We witnessed a day for the history books here at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, where Michael Jung became the third rider in history to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals, joining Mark Todd (1984 and 1988) and Charles Pahud de Mortanges (1928 and 1932). Of course, he accomplished the feat with his longtime, faithful, trusty partner Sam, with whom he also won team silver for Germany today.
EquiRatings has had a field day with all of the new records broken here in Rio. Here’s one to chew one: Michael Jung is the only rider to finish the Olympics on a dressage score in the short-format era, and now he’s achieved that triumph twice, winning gold in London on his dressage score of 40.6 and winning gold today in Rio on 40.9, just 0.3 penalties off his 2012 final score.
“It was a very special moment for me because with Sam it is a bit more special. He’s a very good jumping horse — very powerful, so strong in the cross country. He can run every hill, he can jump every fence,” Michael said. “We have a very, very good partnership, and in the show jumping he is really nervous, but he’s also really concentrated. He jumped the second round much better than the first round. He gave me a good feeling in the warmup. It’s very special.”
Astier Nicolas and Piaf de B’Neville jumped clear in the team round this morning, boosting France to the second team gold medal in eventing in the country’s history, before returning to jump in the individual round sitting in silver medal position. Though they pulled one rail and picked up two time penalties, that was still good enough to clinch silver on a final score of 48.0.
“It’s been a very long wait to bring the French flag back to the top, and we were really patient. We’ve had a French win already when they were Olympic champions in Athens, and we’ve been waiting a lot, and it’s such a good relief today. Also we have a team of good friends — the victory has a sweet taste today,” Astier said.
“My horse felt very good, even if he was quite tired yesterday after his cross country course. In the first round this morning, he’s been amazing to ride. I had to jump again for us to win, and that’s why I did it. Unfortunately I did less well in the second round, but that was just because of bad riding.”
With wins last fall at Pau CCI4* and the Chatsworth leg of Event Rider Masters this spring, and now taking individual silver at the 2016 Olympic Games, Astier has put himself firmly on the map as a rising star for France and the future of eventing.
Phillip Dutton and HND Group’s Mighty Nice jumped clear with one time penalty in the first round this morning to move up one spot to fourth place heading into the final round. They could not afford a rail with Chris Burton and Santano II sitting ahead of them in bronze medal position, but “Happy” pulled a rail in the triple combination, which looked like it would end their quest for the podium.
But then Chris and Santano II, who jumped clear all the way around until the final two fences on Guillerme Jorge’s course, knocked the wall at the penultimate jump and then pulled a second rail at the liverpool at the last fence on course to ultimately drop down the leaderboard to fifth place. (If it’s any consolation, Chris still takes home a bronze team medal for Australia.)
That boosted Phillip and Mighty Nice up to win the individual bronze medal on a final score of 51.8, adding just 7.2 penalties to their personal best dressage score of 43.6. While Phillip won two team gold medals while competing for Australia at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, this is his first individual Olympic medal and his first medal as a U.S. Olympian.
“It’s been a great weekend for the horse. He was knocked around yesterday (see epic save here) and so I’m just grateful to get here. It’s been a great achievement for him. He got a bit quick through the triple and had that down, so that was disappointing, and I was happy with fourth, and now I’m quite ecstatic with this,” Phillip said.
“It is a great achievement. It was a disappointing day for our team, and a lot of people have worked hard in America, not just the riders but everybody to get there, so it’s pretty gutting — especially for Lauren (Kieffer) who was having a cracking round. So we just had to get up and do our best today, and it’s just fortunate for everybody that it turned out, especially for everybody who has believed in Happy because he is a special horse.
“He’s had a few injuries here and there and hasn’t quite been able to get to this international stage in a really good place yet, so I’m just pleased for the horse. I think I’ve had better gallopers in my time, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a horse with a bigger heart. He just keeps trying. If he’s not feeling so good, or he’s tired, he just really wants to do it.
“It’s pretty cool he’s starting to understand it. He settles quite well now in dressage. He even goes well into the start box and to trot up now — you know a few years ago he slipped in the trot up because he got so wound up — so he’s really maturing as a horse. I think he really genuinely loves the sport. I’m pleased for all of Bruce (Duchossois’) family and Caroline Moran, who has become a close friend to Evie and I, and to everybody that’s associated with the horse, Kevin Keane and Annie Jones.”
Rebecca Howard and Riddle Master jumped clear in the first round this morning and then had one rail down in the final round to finish in 10th place for Canada on a final score of 65.8. “It’s going to take a bit to absorb, but it’s amazing,” she said. “It’s something you work on for so long but try to make it feel like a normal thing as much as you can, and then there’s certainly a time to let it soak in that it’s there, and you’re in the final round of the Olympic Games and you’re riding around in the top 10.”
Boyd Martin and the Blackfoot Mystery Syndicate’s Blackfoot Mystery had two rails down in the first round this morning and then pulled three more in the final round to finish in 16th place on a final score of 70.9. After yesterday’s herculean effort over Pierre Michelet’s cross country course, “Red” was definitely a bit tired today, but Boyd was still thrilled with the off-track Thoroughbred.
“To be right up there with the best in the world with a relatively inexperienced horse. I’m proud to be here representing the country and get the job done,” Boyd said. “Yes, there’s obviously a little room to improve on this last day, but the horse is young still and still improving so I think by the next championship, like the World Equestrian Games, he’ll be jumping clouds.”
The rest of our North American contingent jumped in the first round this morning, and you can see photos and read quotes from them in our lunchtime report. Be sure to relive the heart-stopping show jumping finale in EN’s open thread, and then catch up on all of EN’s Olympic coverage at this link. Final individual scores are here, and final team scores are here.
We’ll have much more Olympic analysis to bring you in the coming days and weeks, but for tonight I am officially signing off from Rio. Thank you so much to the hundreds of thousands of readers who have followed along with EN’s Olympic coverage in the last week. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve crashed EN’s servers together. Thank you for embracing the insanity in the middle. Go Eventing.