The U.S. were the first team to present at the jog in Greenwich Park this morning and passed with flying colors in front of a small gathering in the arena. Will Coleman led off with Twizzel followed by Tiana Coudray with Ringwood Magister, Phillip Dutton and Mystery Whisper, Boyd Martin and Otis Barbotiere, and finally Karen O’Connor with Mr. Medicott. With the public not allowed in on this occasion the atmosphere was all business under overcast skies as the Ground Jury of Gillian Rolton (AUS) and Nick Burton (GBR), under the presidency of Anne-Mette Binder (DEN), assessed the 75 entries from 21 nations. All horses passed though there were a few nervous moments for Canada’s Peter Barry with Kilrodan Abbott, Brazil’s Serguei Fofanoff’s Barbara, France’s Lionel Guyon with Nemetis de Lalou and the late South African substitute of Alexander Peternell’s Asih spent time in the holding box.
Karen O’Connor was suitably impressed with the arena as the stage is now set for day one of dressage to kick off the equestrian events tomorrow. “ The facilities are unprecedented and so different in a lot of ways. All the stabling is state of the art built on stilts and I still can’t understand the engineering aspect of that,” she noted. Karen has not missed the fact that the arena has been squared to the door of the Queen’s House affording a stunning backdrop with London’s financial district. Karen’s first impressions of the cross-country course were that, “it is very severe terrain but they have used it very well with the last three minutes on top of the summit on the flat although there’s a lot to do before you get there.” She continued, “the course is beautifully manicured and the footing is perfect. The jumps have been dressed so that they are exquisite in every way. They definitely showcase the many aspects of Greenwich Park as well as the City of London and country of England. The British people should be very proud. It’s a venue like no other, and I’m very proud to be here.”
Karen is also confident that she has Mr. Medicott perfectly prepared for the occasion. “He’s going very well, we’ve been here a month and hosted by Eddy Stibbe’s beautiful property in Naunton, Gloucestershire. He’s really on form and I’m very happy with how he’s finished his preparation.” Karen admitted that she embraces the teasing she gets for being a senior member of the US team but she’s going to be walking the course a few more times to be sure she doesn’t have any senior moments.
Boyd Martin is already in the spirit of the games and excited to be getting under way with Otis Barbotiere as he gears up to be the team trailblazer and first rider in the arena for day one of dressage which starts tomorrow at 10:00 local time. Karen will be next in at 12:08 followed by Tiana Coudray at 3:18.
On Sunday Will Coleman goes in the second morning session followed by Phillip Dutton in the first group after lunch.
A course walk with its designer Sue Benson today revealed a a truly fascinating and unique challenge with testing terrain, twists and turns with undulations, ever changing cambers, clever craftsmanship and truly magnificently presented fences. Riders will face 39 jumping efforts over 5740 metres with an optimum time of 10:03.
No-one is under any illusion that this Olympic Games as Karen said is going to be like any other that even the most seasoned riders have faced. But first riders must handle their nervous anticipation to set the stage with a personal best in the Olympic arena because they all know that while this will not be a dressage competition it will be highly competitive with little dividing them at the top of the leaderbboard as the weekend unfolds.