Today’s post should be read while listening to the following soundtrack:
It’s official. These Olympic equestrian events truly are a three
ring discipline circus. A trilogy of tribulations…a hat trick of high drama. The media is losing its collective mind because there is so much chum in the churning waters. I was just saying two days ago how quiet the media room was, now that the Royals are gone with Zara’s Olympic debut behind her. Things may ramp up again with Romney-mania tomorrow when Jan Ebeling and Rafalca compete in the Grand Prix Special, but I haven’t been asked a single stupid question about horse ballet by a Wall Street Journal or Fox News reporter since Thursday. The show jumping was ticking along all nice and quiet (well, as quiet as show jumping ever is), until along came hypersensitivity, which chose to sit on an already downtrodden Canada (no team finish in Eventing or Dressage) like the elephant in the room that it is.
I have already written about Tiffany Foster’s disqualification on my other blog, Straight-Up, and will continue to do so for some time to come; I am just one among many who believe that the FEI’s hypersensitivity protocol is not doing the job it was created to do, which is to catch cheaters and horse abusers. As long as there is the potential for even one innocent athlete with a perfectly fit-to-compete horse to be disqualified from any FEI competition – never mind the Olympics – the hypersensitivity protocol is in need of profound examination and revision. I’d like to say I’m an eternal optimist – hopeful that the outrage felt by Canada’s team, as well as many teams from around the world, will provide the momentum to force a hard look at the protocol. But I have grave doubts about the willingness for honest self-assessment from one important body: the FEI.
Please do take a one-click trip over to Straight-Up if you want to read more about my thoughts on Tiffany’s very, very bad day at the Olympics.
Believe it or not, there have been other interesting things going on here at the Show Jumping . Once I had waded through the labyrinthine Olympic format for Show Jumping, I finally realized that the sole purpose of Saturday’s speed class that wasn’t really a speed class (you don’t normally see time penalties in a speed class, for instance) was just to slap a ‘Team Only’ designation on the weakest performers, presumably so that they would not kill themselves or their horses by making it to the individual final, where we will see the biggest course of the competition. We also expect today’s course to be bigger and more technical than yesterday’s first half of the Nations’ Cup team competition – which isn’t really a proper Nations’ Cup, for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s spread over two days, and secondly because the courses are not the same. See if you can follow this mind bender: today’s second not-really-NC round is open only to the top eight teams from yesterday’s round, and the top 45 individuals. But that doesn’t mean only 45 will compete. That wouldn’t be complicated enough for the Olympics. Some of the team members on the top eight teams are not in the top 45, but they get to compete. Individuals, and riders on teams not in the top eight who ARE in the top 45, get to go too. That means there will be something more than 45 competitors today. Clear as mud, right? The Dressage has been no easier to follow. For once Eventing is the most straightforward discipline. When does that happen?
As the goats were separated from the sheep on Saturday, a few surprise entries ended up on the discard pile as individuals, including Beezie Madden and Via Volo, who refused out at the B element of a double. I heard Beezie was circumspect about losing her individual prospects. She seemed to think it wasn’t so bad because she would not have been in medal contention anyway. But Beezie is also hardly one to wear her heart on her sleeve – she would actually make a great addition to the Royal family, with her ability to show almost no emotion, positive or negative, even when winning or losing medals. I remember when she won silver at the 2006 WEG in Aachen, her response to a question about how that felt was a faint upturning of the lips, out of which came the words “pretty good”.
Another speed class shocker was Christian Ahlmann’s near dismount from Codex One – I think it was at the same double where Beezie came a-cropper. Codex One said ‘no thanks’ to the B element, and the only thing that kept Christian top side was a collision of his body with the top rail of the jump. Ok, I won’t make any new German friends with the following observation, but here goes: I don’t exactly believe in Karma, though I’ll contradict that statement by saying I do find that the principle of ‘what goes around comes around’ seems to hold true often enough to be bordering on a belief system for me. Remember the Capsaicin scandal in Hong Kong? Christian’s horse Coster was one of the horses found with it in his system at the 2008 Olympics, resulting in his disqualification and ban, which was initially four months, but was later increased to eight when the German Federation shocked the world and appealed to the FEI to punish him more severely. The Olympic disqualification is such unhidden history that Christian’s page on the Olympic athlete database refers to it. Another tidbit on the Olympics database page about Christian is that he likes to reward a good competition result by adding to his personal whiskey collection. Methinks he won’t be buying any single malt in London. The second biggest shocker of yesterday (after Tiffany’s DSQ) is that the Germans failed to make the cut to the team final, finishing in a tie for 10th with Australia.
I have a whole armload of other interesting stuff to share that doesn’t make the FEI press releases, such as an interesting anomaly about Abdullah Sharbatly’s qualification for London on a horse he had never competed before June 29th, 12 days after the deadline to obtain an FEI certificate of capability, and a look at the revolving door nationalities of Ukraine’s show jumping team, but I need to catch my bus so that I don’t miss a chance to have photos taken of myself walking the course like I did yesterday. TTYL!