Equestrian: team gold for Europe, individual title for Fraser
Europe were the winners in the team show jumping competition at Nanjing 2014, while New Zealand’s Emily Fraser scored a tearful triumph after a tense jump‐off in the individual event, just one of the many highlights of an exciting few days at the Xinzhuang Equestrian Venue.
Europe rule the world
The 30 entrants for the equestrian events at Nanjing 2014 were each allocated a horse provided by the YOG Organising Committee, based on lots, with riders and their mounts competing together in both the international and individual events, which each comprised two rounds.
The race for the medals at the Xinzhuang Equestrian Venue began on Tuesday 19 August with the first round of the six-team international competition, with each team made up of five riders and representing a continent, and only the three lowest scores counting towards their overall points totals.
Featuring Matias Alvaro (ITA), Michael Duffy (IRL), Jake Saywell (GBR), Filip Agren (SWE) and Lisa Nooren (NED), the Europe team took the first-day lead with zero faults. South America, represented by Francisco Calvelo Martinez (URU), Antoine Porte (CHI), Valeria Maria Caballero (PAR), Martina Campi (ARG) and Bianca De Souza Rodrigues (BRA), were in second on four faults. Completing the top three, a further four points behind, were the North America team of Polly Serpell (CAY), Macarena Chiriboga Granja (ECU), Sabrina Rivera Mesa (ESA), Stefanie Brand (GUA) and Maria Gabriela Brugal (DOM).
Day two boiled down to a battle for gold between the Europeans and the South Americans, with both teams chalking up clear round after clear round to keep the pressure on each other. The duel was decided when Filip Agren, Europe’s third rider of the day, went clear on Abel, leaving South America to settle for the silver and North America the bronze, as all three teams ended the day without incurring a single fault.
“Watching Filip go clear was something else. I raised my fist in the air and went mad,” recalled Michael Duffy, who was in flawless form on Commander. “I’ve been dreaming of an Olympic medal all my life and to win one at the age of 17 is just amazing. I am so lucky.”
“I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’m so excited,” said Matias Alvaro, who himself had two clear rounds on Montelini. “I dreamed of coming to the Youth Olympic Games when I was a very young boy, and here we are with the gold.”
A bronze medallist with the North America team, Maria Gabriela Brugal said: “I’ve never won a medal before. It’s incredible to do it with all my new friends. I am so happy.”
Kiwi Fraser jumps for joy
Emotional but overjoyed, New Zealand’s Emily Fraser (NZL) choked back the tears after winning a thrilling jump-off to take the individual show jumping gold medal.
“I just hugged my horse, I was so excited, and I burst into tears,” said the young Kiwi. “I’ve never cried this much but I’m the happiest person alive.”
Cheered on by friends and family, Fraser kept her emotions in check to become the first rider to go clear twice.
She then looked on as Sabrina Rivera Meza (ESA), Martina Campi (ARG) and Australia’s Jake Hunter followed suit, setting up a jump-off in which one of the four athletes would go away empty-handed.
The unfortunate odd one out was Rivera Meza, who saw her medal hopes disappear when double-faulting on Con-Zero.
Partnering Exilio, Fraser said: “I knew one person was going to be the unlucky one and I just hoped it wouldn’t be me. It was really nerve-racking. I kept my head and tried to handle my nerves. I just rode for my life.”
Fraser was the first to go in the jump-off and went clear again in a solid if unspectacular time of 39.75 seconds. It proved too fast for Campi, however. Riding Darina, the Argentinian was 0.20 seconds slower in completing her clear round.
The gold was Fraser’s when Hunter incurred a four-point penalty for dislodging a bar, leaving him with the silver. The Australian was nevertheless delighted with his performance on For The Star and now plans to move to Europe “to fly the Australian flag there”.
“I couldn’t be happier,” he said afterwards. “My horse jumped fantastically. She’s only young and to make the jump-off on a really tough track is fantastic. In the jump-off she got a bit tired but she gave it everything she had.”
Europe’s riders had been expected to figure strongly after winning the international team competition earlier in the week. In the end, however, Ireland’s Michael Duffy was the only European among the nine jumpers to go clear in the first round.
That group included Hong Kong, China’s Chiang Lennard, on DJ. Despite picking up eight faults in the second round, he praised the organisers for putting together a challenging course.
“It was a technical course. The jumps were a decent height and for some horses it was difficult,” said Chiang, who is also heading to Europe to pursue his career. “But there were only eight jumps and it was up to standard. It shouldn’t be too easy at this level.”