Fellers and Flexible Boost the U.S. Show Jumping Team Into Contention

By Nancy Jaffer for the USHJA

August 5, 2012

LONDON, UK — A perfect "must-do" round by Rich Fellers on his longtime partner, Flexible, boosted the U.S. show jumping team's Olympic fortunes, putting the squad into tomorrow's second round that will decide the medals.

A technical course utilizing rider options—several notches tougher than Saturday's route for the First Individual Qualifier—shattered the chances of several highly regarded teams, including Germany, France and Belgium.

Only eight of the 15 nations that started will return tomorrow for the final test before the medalists ascend the podium at Greenwich Park.

Saudi Arabia leads on 1 penalty, followed by a tie for second among Great Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, all of which have 4 penalties. Sixth with 5 penalties is Canada, which has only three riders since Tiffany Foster's horse, Victor, was found to be hypersensitive and was eliminated.

The United States has a total of 8 penalties, to tie for seventh with Brazil.

"As a team, I wish we were in a little better position, but we're all fighters and we can come from behind," said Fellers.

He became the anchor rider after Beezie Madden had problems with Via Volo yesterday and was eliminated from the individual competition with two refusals. Although she is normally the anchor, the two-time Olympic gold medal team member was moved to the second spot in the order of go, a somewhat guarded position that enables the squad to get a good start and, if necessary, have other riders at the end pick up the slack.

But Via Volo handled the more difficult round well, having only one rail at 5A, the oxer that was the first element of the first combination on the layout designed by Bob Ellis.

"That was huge for Beezie, to get that round. She had to ride the first combination strong," said McLain Ward, who was her teammate in the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games.

He led off the U.S. effort with Antares, as he had yesterday, but a foot in the water jump put 4 faults on the board early.
"I made a rider error at the water; I was too close," said Ward. "I can't blame the horse."

Reed Kessler, third to go on Cylana, was trying hard to make sure she didn't have another time penalty, which she did in yesterday's round. While she kept that situation well in hand, being four seconds under the 88-second time allowed, she incurred two knockdowns. One came at an oxer in the middle of the triple combination that rather peculiarly commemorated the Great Fire of London, while the other happened at the eye-catching vertical flanked by a replica of Big Ben.

"I didn't quite get the scope I wanted at (8)B," she explained, noting that during the long gallop to the Big Ben fence, she "just got a little too flat."

The U.S. team is really pumped for tomorrow, and having made some mistakes the past two days the riders are likely to be at the top of their game for the all-important finals.

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

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