What a day! Almost exciting enough to make me forget what happened yesterday – not quite. But before I go and pick that scab (not a pun, Victor’s cut is so tiny it doesn’t even have a scab) about the DSQ beside Tiffany’s name, I will take a few minutes to say how ‘chuffed’ I am at Canada’s fifth place and Britain’s gold team medal.
First, let’s talk about Canada. I know that Jill, Eric and Ian must have wanted so badly to win a medal today. It wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility, but it just wasn’t to be. With Jill’s eight faults to lead off, and no drop score, the only hope was for Eric to go clear. Derly is such a young horse, and she tried her heart out, no doubt about that. They weren’t cheap rails she had, it was a big ass Olympic medal round out there. I know. I walked it this morning, and as has happened at nearly every major championship I’ve covered, I go away thinking surely that isn’t jumpable and then marveling at all the horses and riders who don’t just get over the course, but make it look like fun. Maybe not fun for the likes of me, but fun for people who like to gallop over enormous scary fences.
Star Power was super over the early part of the course, and Ian made that wicked line over the water to the vertical on inverted cups look text book. It was an unlucky rail at the A part of the double at 9, but really by then our medal hopes had taken the bus home anyway. Fifth place is a very impressive finish for a team of three first-time Olympic horses with no drop score. And let’s not forget that they all had to deal with what happened yesterday – especially Eric, who was so visibly moved to anger and empathy for Tiffany.
Anyhoo, it’s a clean slate for the top 35 on Wednesday in the individual final. Captains L’Amazing and our world-record breaking ten time Olympian have a day off tomorrow to gather their resolve for the next round. I wouldn’t say either of them is an absolute favourite for a medal, but I wouldn’t discount either of them either. It’s a very strong field and it’s going to be a splendid day of sport. One rider whom we won’t see in the individual final is Sharbatly of Saudi, who is not qualified due to poor results in the first part of the team competition. I’m going to let myself be just a little bit mean and enjoy that fact. If you don’t know why I am not a fan of this Saudi athlete, then you have not been reading my blogs very closely. The fact that the Saudis bought their way to a bronze medal sits no more easily with me than Sharbatly’s silver in Kentucky two years ago. A few of us in the media room have coined a new term to describe their horses: meter-sixty packers.
And the Brits, the deliriously-happy-home-crowd makers. They did that in fine, fine style. I am getting goose bumps just typing these words because that is how awesome it was to watch them win the jump off against the Dutch, who for their part were gallant in defeat and looked like they meant it when they said they were happy with silver.
A few words about the side of the bed I woke up on this morning regarding Tiffany, Victor and hypersensitivity. I encourage you to have a look at Tiffany’s personal statement, which was issued last night, and which I think sheds light on just how devastating, and to use Eric’s words “wrong, wrong, wrong” her disqualification was. I also encourage you to read through the comments at the bottom of yesterday’s two posts on this blog. I think some very valid points have been raised by my astute audience.
I don’t want to harp on and on, but here is what I’ve decided needs to happen. I think that changes to the FEI’s hypersensitivity protocol are absolutely necessary. As long as one innocent athlete with a perfectly fit-to-compete horse is at risk of disqualification, it means the protocol is not doing the job it was intended to do when it was introduced. No one disagrees with the spirit of protecting welfare, but this protocol places too much emphasis on a minutely specific assessment with no room for context or common sense. I don’t believe change can be effected without a significant amount of pressure from the riders. This is their sport and they need to take it back. But in reality, the riders have two problems: one, they are busy making their livings as riders, trainers and coaches, and two, they may hesitate to pick a bone with Mission Control. Past experience has taught too many people that entering a tug-of-war with the FEI can have unwanted and unexpected consequences. I don’t harbour any delusions of grandeur that my articles and blogs have any sway on their own. I only hope I’m not the only member of the equestrian media or the international show jumping community who not only sees it this way, but is ready to pull on that rope when called upon. I know I sure will.
I would like to end today’s post with a confession. I am becoming addicted to crisps. Sweet Thai Chili crisps, Salt and Balsamic vinegar crisps, I try a new one every day. So good for my already-bulging waistline, I know.