Despite being an eleventh hour substitute, after Fischertakinou was ruled out through injury, Sam rose to the occasion and the all-conquering pair won the individual gold by an astonishing seven penalties. The duo also completed the rare feat of winning both Badminton and Olympic gold in the same season.
The French team also continued their excellent form this season when winning the team gold, after a dramatic final day in the show jumping, beating the defending champions Germany. It was a disappointing day for Britain, unable to defend their silver medal from London 2012 after a poor afternoon on the cross country, but there is no doubt the team has some exciting partnerships for the future.
Throughout the four days there have been some extraordinary stories of courage, brilliance and partnership. The Gaitpost has highlighted some of the moments that will long be treasured throughout the sport of eventing.
Chilean rider Carlos Lobos Munoz’s Ranco captured the hearts of everyone, from BBC commentator Ian Stark to fellow competitors alike. He also impressed the judges, scoring a more than respectable 49.3 penalties in the dressage! The 13-year-old chestnut floated around the challenging cross-country, making it look comparatively easy, and only knocked one fence down in the final phase.
Ireland’s Jonty Evans put in the performance of a lifetime to finish ninth at his first Olympics on the comparatively inexperienced Cooley Rorke’s Drift. Jonty produced a stunning dressage test of 41.8 penalties and finished with only 22 time penalties after a gruelling cross country test. He entered the final phase in 16th place and after two clear rounds show jumping, the pair ended up in 9th place.
The equestrian data and analysis website has truly taken eventing into the modern age. Providing the latest statistics for all horse and rider combinations, the website, set up by eventer Sam Watson and Diarmuid Byrne, proved to be the ultimate guide for eventing fans for the Rio Olympics.
Social media was alight with the hashtags #Twohearts, #Jointhejourney and #equestrianeventing in order to show support for the sport in the Olympic movement. Everyone enthusiastically joined in, from EquiRatings, Kitty King, Harry Meade and Alice Fox-Pitt, showing that the equestrian world is a close-knit community throughout the world.
Whilst William Fox Pitt’s hunt for individual gold goes on, the stalwart of the British team showed that he was truly back to his imperious best following serious injury last October. After leading the dressage with an excellent test of 37 penalties William and Chilli Morning incurred 20 penalties for crossing his tracks on the cross country, which broke the hearts of the British supporters. The 2015 Badminton Horse Trial winners finished the competition with two clears in the show jumping phases to finish in 12th place. However, the best news came when William declared that he fully intended to be competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics!
It is fair to say that Alice, who has been hugely busy working for Channel 4 Racing, has had a challenging few months in the build up to the Rio Olympics. She faced the prospect of her husband facing a long road to recovery after a serious fall and the pressure in the race to be selected for the team. Despite British disappointment in Rio, Alice has remained positive and immensely strong throughout the journey – shown by her numerous upbeat tweets!
Following a brilliant round across country, many thought Sir Mark Todd would be a shoo-in for team and individual medals. His mount, the 12-year-old Leonidas has jumped clear rounds at both Badminton and Burghley in the past. Sadly tension in the team round resulted in four fences down for the great New Zealander and hopes of medals faded rapidly. Sir Mark apologised for his performance afterwards, showing why he is a true sportsman and gentleman. In such a disappointing moment, he showed why he is a champion for the ages.
China’s Alex Hua Tian produced four top-class performances from the nine-year-old Don Geniro and the duo highlighted why they will be candidates for individual honours at future championships. They won the Event Rider Masters class at Bramham, finishing on their dressage score, and they have improved hugely since then. Despite a mistake in the dressage at Rio, scoring 42.4, they jumped clear across country for 13 time penalties and had only one fence down in each show jumping round to finish eighth individually.
The former Mick Channon-trained Summon Up The Blood won a legion of new fans after an effortless round across country with Brazil’s Carlos Parro. Despite fences down in the two show jumping rounds, the 11-year-old gelding showed how versatile and talented former racehorses can be in their second careers.
The 2014 Badminton winners, Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh, proved to be excellent pathfinders for the Australian team, adding only time penalties to their dressage score of 46.3. The 13-year-old mare, who is renowned for her excellent jumping, only just finished outside the individual medals in fourth but led the Australians to the team bronze medal.
Astier Nicolas capped off a brilliant 2016 season when adding individual silver to his team gold. The 29-year-old, who won the inaugural Event Rider Masters series class at Chatsworth, is undoubtedly set for a bright future and is already a four star winner.
By Kitty Trice