U.S. Show Jumping Team Off to a Solid Start in the Olympic Games.

Three of four riders jump clear, but Beezie Madden and Via Volo suffer elimination.

By Nancy Jaffer for USHJA

August 4, 2012

LONDON, UK — The United States Show Jumping team was off to a strong start at the London Olympic Games until disaster struck. Beezie Madden, the team’s anchor rider aboard Coral Reef Ranch’s Via Volo, was eliminated in the First Individual Qualifier.

Madden was preceded by McLain Ward on Antares F and FEI World Cup Champion Rich Fellers aboard Flexible, both of whom were fault-free, as well as teenage phenom Reed Kessler, who had 1 time fault on Cylana.

Going next-to-last in the field of 75, Madden was having a perfect trip aboard the soaring Via Volo until she reached the ninth of 12 fences, the double combination commemorating the 1908 and 1948 Olympics, both of which were also held in London.

Madden and her mare had a disagreement as to whether 9A should be reached in seven strides or a quiet eight, and Via Volo jumped so far left that Madden had no choice but to circle her and try the combination again.

Via Volo cleared 9A but put on the brakes at 9B, eliciting gasps from the crowd of more than 20,000. That second refusal eliminated Madden from today’s competition, though she will be able to take part in the Nations Cup for team medals, which begins tomorrow. Madden's score to carry forward individually is the highest score after this class plus 20 for a total of 42, which dashes her hopes for an individual medal.

Madden said the mare was "jumping amazing," and noted, "I planned to do the steady eight [strides] there, and she fought me quite a bit. In hindsight, I could have done seven down to that double. Luckily, all the others did well, and I think she'll be fine tomorrow. She's never done anything like that before."

There were comments from some that designer Bob Ellis' course was too easy; 32 entries tied for first place, since the one-round format was Table A, not against the clock. Madden said she thought 32 was a few too many, but she pointed out that this was everyone’s first time in the ring and it would only increase in difficulty.
She noted, however, that with three further days of strenuous competition to come, the course did provide a good introduction to jumping in the atmosphere-charged arena at Greenwich Park, one of the most beautiful Olympic venues in history, with its backdrop of the London skyline and the historic Queen's House.
Four teams--the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium--are tied for first place after their drop scores were utilized, though the Netherlands alone had all four of its riders fault-free.

The United States has 1 penalty— Kessler's time fault—and is tied with Brazil, France and Germany for fifth place.

The standings certainly will change tomorrow as the Nations Cup gets underway. The U.S. squad is under pressure because the eventers didn’t medal, and the dressage team seems unlikely to do so.

"We want to do well for our country and all the people behind us," said Ward, and that’s especially true in regard to the situation of coach George Morris, who is retiring after this year.

Ward said he and Madden, who are on their third consecutive Olympic team, "have had a great decade with George, and I think we'd like to finish with a medal for him."

Today's scores don’t count for the Nations Cup tomorrow other than to determine the order of draw for the teams. Everyone starts the Nations Cup on a score of zero.

Following the two days of Nations Cup jumping, the top 35 horses go forward to the Individual Final where they all start on a score of zero. Only three riders from any one team can go forward.

The competition schedule and full results are available at http://www.london2012.com/equestrian/.

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