The unmistakable sound of La Marseillaise – the French national anthem – rang out around Deodoro Equestrian Centre for the second time of the Rio Olympics today, with the gallant French claiming team jumping gold to go with their team eventing gold.
And it was their unconventional hero, Roger Yves Bost, who sealed the deal for France, with a stunning double clear just as it was needed.
It was the fairytale end to a less than fairytale start for the French jumpers, who had a tough week. First, their leading rider Simon Delestre was ruled out when his horse was injured. Then, Pénélope Leprovost had the misfortune of being eliminated from the individual competition when her mare, Flora de Mariposa, stumbled in the first round and unseated her. Things went from bad to worse for Pénélope, when the mare later developed colic.
The French dug deep though, and went into the final session of the teams’ competition on a single fault, with four teams ahead of them (Brazil, the USA, Germany and the Netherlands) on a four-way tie on zero faults.
And as the rails began to fall and time faults accrue over today’s increasingly testing track, French fortunes turned.
It was Canadian Tiffany Foster, 29th to go, who posted the first clear with the lovely big dark bay Tripple X. Kevin Staut was out next for France, and immediately treated the crowd to another with Reveur de Hurtebise.
The Dutch and Brazilian challenges fell by the wayside, despite some brilliant riding, and then France’s Phillip Rozier went clear with just one time on Rahotep de Toscane.
By this time, a rail each for their first two riders had put the Germans out of gold-medal contention, but the USA had Kent Farrington on Voyeur clear with one time, and Lucy Davis and Barron on four faults. This meant France was sitting on a score of two, with the USA on five, with the third rider to go.
Roger Yves Bost is a real character of the sport, and riding Sydney Une Prince he delivered just what France wanted, taking a couple of real fliers for a thrilling clear under time. France could not be beaten, and Pénélope didn’t even have to jump.
How did Bosty handle the pressure, knowing a clear would give his team gold? “There was no pressure,” he said. “Because I don’t know the scores, I do my job. After, I look [at the scores] and they come to me – gold!”
The last rider out for the USA (as Beezie Madden’s horse Cortes C had sadly been withdrawn due to injury) was McLain Ward with the extraordinarily scopey HH Azur, and though at that point he knew his team had no chance of gold, any mistake would be costly and drop them down the standings.
“When I realised we couldn’t win, I was feeling like I was going to throw up, actually,” he admitted. “But you have to gather yourself… it takes the wind out of your sail a little bit when you are focused on winning. We’ve had a little bit of a rough 24 hours losing Cortes. I thought Kent is obviously brilliant and Lucy was the utmost professional, top class and really delivered a great round. It allowed me to be in a position where I could do the job I was supposed to do.”
He and Azur jumped beautifully for their double clear, which ended up being just one of four fault-free rounds of the day.
Eric Lamaze, for Canada, followed suit on Fine Lady – and achieved the distinction of being the only rider on a total of zero throughout the entire competition so far.
Then it was Ludger Beerbaum who had to jump clear on Casello to keep the Germans in contention for the bronze, and he, too, pulled it off.
So now it was an exciting jump-off for bronze between Canada and Germany. Canada’s Yan Candele and Amy Millar each had a rail, and Tiffany was clear with Tripple X.
Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum were both clear, and then team mate Daniel Deusser sealed it with another clear.
There were very emotional scenes from the French as the medals were given out. Chants of “Bosty” filled the arena when the popular Frenchman got his medal.
Kevin Staut, talking with the gold medal around his neck, said it had been a tough week, and: “I’m proud to be French, proud to be a rider and proud to win a gold medal.”
Philippe Rozier was also very emotional as he added to the family medal-winning history. His father Marcel was part of France’s last gold-winning show jumping team, back in the Montreal Games (1976), and was in Rio as a trainer for the Moroccan rider. “Two gold medals in the family is unbelievable for me and my family and friends.”
The 18 combinations who are still in with a chance for individual contention also jumped today, before the team riders, as today counted as the third individual round.
Some of the highlights included Sheikh Ali Al Thani, of Qatar, jumping clear with one time fault on First Devision and doing an extra lap afterwards, mainly without holding his reins, urging the crowd to cheer, which they did. His Qatar team mate, Ali Yousef and his lovely dark bay Gunder followed directly with a clear with two time penalties, but chose not to do the waving lap.
For the Ukraine, Rene Tebbel put in a good performance collecting just two time faults on Zipper, a horse that impressed. The Sam R stallion has caught many hearts. He will be a popular horse in the final on Friday.
Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander was under time, but had the middle of the treble down.
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson rode a very efficient and tidy round on Unita, and while his Swedish team finished seventh, both he and his team mate Peder Fredrickson on All In have qualified for the final. Peder incurred just one fault in both rounds of the teams competition.
Reigning Olympic Champion Steve Gerdaut rode brilliantly on Nino Des Buissonnets incurring just one time fault.
The middle of the treble was one of the costlier fences, trapping many, including Daniel Deusser, who looked very polished over every other fence.
Now it’s a much-needed rest day for horses, riders and media, and on to the individual final!