Britain’s Oliver Townend found himself in the role of pathfinder on the cross-country course for the Tokyo 2020 eventing contest, after the fall and elimination of the first rider out, Thailand’s Arinadtha Chavatanont riding Boleybawn Prince.
Of the 60 starters, 49 completed the course at Sea Forest Park, with nine eliminations and two retirements. Only seven combinations finished clear and inside the time, including all three British riders. The most influential obstacle on the 23-fence course was 14C, a left-handed corner that followed a large oxer, where there were two refusals and the frangible device was triggered seven times.
Riding Ballaghmor Class, the World No.1 eventing rider regained the individual lead he had held after the dressage, and put up a perfect display of cross-country riding. With his team-mates, Laura Collett (London 52) and Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kresker), the British team go into the final jumping phase with four fences in hand over their nearest rivals.
But with the final horse inspection and the showjumping still to go, the Brits aren’t counting their chickens just yet: “This is a three-day sport, and you never know what you’ve got until you’re in the ring on the last day,” Townend said.
“I don’t enjoy these things until I’m on the plane on the way home – and then I enjoy it more than you can ever imagine!” he said. “Right now, though, I’m very happy. I just need to keep concentrating on my job and what will be, will be.”
German pathfinder Julia Krajewski went clear with Amande de B’Neville, and goes into the final phase in silver medal spot.
Laura Collett lies in bronze medal spot individually after a great round with London 52, and feels the result has confounded her critics.
“I always said he’s a superstar and he just went out and proved to everyone just how good he is. I’m so relieved I did my job and to be selected on this team this year, I know everyone at home will understand this, we’ve had to fight for our place and he’s proved to everybody he well and truly deserved it, and I can’t tell you how proud I am of him,” she said.
But the margins are small on the Individual leaderboard. Townend’s 23.60 leaves him just two penalty points ahead of Krajewski, and Collett is only 0.2 further adrift, with New Zealand’s Tim Price (Vitali) snapping at her heels carrying 26.80. Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto (Vinci de la Vigne) is on 27.50 and the third British team-member Tom McEwen on 28.90, only fractionally ahead of Australia’s Andrew Hoy in seventh spot.
Townend’s individual lead had been snatched away by Germany’s Michael Jung as the dressage phase drew to a close, but the double Olympic champion lost his grip on the top spot when triggering the frangible device at the corner element of fence 14, the Lone Tree Moguls, on an otherwise faultless tour of the cross-country track with Chipmunk.
The German National Federation lodged a protest against the resulting 11 penalties immediately after the cross-country, but the protest was dismissed by the Ground Jury. Other than that, Jung was happy with his ride: “I’m very happy, he was very good. I had a little mistake there (at fence 14), I didn’t realise it fell down but when I galloped away from the fence I heard the sound. It was quite a surprise for me.”
Compatriot Sandra Auffarth’s gelding, Viamant du Matz, had a glance-off at the final element of fence nine, a left-hand corner that followed a bank out of water for 22.4. “It came up very quickly at the beginning of course, he was super fresh and I turned a little bit too early to the step”, Auffarth said. “He’s so quick in his turns, and I came too much to the inside of the line and I think he just was not seeing the question at the corner.”
British team on top
Krajewski’s error-free ride on Amande de B’Neville was not enough to help the German team, which dropped from second to sixth and look well out of medal contention.
In contrast, both Australia and France enjoyed a great day with performances that lifted them into silver and bronze medal spots. Lying sixth after dressage, the Australians added just the 2.8 time penalties picked up by Kevin McNab and Don Quidam, and both Shane Rose (Virgil) and Andrew Hoy (Vassily de Lassos) both kept a clean sheet.
Hoy, competing in his eighth Olympic Games, was stopped on course when Swiss rider Robin Godel’s Jet Set pulled up lame after jumping the Mt Fuji water complex five from home.
The Sydney 2000 Olympic team gold medallist was grateful for the cooling facilities that kept his 12-year-old gelding safe while they waited on course. “It was excellent because until I got under the tent I could feel his temperature rising all the time. When you are galloping you have the wind in your face and on your body so you stay very cool. But as soon as you stop you don’t have that so your temperature rises. Vasilly’s temperature went up half a degree from when it was first taken in the cooling area but it was still very low and his heart-rate was back to 100. He’s phenomenally fit,” Hoy said.
The French are defending the Olympic team title, but things hadn’t been going their way until Christopher Six (Totem de Brecey) added just 1.6 time penalties to his scoreline, Nicolas Touzaint (Absolut Gold) were just over the time-allowed of 7.45 minutes to add 0.4 and anchorman Karim Florent Laghouag (Triton Fontaine) was clear inside the time. On a running score of 97.10, they are just over a single penalty point adrift of the Australians when the action resumes, with New Zealand (104.00) in fourth, USA in fifth (109.40) and Germany in sixth (114.20).
Sara Algotsson was announced as replacement for Ludwig Svennerstal on the Swedish team before the cross-country phase but withdrew when the team was no longer viable because of the elimination of Therese Viklund after a fall from Viscera at fence 18B.