Great Britain Rides Triumphantly to Olympic Team Gold on Home Turf

[London, England] It was a fairytale ending for the hometown team of British show jumpers today in Greenwich Park as they rode clear round after clear round, rising to the number one spot and finally topping The Netherlands in a nailbiting jumpoff to win Olympic Team Gold in their own backyard.

Peter Charles and Vindicat clinched the Gold Medal for Great Britain. Photo ©StockImageServices.com

Ben Maher, Nick Skelton, Scott Brash and Peter Charles were not the favorites going into these Olympic Games, but they did nothing but excel over three rounds of technical show jumping, as well as a pressure cooker of a jumpoff, in front of an ecsastic home crowd to win Gold.

“This is the best day of my life, this is the best day of all our lives,” said Brash. “With your home crowd behind you, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

Meanwhile, the riders of Saudi Arabia remarkably kept their cool to hold onto a medal position and claim Team Bronze, the first ever Olympic team medal for their country.

Switzerland ran into problems today, but their combined score from yesterday’s First Team Final allowed them to finish in 4th place, and Canada valiantly battled with just three riders to finish in 5th.

No Zeroes Today

The United States did not have the day they hoped for, with all four riders pulling rails around the course. They finished in equal 6th place with Sweden.

“It’s a simple sport,” said Fellers, after racking up 8 faults with Flexible. “Zeroes are always good and we didn’t have any zeroes today.”

Flexible was nowhere near a rail over the final fence. 

Of his incredible run in which he logged an amazing 10 clear rounds since winning the FEI World Cup Final in April, Fellers commented, “It was quite a streak. I don’t think it hurt Flexible to have a few touches today. I think he’ll come back really good in the Individual."

Just Fellers and McLain Ward are qualified among the top 35 riders to move on to Wednesday’s Individual Final. Ward had an unfortunate two rails during his round that amounted to bad luck. Early on at fence 2, Antares F was passing manure as he jumped, perhaps causing him to not jump as high, and then he touched another rail at 7b, the middle (and ironically the lowest) element of the triple combination.

Ward and Antares jumped well clear of the water today. 

Beezie Madden rallied with Coral Reef Via Volo, but couldn’t quite keep all the rails up either. Via Volo pulled the back rail of the 1.55m oxer late in the course at fence 11, and her four faults became the United States' best score of the day.

“The course was more difficult today,” Madden explained. “The fences are closer together, the line across the middle was very technical, there were several options, and the last three fences were plain old big.”

Madden has had a rough week at these Olympics, and her elimination from the First Individual Qualifier on Saturday means that she is out of Individual medal contention. Via Volo has had a light year leading up to London, showing just five times since January, and in hindsight Madden wishes things had gone differently.

“I know her well but she hasn’t gone a lot this year,” Madden said, “We were hoping that was going to be a good thing that she’d be a little fresh but in hindsight maybe she was a little rusty.”

Madden and Vio Volo laid down the best result for the United States in the Team Final. Photo ©StockImageServices.com

Kessler dealt with problems on course as well, putting a foot in the water and faulting again six strides later at an airy white 1.60m vertical. She also had the final fence down with Cylana to become the drop score.

Joyful Saudis Realize Medal Dream

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the object of continuing attention, both negative and positive, since forming Saudi Equestrian with a spectacular investment of funds from the Saudi Arabian government. But no matter the background, riding is the ultimate equalizer, and today the Saudi riders proved they can stand with the best in the world, falling just two spots from their overnight lead to claim Bronze.

“We had this goal in mind for such a long time,” said Kamal Bahamdan, who rode Noblesse Des Tess to a clear and a four fault round over the last two days. “ We had one focus in mind, the Olympic Games, and we worked hard all year to try to get the horses ready at the time of the Olympics. That was our focus. We wanted to be at the top of our Game at the Olympics.”

Today marked Saudi Arabia’s first ever Olympic team medal, and as the jumpoff between the top two countries began, the Saudi riders joyfully embraced and celebrated with their team, wrapping each other in their nation’s flag while family members and friends rushed to congratulate them. 

Abdullah al Sharbatly and Sultan proudly galloped around the stadium during the victory parade. 

The Silver Medal winning team from the Netherlands was also thrilled with their accomplishment; all four riders had to contest the jumpoff with Great Britain, and for a minute, they had the Gold Medal within reach. Their first two riders went clean in the lengthy jumpoff, but with a rail each from their final two, they earned Silver Medal status.

Houtzager and Tamino were foot perfect over both rounds in the Team Final.

“To have this medal around your neck, it’s the thing you work all the time for, it’s the thing you fight for, and it’s a great feeling to have it now,” said Marc Houtzager of The Netherlands, who rode Tamino to double clears today.

A Long Time Coming

But it was the British who were the heroes today, as 23,000 screaming fans made sure they were aware of every time one of them entered the stadium.

While Nick Skelton and Big Star have been the only flawless pair of the week, leading the Individual rankings on an incredible score of zero, the entire British team credited each other for pulling together and riding the wave of positive support all the way to Gold.

"If you have a horse as good as he is, you get up everyday and look forward to riding him," said Skelton of Big Star.

“I waited a long time, been to a lot of Games, made a lot of mistakes (in the past,) and it couldn’t have happened in a better place for us, here in London,” he said. “I want to thank the crowd, they were absolutely outstanding, they were behind every one of us, and I think without that it wouldn’t have been possible.”

The British riders were simply, cleaner, fresher, and finally faster today, putting together solid rounds even as the fences got higher and the courses harder. Even with rails today from Maher, Brash and Charles, which amounted to a cumulative 8 faults and forced the jumpoff with The Netherlands, the team pulled together and put in three fast clears over that final shortened track.

It all hinged on the ride of Peter Charles at the end, who laid down the last needed clear round to clinch gold. Cries of anticipation rang out around the mostly still stadium as he galloped to the last fence with Vindicat, and as he touched the ground on the other side, the stadium simply erupted.

Charles had the support of the entire stadium behind him as he crested that final fence.

Charles pulled off his helmet in triumph as his teammates rushed into the ring from the ingate to congratulate him. It was the first time since 1952 that Great Britain has medaled in show jumping, and it was a moment that none of the riders, nor any equestrian fan in Great Britain, will ever forget.

The three medal winning teams happily posed for photos. 

Gold for Great Britain. From left to right; Peter Charles, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Nick Skelton.

Find full rider by rider results here. Tomorrow show jumping takes a day off from competition while the Grand Prix Dressage Special and Dressage Team Medals are determined. The Individual Team Final of Show Jumping will return on Wednesday, August 8th at 4:00am PST/7:00am EST. 

Final Result – 2012 Olympic Team Show Jumping

Nation | Total Penalties | Total Jumpoff Penalties | Riders | Horses 

GOLD - GBR – Great Britain | 8 | 0
Nick Skelton | Big Star
Ben Maher | Tripple X
Scott Brash | Hello Sanctos
Peter Charles | Vindicat

SILVER – NED – Netherlands | 8 | 12
Jur Vrieling | Bubalu
Maikel van der Vleuten | Verdi
Marc Houtzager | Tamino
Gerco Schroder | London

BRONZE - KSA – Saudi Arabia | 14
Al Saud HRH Prince Abdullah | Davos
Kamal Bahamdan | Noblesse Des Tess
Ramzy Al Duhami | Bayard Van De Villa There
Abdullah Waleed Sharbatly | Sultan

4 – SUI – Switzerland | 16
Steve Guerdat | Nino des Buissonnets
Paul Estermann | Castlefield Eclipse
Werner Muff | Kiamon
Pius Scwizer | Carlina IV

5 – CAN – Canada | 26
Jill Henselwood | George
Eric Lamaze | Derly Chin de Muze
Ian Millar | Star Power

6 – SWE – Sweden | 28
Jens Fredricson | Lunatic
Lisen Fredricson | Matrix
Henrik von Eckermann | Allerdings
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson | Casall

6 – USA – United States | 28
McLain Ward | Antares F
Beezie Madden | Coral Reef Via Volo
Reed Kessler | Cylana
Rich Fellers | Flexible

8 – BRA – Brazil | 67
Alvaro Affonso de Mir Neto | Rahmannshof’s Bogeno
Jose R Reynoso Fernandez Filho | Maestro St Louis
Rodrigo Pessoa | HH Rebozo