Category: 2012 Olympic Games – London
|August 13, 2012||Posted by Eiren Crawford under 2012 Olympic Games - London|
As I get older, I find myself turning into an Olympic Junkie. When the Olympics are on I want nothing more than to watch all day or night (depending on the time zones) and cheer on not only my Canadian athletes, but pretty much anyone who made it that far.
The Olympics are the ultimate in competition, the pinnacle of sporting achievement. Sports I normally couldn’t care less about are suddenly fascinating, simply to watch the athletes.
On any other day I don’t care if you are the best hammer thrower, speed-skater, or gymnast in the world; however, the intensity and focus that every single athlete brings to Olympics amazes me, and I find myself smiling with joy when someone I’ve never heard of sings along to his/her national anthem after they’ve won gold in a sport I’ve never cared about.
Of course during the Summer Games, I am obsessed with the equestrian events, keeping me from productive work watching many other sports. As a professional dressage rider it’s always been and still is my goal to one day canter down centerline, representing my country. So you might imagine my excitement when I got a message from Patricia, asking if I wanted this extra ticket to watch the Individual Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle Final!
I arrived in London the night before the Freestyle. Just being in London already felt exciting; seeing Olympic signage everywhere, taking the tube (making all the right connections too!) where you’re surrounded by so many fans from different countries gets you in the mood for great competition.
Thursday morning, we took the train to Greenwich and the 6-7 minute walk to the park took us a lot longer as there was much to see! We walked right past Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester, getting mobbed by fans as they were slowly trying to get somewhere. We were too stunned to properly join the mob and she was already on her way by the time my jaw closed and I found my camera.
A few blocks later, we saw Edward Gal and his partner Hans Peter Minderhoud having coffee on a sunny patio. After walking past I got my stalking pants on, turned around and got their autographs, wishing Edward good luck. We also ran into a German friend who was there with the team and had a good chat about the state of sport.
Once we got through the very friendly ticket and security check we fought through the crowd to buy souvenirs and then moved on to coffee. While hanging out I got to meet Canadian Olympian Jacqueline Brooks (more autographs!) who was super friendly and took time to answer a bunch of questions I had for her.
Shortly after, we met up with my friend Lauren Sprieser, who blogs (very hilariously) for the Chronicle of the Horse, and had some champagne and lobster. Yes, champagne and lobster for lunch, because that’s what you can do at the London Olympics. Civilized!
We had great seats, but really I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the huge stadium. We were settling in when suddenly Patricia was getting her shoulder wiped by the lady behind us. Turns out her daughter, an Oxford undergrad, had a wee accident with her cherry tomato bursting and Patricia and her chair took the brunt of it. Funny way to meet your neighbors, but they were a lovely group. Not necessarily dressage fans, but some former riders who ended up with the seats through the ticket lottery and were happy to be there and interested to learn more.
Then it was show time. OMG! OLYMPIC DRESSAGE!
By this time there are plenty of breakdowns of the scoring and performances of the class. If you’ve already read every report you can skip this, but here are my thoughts, in order of go:
Valentina Truppa & Eremo Del Castegno ITALY 78.214% (final placing15)
Valentina and her chubby horse had the job of setting the tone and they did great, dancing to their Italian tunes. She had a few problems in her test, a bad change between the canter pirouettes and the horse showed some tension. However Eremo has a wonderful piaffe and passage, definitely the highlight of their freestyle, showed a very good walk and Valentina rode a very cool line of one-handed one-tempis, finishing the move with a big pat on the bum for her pony. It was a great start and a good score.
Patrik Kittel & Scandic SWEDEN 78.732% (14)
Rocking out to a Billy Idol medley, Scandic was presented in a more uphill frame and with more energy today than in the other tests. This horse shines in the trot, piaffe, and passage, with incredible rhythm and Patrik made the most of this highlight.
Anna Kasprzak & Donnperignon DENMARK 76.446% (18)
A lovely entrance and halt followed immediately by cantering into a pirouette, one-time changes and another pirouette! A gutsy and well done start to their Phil Collins/Genesis program. Unfortunately there were quite a few bobbles in her presentation, including breaking out of canter, a rushed walk, and some troubles in the piaffe, passage and transitions. She rode super one- and two-time changes and I think this Olympic debutant can be proud of herself and her horse.
Goncalo Carvalho & Rubi PORTUGAL 77.607% (16)
After watching this freestyle I’ve decided that I want to go out dancing with Goncalo! He chose fun, clubbing kind of music and looked like he had a blast out there with his Lusitano stallion. It wasn’t a flawless go, with some mistakes in the very difficult one-handed one-tempis, but it was the kind of performance that made you forget the technical requirements and just enjoy the show; very spectator friendly! The horse is a piaffing machine and one of the nicer things I’ll remember from this class was the rider dropping the reins in the halt, just before his salute. For some reason it just made clear the level of harmony and trust between them. Cool! (Also, got an autograph from Goncalo later, so he’s in my good books!)
Victoria Max-Theurer & Augustin AUSTRIA 79.089% (12)
When I realized it was another Genesis soundtrack I rolled my eyes and wondered how much of this we were going to be subjected to in one afternoon, but got over it pretty quick. Victoria is a lovely rider with a powerful horse that manages to look soft and supple. Despite mistakes in both the one- and two-tempis she still managed to put in an impressive ride with beautiful, flowing trot work and some great canter.
Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven & Don Auriello SWEDEN 79.286% (11)
Ok, I am only human and I needed to use the ladies room. But at least I was speedy and was able to get back to the stands in time watch most of her ride from one of the seating entrances. However, lodged behind a photographer or two, I couldn’t see enough to make any observations except that Tinne is such a beautiful rider! She makes it look so easy!
Steffen Peters & Ravel USA 77.286% (17)
The only American rep in the final made a super entrance and halt into elastic passage and piaffe. Nice start! However mistakes plagued this lovely pair; a counting mistake in the two-time changes, big pirouette right, jumping together behind in one of the one-time changes. A brilliant extended canter was marred by an unscripted flying change and then some trouble in the next pirouette. The pirouette to piaffe to walk was gorgeous. Ravel lost his balance in an extended trot. Steffen rode a great one-handed passage to finish his ride to music from Avatar. It was really a shame that there were so many mistakes, as it sounds like Ravel is retired.
Edward Gal & Undercover NETHERLANDS 80.267% (9)
Riding to big, epic music, Edward presented his still fairly new horse with his usual masterful skills. One little rhythm error in the first transition out of piaffe was the only negative thing I can say about an otherwise amazing piaffe and passage tour. The horse gets tight in the neck at times, making some of the movements a bit more staccato and less flowing, but everything is crisp and clean and accurate, while Edward manages to look totally relaxed through it all. The commentator made the great observation that “Edward looks to have all the time in the world when riding a freestyle.” The Dutch fans were very excited after this ride!
Nathalie Zu Sayn-Wittgenstein & Digby DENMARK 79.053% (13)
Digby is not a horse blessed with great natural movement, a sharp contrast to Undercover just before. However Nathalie has done what dressage is meant to do, make the the horse the best he can be through correct training. Mistakes in the flying changes detracted from an otherwise technically excellent ride and I think her great riding squeezed about every mark possible out of the horse.
Anky van Grunsven & Salinero NETHERLANDS 82.000% (6)
This very experienced pair put in a great performance, in what sounds like 18 year old Salinero’s last show. While both halts were Salinero-style questionable and he got croup-high in the changes, the overall test was strong, reliable, and elegant with the piaffe and passage work really beautiful. Riding to her very pretty piano music, Anky was the first one to crack the 80% mark and the Dutch fans went wild.
Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz & Fuego SPAIN 79.321% (10)
Fuego owns the passage. It’s like the horse believes he invented the move and just plays with it. Watching this freestyle just made me smile, the way the music takes you along and you watch the horse and rider play together, it’s like they let you in on some kind of exciting secret… Having said that, it wasn’t a perfect show. The canter pirouette right was big, the exit from the right pirouette was messy, and there was a mistake in the two-time changes. I think everyone is always hoping for the same magic Fuego delivered at WEG, but the horse wasn’t as sparkly as he was that show. Still, they are such a fun, proud pair to watch and the rider’s one-handed one-time changes and final passage leave an impression!
Kristina Sprehe & Desperados GERMANY 81.375% (8)
This young pair had a great Olympic debut, and I think in the next few years they are going to be amazing. They showed some great work, including a left canter pirouette into two-time changes, then a right pirouette into ones. Kristina pulled of a very difficult one-handed piaffe pirouette! Desperados looks weak in his hind legs still sometimes, pushing out rather than stepping under and losing balance, especially in the passage. Some abrupt transitions took away from the flow of her performance, and personally her Tears for Fears medley made me think meh… Still, an awesome debut and a pair to look for in the future!
Helen Langehanenberg & Damon Hill GERMANY 84.303% (4)
I. Love. Damon Hill. He is just so elastic and bouncy, and I happen to know that he has a great character. When I worked for Ingrid Klimke, “Dami” was there and so he definitely has the sentimental vote for favorite horse at the Olympics! He tends to sit too much in the piaffe, getting really stuck in his second piaffe. He showed beautiful trot work, and some great canter with lovely two-time changes. The pirouette left was a bit big but better to the right. His final piaffe was his best, with smoother transitions in and out.
Dorothee Schneider & Diva Royal GERMANY 81.661% (7)
Not the greatest luck of the draw for Germany to have them go three in a row maybe? Diva Mare Ears, as I’ve nicknamed her, reminds me a bit of Ravel in her way of moving, soft and fluid, making the work look easy. The only mare in the final had a very nice and regular piaffe and flowing trot work. There was a mistake in the flying change between half-passes and also in her second line of two-times. Her second pirouette left looked big. While there is room for improvement this big, floppy-eared horse was impressive, and when her program started with a voice asking, “do you like the black swan?” the audience laughed and appreciated.
Laura Bechtolsheimer & Mistral Hojris GREAT BRITAIN 84.339% (3)
Riding to music from the Lion King, I think this was one of the best rides I’ve seen from this combination. Sometimes this horse can look like a (beautiful, amazingly talented) beast to ride but today he seemed way more connected with his rider. Laura still has to do some mighty big half-halting, which at times takes away from the overall picture, but she put in a gorgeous ride. Some highlights were, well, the entire trot tour, a gorgeous piaffe pirouette into extended walk and wonderful canter pirouettes both directions. It was just a gorgeous ride and the home crowd loved it.
Carl Hester & Uthopia GREAT BRITAIN 82.857% (5)
So amazing. I just love this horse, this pair. Some more big, epic music was the background to this nearly perfect dance. There was a bobble in the left pirouette and Uthopia looked tired in the final passage and piaffe, but otherwise I was in a trance, hypnotized by the awesomeness of this pair. British fans delighted again!
Adelinde Cornelissen & Parzival NETHERLANDS 88.196% (2)
I don’t always love this pair, but I loved them today. Really, really loved them. I’m sure someone, somewhere will point out things that could have been better, but I only wrote “flawless” in my notes. Going into the class today I didn’t want Adelinde to win, but after that ride I thought that maybe she should.
Charlotte Dujardin & Valegro GREAT BRITAIN 90.089% (GOLD MEDAL!)
Along with most of the dressage loving population that isn’t Dutch or German, this is the pair I wanted to win. Apparently the judges wanted it too. Despite a late change between some canter half-passes and a jumpy transition from canter to piaffe, Charlotte and Valegro reigned supreme. Their super-British music isn’t a hit with a lot of people (Brits included), and it wasn’t their best work ever, but it was still so beautiful.
I’m sure there will be a lot of talk in the next weeks about the final standings. Plenty of people will think that Adelinde should have won the gold, or maybe Helen and Damon Hill should have made the podium. Judged sports are always subject to opinions and this will be a hot topic for a while. I can’t say whether or not I agree with the gold and silver placings, and I’m certainly glad that I wasn’t in the judges booth to make these decisions. Even our new British friends sitting behind us were a little confused as to why Charlotte won when they thought “that Dutch girl did much better.”
I know that watching Charlotte reacting to her win was why I love the Olympics. After showing a thrilled but composed face when winning the team gold, Charlotte completely lost it when she realized she won the gold. She was crying and crying, and hugging and crying, and then getting back on her horse and crying, riding the the podium in tears, dismounting and crying, and then getting on the podium and crying. Even though her win was predicted and expected by many, it is somehow a beautiful thing to see someone so emotional about it, not at all taking such a huge, historical win for granted. To have all your hard work, sacrifice, effort, luck, support come together at the right place and time is something we all hope for, but there’s only one champion at the end of the day.
Valegro just seems to love his job and he and Charlotte have a harmony that reminds me of a little girl on her pony, blasting along the field without any fear. No fear of getting hurt, no fear of breaking the rules or doing it wrong. We should all be so lucky to ride like that.
How many of you were once little girls (or boys), riding around on your naughty, cheap pony, with dreams of Olympic glory in your future? Maybe you still harbor those dreams? Charlotte’s win makes every little girl’s come true.
It was pretty cool to be standing up for the national anthem and having everyone around singing their country’s song, hearing the pride in their voices. But then… it was over. The Olympic dressage competition was over.
After unsuccessful athlete stalking attempts we had dinner near the park and then back to the hotel. I didn’t get a room but instead caught the last train to the airport and slept there since my flight was so early. Let me tell ya, real estate was hard to come by, as there were people passed out on benches, tables, and all over the floor. There were some very professional nappers, with sleeping bags and eye masks. My rookie attempt didn’t go so well and I was very tired when I got home Friday morning.
Tired or not, I had a bunch of horses to ride. So thankful to Patricia for the opportunity to come to London, and to my bosses for letting me run off when I should be working, I put on my new London 2012 polo shirt, got on the first horse and pretended that one day, just maybe, I will also canter down that centerline.
This week only, use code HOME2012 at check out and obtain a 10% discount on ECOGOLD Secure Saddle pads!
|August 13, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London|
Here are a few show jumping videos from the Olympics. Enjoy!
Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets
Nick Skelton and Big Star
Rich Fellers and Flexible
McLain Ward and Antares F
Gerco Schroder and London
Cian O’Connor and Blue Loyd (jump-off)
HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saud and Davos
|August 13, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London|
Watch Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris’ Grand Prix Freestyle at the London Olympics, to the music of the Lion King. They scored 84.339% and won the bronze medal.
Equidia talked to Laura Bechtolsheimer after the medal ceremony
|August 11, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London, Absolute Worst Photos|
When you have a talent for equine photography like mine, it is your duty to share it with the world.
|August 11, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London|
|August 11, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London, Lindsey - Show Jumping Groom|
HJU guest blogger Lindsey has worked as a groom in Wellington and Europe, and is now back in North America at a hunter/jumper barn.
You can find Lindsey‘s previous blog posts here
Today, she shares her thoughts on the Olympics. Thanks Lindsey!
The results of the team and individual show jumping phases during this week’s London Olympics are exactly why I don’t place monetary bets on horse sports.
In my mind, I had Germany and Great Britain as either the gold or silver medalists and USA picking up the bronze, and of course I had Nick Skelton pegged for the individual win. One out of four… Hmmm, not exactly the odds I’d like.
I should have felt the change in the air the moment Beezie pulled out of the double during the first round of qualifications, and then failed to make it over the second time. I was so shocked that I dropped my snack! Drama, drama, drama…
The second round of qualifications (first round of team scoring) was accompanied by the news the Tiffany Foster had been disqualified because of a failed hypersensitivity test. This a test designed to detect a form of cheating that involves heating a horse’s legs in order to make them more sensitive to hit rails. Team Canada did the best they could with three riders, but with both Eric and Jill on new mounts, medals were miracles away.
Then, the Germans did not make the second round! No Germans? They simply didn’t have their act together, and though I still expect great things will come from Meredith Micheals-Beerbaum’s Bella Donna, at the tender age of 9 she wasn’t quite on par with her peer Big Star.
Nick Skelton and Ben Maher were very much the British power couple I’d imagined they’d be when I saw them at WEF. During WEF, the other grooms and I would joke and cry ‘the British are coming!’ whenever we saw them compete…
Well, they came and they conquered the team finals! Watching Nick ride every round with his team was definitely one of the best parts – he wanted that gold SO BAD!
Everyone was so happy for them, even their competitors – Meredith told Peter Charles how proud she was of him, Peter told Scott Brash he had to kiss him, Nick Skelton appeared to hug almost everyone there…
It really is a team sport, during the good and the bad as Eric proved with his pledge not to ride on any Canadian teams until Equine Canada rereleased their statement. Luckily, the battle of EL vs. EC was short lived.
Nick Skelton came into the Olympics off of a stream of victories, he won a team gold medal, and then, as he went for the icing on the cake in the Individuals, he fell short by one rail in the second round.
Is anyone else flashing back to 2008, when Eric Lamaze, after just winning a gold medal, tried to win the CN International and his $450,000 bonus on Hickstead but his hopes were dashed when the legendary bicycle jump came down in the second round?
Eric stated he was “not disappointed, poor, but not disappointed.” I’d imagine that Nick feels the same way after his great run: “(individually) medal-less, but not disappointed.”
The individuals really were a crap shoot. Both Steve Guerdat and Gerco Schroder turned in solid rounds for their medals, but the real surprise was Cian O’Connor. Sent in the stead of Denis Lynch, originally one short of making the final cut but then in at the last minute due to a withdrawal, he ends up with bronze! How many horseshoes is he hiding on his person? Just kidding, it was a fight to the end and those three earned their fame!
Whoa, that was one crazy Olympics. Will the next one be that drama-filled? Anyone care to place a bet?
p.s. I only caught a bit of the Olympic Eventing cross country and I have but one question: ARE YOU PEOPLE INSANE!?!
|August 11, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London|
So, I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming that I’ve just won the Euromillions Lottery and now have a hundred and something-or-other million pounds to spend filling up new my mega-yard (which has mindblowing facilities and a team of dedicated and totally brilliant grooms) with fabulous horses.
I’m limited to ten, for common sense reasons… since I’ll also need time to ride all those wonderful young horses I’ll be bringing on for Rio, obviously!
But these are the ten horses I covet most from the London Olympic Games:
Of the Showjumpers: the cracking mare Castlefield Eclipse, ridden by Switzerland’s Paul Estermann. Okay, it probably makes more logical sense to pick one of the horses which medalled, but I know my limitations (ish) and what suits me. I love Irish horses, and I’m not usually in danger of getting jumped clean off by them (although a 1.60 track would probably terrify me and test me to the limit). She looked an amazing trier, I just loved everything about her. So, she would be my choice, to get me braver over bigger tracks. I just hope she has a good sense of humour and can ‘take a joke’ as they say, because some of the strides I see are definitely in ‘hysterically bad’ territory…
Of the Dressage horses, my heart would rule my head. I’d buy Valegro and Uthopia just so that Charlotte and Carl could keep riding them. I’d beg them for the odd careful lesson on my horses, and that would make me ridiculously happy.
I’d love the gorgeous Portuguese bay Rudi for myself, to really try to get to grips with all the fancy stuff that my horses only do when they’re being exceptionally naughty!
So now we come to the Eventers… ah, my ultimate Passion. I can have SIX?!?! I’m like a kid in a sweet shop. This is tricky, because I guess I’m supposed to be choosing ones I could actually ride one side of, so that limits my choices dramatically.
So, assuming I could also afford absolutely unlimited training by the best trainers I could find… hmmm. I love my mares, so silver medallist Wega would be top of the list, she’s just wonderful in every phase.
I’d love to get my mitts on Gin and Juice too, I still don’t know quite how she blotted her copybook at Greenwich, but every time I’ve seen her before I’ve been utterly smitten.
I suspect that Sam is a lot trickier than Michael Jung makes him look, plus I’d hate to break up a partnership like theirs, so he’s safe! But Lionheart would definitely be on the list, he’s such a stunning horse and still has a lot of years ahead of him, and WFP is not hard up for other top horses!
Joseph Murphy’s Electric Cruise – another Irish Sports Horse, they’re always welcome in my yard. He looked honest and generous in the eye… and I’d need that.
Opgun Louvo, but I suspect that his rider Sandra Auffarth makes him look a lot easier than he actually is… I’d need a lot of instruction!
And finally, hoping, praying that I could ride one side of him, Nereo. Such an athlete – if any horse (and rider) really deserved a medal, it was them.
So, that’s it. I’ll ask my imaginary head groom to start getting the stables ready, shall I? And start planning for Rio… dreaming on…
|August 10, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London, Amusing|
Dressage judge Stephen Clarke, president of the Dressage Ground Jury at the London Olympics, was interviewed on the main morning show at the BBC (think NBC’s Today), right in the studio! That is pretty darn awesome. He explained what dressage is and talked about what the judges look for in a freestyle and why Charlotte won vs the silver medallist (“the horse looked like he was doing it all himself”). Charlotte was supposed to be on the show later, but I missed it. In any case, with all this attention on dressage… we can officially say Dressage-mania has gone mainstream! A few pics to prove it…
|August 10, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London, Patricia's Corner|
I wanted to write a super recap of the Games but after X number of days (too tired to do the math…) at the Olympics, I find myself incapable of putting one sentence together that B) is coherent in the English language (or any language, really… not picky at this point) A) truly means what my brain wants to say.
I am flying back tomorrow (needed a day to remember my name) and between napping and not eating another panini, I will let all the memories marinate and hopefully, once my brain reboots, write something that will do the Olympic experience justice.
Thanks to everyone who made this amazing experience possible: first of all, my ECOGOLD family (real job) who not only contributed to the trip but let me go away for this long; the HJU blogger family (cuz that’s what it feels like), our sponsors (please click on their banners on the sidebar & support them!) and last but not least, all our readers who make this gig such a blast. Especially those who screamed – “hey, you’re Horse Junkies!!!!” from the stands in block #215 and then everyone around you “recognizes you”… at the Olympics. #surreal
Now, off to figure out how to put everything in my suitcase. My stuff tends to inflate or something… cuz it never fits on the way back.
PS – I don’t know if they have this in other countries, but for Canada the CTV Olympic broadcasts are available on iTunes. Here’s the equestrian link –> http://itunes.apple.com/ca/tv-season/ctv-olympics-london-2012-equestrian/id548762332.
|August 10, 2012||Posted by Patricia under 2012 Olympic Games - London|
Watch Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro’s Gold Medal Grand Prix Freestyle at the London 2012 Olympic Games. They scored 90.089.
Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro – GP Freestyle