Back in 2012 I was lucky enough not only to be in Europe, but also to get a ticket to one of the olympic showjumping events at the London Olympics. And to top it all off, my brother was living in town and provided me with free lodging.
So, in between my two gigs on Irish yards, I popped over to the continent for a jaunt and an Olympic event.
I wrote this blog post back then about my experience that day. It’s one of, or perhaps the only, blog I’ve ever written on the day I actually experienced something, so clearly it was pretty awesome.
Today I went to watch my first ever Olympic event- the second round of team and individual show jumping. I’ve been talking about and waiting for this day for months now and I can say with all certainty that it was well worth the wait.
The trip to the venue, Greenwich Park, only got me more excited as the Olympic energy felt throughout the city increased enroute. Each rail station was packed with Olympic volunteers smiling, singing, and wishing you a good morning.
Central London is lacking its normal hustle and bustle with tourists having all headed east to the games areas. There, street fairs, big screens, pedestrianized roads, and huge crowds have moved in.
I took my seat in a blue plastic chair in the massive stadium at Greenwich Park. Moments later, the first individual rider came out of the pocket onto the perfectly groomed course of 16 brightly colored, fantastically imagined, and intricately crafted London themed jumping efforts and as she did, the heavens opened and didn’t stop for the better part of an hour.
Nonetheless, that first rider went on to jump clear through a triple one and two stride, a four fence ask: four strides, one stride, four strides. Followed by a number of immense triple bar oxers, a bright red double decker London bus replica made of small, easily knocked blocks, a plank fence version of The Tower Bridge, and a 6 foot 3 inch wide water fence.
Despite that first rider finishing clear, the rest of the day saw the rails, along with the rain, keep falling. In the end, the best team effort was put forth by the Saudis who came out with still one fault coming from their top three riders.
The Brits managed to come up from the bottom of the rankings with immense crowd support, the audience held their breath, barely perching on the edge of their seats as each of their home town horses soared clear over the final effort- a triple bar oxer standing between 1.50 and 1.60 meters in height before breaking out in a roar of cheers and applause.
In my opinion the USA team under performed. Mclain Ward, Beezie Madden, Reed Kessler (who, at just 18 is the youngest equestrian Olympic competitor in history) and Rich Fellers should have been a rock star team but they just barely managed to slide under the cut off to pass on into the third round.
Regardless of any rails knocked, toes clipping water, or fractions of seconds lost, simply being able to watch so many immensely talented top horses and riders in one day was everything.
My favorite moment of the day was when one rider landed clear to tremendous applause, he rode around the stadium looking out at the crowd and pointing down to his horse as if to say ‘it was all him.’
And that partnership, that time put into training not one, but two athletes, to perfection, to work together in harmony, to trust and to listen to each other, that is what makes riding so difficult, so special, and separates it so totally from any other sport. For a horse and rider pair to work so well together that they make it to this Olympic level is an undeniably amazing feat.
My only disappointment from the day was that I won’t be able to go back tomorrow.
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