Britain has taken an early lead after the first day of dressage for the eventing contest at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Lying second is Sweden, with the hosts from Japan in third and China in fourth place. Few would have expected Germany to be lying fifth and New Zealand, France, Switzerland, USA and Australia stacking up behind them in the field of 15 nations.
The short action-packed dressage test, specially created for these Olympic Games, takes just 3.5 minutes to complete and, underlining the quality of the field, a total of seven combinations scored below 30 during the first session. Three more joined that elite group later in the day, including India’s Fouad Mirza riding the experienced 15-year-old gelding Seigneur Medicott who was previously ridden by Germany’s Bettina Hoy. Mirza is only the third rider from his country to compete in Olympic Eventing. He is in seventh place at this early stage.
Second out on the arena at Baji Koen, world No.1 Oliver Townend produced what he described as “a very safe test” for a score of 23.6 with the Irish-bred grey, Ballaghmor Class, to lead the rankings.
A brilliant ride by China’s Alex Hua Tian with Don Geniro brought him closest to Townend when putting 23.90 on the board for individual second place, while Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville lie third on 25.20.
Townend’s teammate Laura Collett then notched up a score of 25.80 for fourth place individually with London 52, but she wasn’t overly pleased. “I’m disappointed because it wasn’t the best that he can do,” she said. “He just sort of stepped back a bit and didn’t take me as he can. I know some people would be pleased with a 25, but on a horse like him, it’s obviously disappointing”. The combination achieved the lowest ever finishing score at CCI5* when they won Pau last year.
Japanese rider Kazuma Tomoto is in fifth place, putting up a score of 25.90, with Vinci de la Vigne, who was previously ridden by France’s Astier Nicolas.
A change in Australia’s team lineup has Kevin McNab (Don Quidam) replacing Stuart Tinney, who had to withdraw Leporis. McNab finished on 32.10.
The remainder of the riders perform their dressage test today, with the action moving to the Sea Forest Park on Sunday, August 1, for the cross-country phase, before the showjumping phase on August 2 that will decide the team and individual medals.
What the riders said
Oliver Townend (1st) (GBR): “It wouldn’t be my chosen job in life to be pathfinder but, at the same time, the first bit’s out the way and he’s done a very commendable job, so fingers crossed we keep the work up through the next three or four days and hopefully see where we end up.”
Julia Krajewski (3rd) (GER): “(Amande de B’Neville is) a real galloping machine and a great jumper, she’s always willing to perform and especially this year after Sam (Samurai du Thot, her team silver medal-winning horse at Rio 2016 Olympic Games) got seriously ill, it felt as if she really stepped up. Sometimes I think it’s when they feel they are the No.1 in the stable that they step up then!”
Laura Collett (4th) (GBR): “It’s not over yet – it’s not going to be a dressage competition, but with the calibre of horses and riders that are here, to win a gold medal you’ve got to be right up at the front end. We’ll see – it’s a long way to go, but it’s not where we wanted to start.”
Kevin McNab (18th) (AUS): “Unfortunately one of those sports where it does happen, I’m sorry for Stuart but it’s great to be here and there’s such a wealth of knowledge between the team that I’m lucky to be making my debut with them.”