realised it, but he was being watched by IOC Member HSH Prince Albert II who paid a visit to the Equestrian Park to watch some eventing dressage, including the start of Jung’s Olympic title defence. After a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in the Olympic Family Lounge together with fellow IOC Member and FEI President Ingmar De Vos, the Prince was taken on a full tour of the venue, including a visit to the stables and the onsite veterinary clinic.

World No.2 Tim Price was responsible for the dramatic improvement for New Zealand, which rose from sixth to third. His score of 25.60 with Vitali puts his side, that includes his wife Jonelle, on a tally of 86.40, exactly six penalty points behind Germany and just over eight points off pole position. “That’s good, that’s what we want,” Price said when he realised his result had made such a big difference. “We just want to be a solid team, we’re only a little nation with a few riders to choose from,” he said.

Sweden dropped from overnight second to fifth, but Australia was another to rise meteorically thanks to a classic ride from the oldest competitor in eventing at these Olympic Games. Andrew Hoy, 62, and Vassily de Lassos posted 29.60, and all scores below 30 proved highly influential.

“I believe it is the maximum (score) we could have had from today. There were tiny little things that I can always improve. The joy I get from riding this horse is unbelievable, and I use one word to describe what I’m trying to achieve — harmony … when you see the great riders with harmony then it is poetry in motion,” Hoy said.

The Chinese team slipped from fourth to seventh, but pathfinder Alex Hua Tian is sitting in individual bronze spot with Don Geniro going into cross-country day. The 31-year-old made history when becoming the first Chinese athlete to compete in eventing at the Beijing Games in 2008. And, based in Cheshire in England since 2013, he took individual silver at the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea, in 2014 before finishing eighth individually at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Tonight the horses will travel to Sea Forest Park, a reclaimed island in the Tokyo Bay, for the cross-country phase. The tight, twisty course designed by Derek di Grazia has been constructed on a former landfill site, and the many slopes and undulations are entirely man-made.

A total of 13 combinations start Sunday’s cross-country with scores below 30 after Jung, Price, McEwen and Hoy joined the leading pack. There are now 61 starters, following the withdrawal of Dsp Cosma by Austria’s Katrin Khoddam-Hazrati from the dressage, and Lara de Liedekerke-Meier from Belgium, who competed in the first day of dressage with Alpaga D’arville.

The first combination out, Thailand’s Arinadtha Chavatanont and Boleybawn Prince, will set out at 7.45am local time at Sea Forest in Tokyo Bay. Michael Jung is the German anchorman and is second last to go.

Team GB’s eventing team hold gold medal position after first phase

31 July 2021

The third and final dressage session of the eventing competition took place this morning, with the last rotation of team riders and a smattering of individuals heading down the centre line. The efforts of Oliver Townend and Laura Collett had seen Team GB rise to gold medal position overnight, so it was down to Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser to see if they could hold onto it going into cross-country.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser

It’s a sign of quality within the British team that all three combinations are previous CCI5* winners, with Tom and 14-year-old Toledo de Kerser picking up their title at Pau in 2019. Their test today was fluid, rhythmic and at times looked to challenge teammates Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class for the top spot on the individual leader board – until minor issues in the first set of flying changes pulled the score down.

Regardless, Tom was full of praise for his long-time equine partner (Diamant de Semilly x Papillion), who’s owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns and Tom’s mother Ali McEwen.

“I’m actually very pleased with him, he coped very well in there – he loves situations likes that,” said Tom. “It was just the two early changes that really cost me – the preparation was good, but they were a bit of a flop really. As a team we’re still in a strong position, though, and it gives me more emphasis to get cracking tomorrow [for cross-country].

“He’s been amazing since he got here, absolutely unreal – which makes it more of a shame to go in there and get a 28 or 29 because I knew he could have been very low twenties or even into the teens on the right day. His changes are usually very good, very correct. So, yeah – very pleased with him, but to be worked on.”

Tokyo 2020 is the first time that the eventing competition has been run without teams having the luxury of a drop score, meaning that every rider contributes to the final tally – and mistakes could prove costly.

» Dressage results

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