Monday, July 28, 2008

Equestrian Olympics - Dreams breed determination.

11 days till Olympic Games begin in Hong Kong (Aug 8)!

For me, the main event of the Olympics is the equestrian competition - and that will be held in Hong Kong, not Beijing. More than 200 riders and horses are expected to compete in the Olympics, which will be followed by the Paralympics with about 75 participants. All horses will be flown in. Dressage and jumping events will be held in the Jockey Club's Sha Tin race course, close to the border with mainland China. A golf course was converted into a cross-country course.

Here is an article by John Gettings and Mark Zurlo....

Along with sailing, equestrian is the only Olympic sport where men and women compete against each other. Inspired by the chariot races of the ancient Greek games, it is also the only Olympic sport in which humans and animals are teammates.
Riders compete in three disciplines—dressage, jumping, and eventing—and are awarded individual and team medals.
In dressage (derived from the French verb "to train") a horse-and-rider team receives scores based on a series of set movements. The movements test the horse's strength, suppleness, and obedience and the rider's ability to guide the horse through the test with subtle cues. The horse-and-rider team should present harmony, lightness, and free-flowing movement. The competition is held in three rounds. The third round is a freestyle test set to music, first introduced in 1996, that is scored both for technique and artistry.
The discipline traces its roots to Xenophon, a Greek horseman and historian, and to 17th- and 18th-century cavalry officers who considered the maneuvers a valuable training method. In fact, only commissioned officers of the military could compete in Olympic dressage competitions from its inclusion in 1912 until 1952.
In the jumping event, competitors complete a course of 15–20 obstacles within a specific time. The object is to navigate the course with the fewest penalties, which are given for knocking down obstacles, balking at jumps, or falls by rider and/or horse. The obstacles include fences up to 5 1/4 ft. high and 6ft. wide. A tie for first place is settled by a jump-off over a shorter, faster course.
Three-day eventing is the most grueling of the Olympic equestrian events, combining dressage, show jumping, and a cross-country phase. On the first day, riders demonstrate the training and obedience of their horses in a dressage test. The next day they compete in the exciting cross-country phase where they gallop 5,700m over varying terrain and jump up to 45 obstacles. While these obstacles are not as high as those in show jumping they are more solid and include ditches and fences in water. On the final day horse-and-rider teams compete over a show jumping course. This last phase demonstrates the fitness of the horses and how quickly they can recover from the previous day's trial. Eventing competitors do not win points, but instead incur penalty points during each phase. The winners are the rider and team with the fewest penalty points.
For the 2008 Olympics, equestrian will be one of the few events not to be contested within the city limits. Instead, such events will be held in Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. The jumping and dressage events will be held at the Shatin Olympic Equestrian Venue, an 18,000-seat outdoor arena that was once part of Shatin Racecourse. Air conditioned stables four blocks long, and with the capacity to hold up to 200 horses were constructed for the competition, along with a number of other amenities for competitors. The cross country events will be held at a venue constructed on the Bead River Country Club and Hong Kong Golf Club.

US Showjumping Team: Chef d'Equipe: George Morris
Rider Age Hometown Horse Horse Age, Breed, Sex, Owner
Beezie Madden, 45 Cazenovia, NY Authentic 13, KWPN, Gelding, Abigail Wexner
McLain Ward, 33 Brewster, NY Sapphire 13, Belgian Warmblood, Mare, McLain Ward, Tom Grossman & Blue Chip Bloodstock
Will Simpson, 49 Thousand Oaks, CA El Campeon's Carlsson vom Dach 12, Holsteiner, Gelding, El Campeon Farm
Laura Kraut, 43 Wellington, FL Cedric 10, KWPN, Gelding, Happy Hill Farm & Peter Wetherill

First replacement (will travel with the team to Hong Kong):Anne Kursinski and Champ 163

Here is another great article from the USEF website:

For many of the equestrian athletes heading to the 2008 Olympic Games, the journey to Hong Kong started decades ago. Dreams breed determination.
Equestrian sports are one of only two Olympic sports where men and women compete as equals. There are three Olympic disciplines, dressage, eventing and show jumping. Each discipline requires a very unique set of skills. The thing they have in common is what is at the heart of the equestrian Olympic movement: the horse.
The horses’ journeys are as storied as the people who ride them. Some are bred for a very different purpose, racing or breeding or a different discipline entirely. This website will tell some of the tales of athletes, both human and equine on their way to the greatest competition in sport.
One member of each team is an Olympic rookie: eventers Becky Holder, Heidi White and Gina Miles, dressage rider Courtney King-Dye and show jumper Will Simpson are all riding under the Olympic rings for the very first time. This is Olympics number four for Phillip Dutton, but his first riding as an American. Dutton has two Team Gold medals on his bookshelf already.
There is Brentina, the veteran mare on the comeback from an injury sustained in a gallant effort to clinch the Team Bronze medal at the 2006 World Equestrian Games. She and Debbie McDonald will take on the world’s best again in Hong Kong. Veterans of the 2004 Bronze medal winning team in Athens, with teammate Steffen Peters (who’s young horse Ravel causes a stir every time he enters the ring) and King-Dye: the dressage team looks poised to go one (or two) better.
Beezie Madden and McLain Ward have each strung together major achievements over the last four years with Authentic and Sapphire respectively, but an individual Olympic medal would complete their resumes. Teammate on the 2004 Gold Medal winning team in Athens, these horses (and riders) are four years more experienced. Madden was also the individual Silver medalist from the World Equestrian Games in 2006.
But individual Olympic honors are one of the few honors that they haven’t achieved.
Laura Kraut (another Olympic veteran − 2000) and Cedric swept the USEF Selection Trials for Show Jumping in March and although Cedric is somewhat inexperienced he has one of the bravest riders in the show jumping world to guide him through his first Olympic Games.
These and dozens of other riders from all over the world will be to be part of the Olympic dream in 2008. There are medals of all colors to defend and history to be made.
Kick on to Hong Kong!
Equestrian journalist Nancy Jaffer's PREDICTIONS AT A GLANCE:
EVENTING Team: Australia, Britain and France will battle it out for gold, silver and bronze. Spoiler? The U.S. Individual: GOLD: Nicolas Touzaint and Hildago De L'ile (FRA) or Lucinda Fredericks and Headley Brittania (AUS)BRONZE: Clayton Fredericks and Ben Along Time (AUS) or William Fox-Pitt and Parkmore Ed (GBR)

DRESSAGE Team GOLD: Germany and the Netherlands duke it outSILVER: Whoever gets edged in the battle for goldBRONZE: U.S., with Denmark a possible spoiler
Individual GOLD & SILVER: Anky van Grunsven and Salinero (NED) v. Isabell Worth and Satchmo (GER)BRONZE: Up for grabs. Adelinde Cornelissen/Parzival (NED), Nadine Capellman/Elvis (GER), Andreas Helgstrand/Blue Hors Don Schufro (DEN) and Kyra Kyrklund/Max (FIN) are contenders. Long shot: Steffen Peters and Ravel (USA)

SHOW JUMPING Team GOLD: Germany SILVER: United States BRONZE: Canada
Individual GOLD: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly (GER)SILVER: Beezie Madden and Authentic (USA)BRONZE: Eric Lamaze and Hickstead (CAN)
Show Jumping: In show jumping, the well-calibrated U.S. squad is headed by Beezie Madden (my nominee for the individual silver) and McLain Ward, with their gold-medal horses from the 2004 Olympics, Authentic and Sapphire. The other members of the team include selection trials winner Laura Kraut on Cedric and Will Simpson with Carlsson vom Dach. Laura was the alternate for the 1992 Olympics and rode in the 2000 Games, while Will, who is making his Olympic debut, did well on a European tour earlier this year.
Germany, as usual, is the obvious choice for the team gold medal. The squad is headed by my individual gold medal pick, former America Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the 2008 World Cup champion and number-one-ranked rider in the world with the amazing Shutterfly. Her team goes from strength to strength. Consider, for instance, that among those backing her up is another possible individual medalist, Ludger Beerbaum.
"The Germans are always the ones to beat," U.S. show jumping coach George Morris told me, noting most of that team's members "have two Aachen grand prix horses. Beezie and McLain and our people, they really just have one."
George quickly added, "I'm not saying that to discourage us. Potentially, we have a great team."
And don't forget that luck has something to do with the results, not only on the day of competition, but also beforehand. When it comes to luck, the Dutch show jumpers--who were my potential silver medalists--have been in trouble. Their 2000 Olympic individual gold medalist, Jeroen Dubbeldam, was badly injured earlier this year when he was kicked by a young horse. Then Okidoki, the stellar mount of Albert Zoer, hurt his mouth in a freak stall accident. While the horse appears to have recovered, his rider is not doing as well. Albert, the lynchpin of the Dutch team who won the Aachen grand prix on Sam (there's that depth thing again), broke his leg in a training accident two days after Aachen. Although the Dutch were hoping the world's number-two-ranked rider could mend in time to compete in Hong Kong, it seems unlikely.
So with that in mind, I am taking the Dutch out of my medal equation and promoting the U.S. team to silver. Given that anything can happen (see the Dutch team, above) the U.S. benefits from having a great alternate rider in Anne Kursinski. She and Champ are a new combination who just got together in January, but their single-time-fault trip in the first round of the Aachen Nations' Cup demonstrates how well they are meshing, and they offer George a comfort level, since Anne has two Olympic team silver medals to her credit.
Equestrian Olympic Blogs & Links:


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