Fredricson’s All In for Gold for Sweden in a Tight Finish
By the time you read this, the equestrian Olympic Games will have been completed. The final hurrah for the equine sport was the Team Showjumping, and it was every bit as pulsating as the individual event a couple of days ago. All nineteen teams started full of hope that they would qualify for the final the following day.
The course was designed by Santiago Varela from Spain with technical delegate Louis Kronickx from the Netherlands. It was 545 meters in length with the highest fences set at 1.61 meters with a time allowed of 82 seconds. There were 14 obstacles and 17 jumping efforts required to include one treble and one double. The judges were the same as for the Individual competition with the president of the judges/jury being Carsten Soerlie from Norway, Kazuya Hiayama from Japan, Kim Morrison from Canada, Joachim Geilfus from Germany and finally Gabriela Teuscher from Mexico.
This Olympic Games has been different from previous games as the team and individual classes were swapped round. In the past, all the faults a rider got were all added together from one class to the next, but this year each rider started the different classes with their scores set at zero. Like the eventing and dressage, there were three riders in each team unlike in the past when there were four, there was no discard score and all scores from each rider counted. They were added together after all the team members had ridden and the team with the lowest number of faults were the winners. Another change this time around was that each country’s team members may not necessarily be the same riders and horses who competed earlier in the week.
For example, Great Britain intended not to run Harry Charles in the team, but chose Holly Smith instead. Likewise, the German team also had a change; they decided to have Maurice Tebbel instead of Christian Kukuk. Ireland had a change of cast; Shane Sweetnam instead of Cian O’Connor. France exchanged Mathieu Billot for Simon Delestre; the United States swapped Kent Farrington for McLain Ward; and Switzerland changed Biat Mandli for Bryan Balsiger. Otherwise, the performers of earlier in the week were unchanged.
The top ten teams would go on to compete for the medals in the team final class to include any teams that were on tied scores. There was no jump off in this qualifying class – just one round per athlete.
The day started with the news that Great Britain’s Scott Brash would not compete as his horse Jefferson was not quite right, so Harry Charles was reinstated and rode Romeo 88 as he did in the individual event. Another to succumb to problems before the start was Neils Bruynseels and Delux Van T who was replaced at the last minute by Pieter Devos riding Claire Z.
After all the first riders from each team had gone, there were only 2 clear rounds. One from Marlon Mondolo Zanotelli riding Elgar M from Brazil and Henrick Von Eckermann from Sweden riding King Edward. There were a plethora of riders getting just one time fault, five of them in fact At this stage of the competition, Sweden were in the lead with Brazil in second and Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, France and Mexico in third tied. The Irish team were eliminated following a nasty fall from Shane Sweetnam, their first rider. In the second round, there were three further eliminations, Isreal’s Teddy Vlock had a rider and horse fall and Mexico’s Eugenio Garza Perez refused twice; Japan’s Koki Saito withdrew before entering the arena which eliminated the whole of the Japanese team. At the end of the second round for each rider, Sweden remained in top position with their second rider Malin Baryard-Johnsson also collecting no faults, so far no faults for Sweden. The only other clear round from the second batch of riders was from Bryan Balsiger from Switzerland. The leader board changed at the end of the second round with Sweden still in the lead followed now by Switzerland and Belgium in third. In the third and final round, Peder Fredricson for Sweden, like his compatriots went clear, so Sweden were left in an unassailable first place at the end which meant they would go last in the final the following day. They were the only team to have a completely clean sheet at the end of the class, and Peder Fredricson was the only rider to keep a clean sheet of all the third round Swedish riders.
Sweden, with no faults at all from their team looked the strongest and most likely to take team gold in the final. In silver were Belgium with just 4 faults, with Germany on the same score but their times were slightly slower so they currently found themselves in bronze medal position. Apart from the teams already eliminated, the other teams not to qualify for the final rounds were Egypt, China, Morocco, New Zealand and the Czech Republic. The highest number of faults collected by countries who qualified was Argentina with 27 and so they squeaked into the final.
The Showjumping Team Medal Decider
Ten teams lined up for the team medal class, the final class of the Olympics in 2021. Again the jury and fence designers and builders were the same as for the previous competition (the qualifier) but the fences were possibly the biggest fences seen throughout the whole of the showjumping Olympics. The top height was 1.63 meters with fence 5 and fence 9 having 1.90 meters spreads. The distance of 545 meters had to be completed in 82 seconds. Again there were 14 obstacles with 18 jumping efforts required. There was an extra double on course. All the competitors started with a clean sheet, and like the qualifier, all the fault scores from each of the three riders counted and were added together with the lowest number taking the Gold medal. If there was a tie after all the riders from every team had jumped, there would be a jump off between those teams.
After the first ten riders had been, Laura Kraut riding Baloutinue for the United States got a clear along with Henrik Von Eckermann riding King Edward for Sweden. These were the only two clears in the first round with Simon Delestre riding Berlux Z for France getting just one time fault. In the second round, the second horse to go for Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands riding Bingo du Parc went clear. Belgium’s Jerome Guery riding Quel Homme du Hus also went clear, the only two of the next ten athletes. With an exciting final ten riders to go, the team event was close. France were in the lead with just 2 faults – obviously trying to retain their gold medal from Rio in 2016; with Belgium, the United States and Sweden all on 4 faults. The Netherlands were in fourth place with 9 faults.
So in the final round, still all to play for with a distinct possibility that a jump off will be required to sort the medal positions out. Before the start of the final round, Great Britain’s Ben Maher decided not to run Explosion W as there was absolutely no chance that he could put the Great Britain team in any position for a medal. All things considered, the right decision – although no doubt many will criticise Ben saying it’s the taking part which matters. Rubbish, every rider goes to the Olympics to win. If they have no chance in a team event, why risk injury to such a fantastic horse? In the final round, the riding positions of the teams was altered so that the best team thus far would ride last. With the first five countries out with the washing, this team event came down to the last five riders. First of the five was Maikel Van der Vleuten who had 8 faults and rather scuppered any chance for a medal for the Dutch. Next was Belgium in the shape of Gregory Wathelet who had 8 faults. He was followed in by the United States with McClain Ward who added another 4 faults to the US final team tally.
Sweden’s Peder Fredrickson, followed and went clear – the first clear of the final round. This put pressure on the French, who final rider was Penelope Leprevost. Starting well, she and Vancover de Lanlore left the first three up, but at the double, she had the first part down and a refusal for the second – another turn and another refusal so France eliminated. Now both the Swedish and American Teams were on a final score of 8 faults, so they would jump again in a jump off to decide Gold and Silver medals. Belgium was assured of the Bronze. All three members of each team had to jump in the jump off and after five of the six riders had gone, not a single pole had dropped. Peder Fredricson riding All In was the last to go for the Swedes. He rode a fabulous round to beat the time of a very quick American effort and left all the jumps up. This was a terrific end to the equestrian games with Sweden getting a deserved Team Gold medal, the first Team Showjumping Gold medal they have won since 1952. The United States were rather late flowering in this Olympic Games, but they went home with the Team Silver and Belgium took home Bronze.
A great competition and made much more exciting we think, with the new format of every score counting for every rider in every round. We hope they will keep this format in Paris and Olympic Games beyond.
Images courtesy Peter Nixon, (Horse and Hound) Julien Finney (Getty Images and Goldeneye Photgraphy