Brazilians Blaze a Trail Around 2016 Rio Olympic Cross-Country Site

Brazilian eventers are nothing if not ballsy, so it seems fitting that they be the ones to have a crack at a scaled-down CIC2* version of next year’s Olympic cross-country track.

Overnight leader of the Aquece Rio International H.T. and Olympic Test Event Marcelo Tosi elected to withdraw Briefing DB Z before the start, explaining, “Briefing is a 3* horse and there was no point in riding him today. I will save him for the next event.”

Their exit left the door wide open for second-placed Marcio Jorge and Coronel MCJ, who overtook the the leaderboard after turning in one of only two double-clear rounds.

“Coronel was amazing,” Marcio says. “That was an easy course for him, easily within the time. He was very comfortable with the fences. He is not tired; I think he could do another one now.”

Marcio Jorce and Coronel MCJ. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Marcio Jorce and Coronel MCJ. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Marcelo did get his chance to test-drive the course on his other ride, Glenfly. A double-clear moved them from third to second.

Both Marcio and Marcelo left the track with positive impressions, noting that the new sandy turf footing is off to a good start but will require some time to reach Olympic quality.

“In one year’s time the grass will be good. It needs one more summer to make it better,” Marcelo says. “With the summer heat and rain it will improve.”

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Marcelo Tosi and Glenfly. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Rounding out the top three is Marcio Appel on Cross Rock, who added 6.80 time faults to their dressage score. Here they are through the second water complex:

Followed by an exuberant exit on the second pass through (that’s not even an up-bank, buddy!):

Marcio Appel and Cross Rock. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Marcio Appel and Cross Rock. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

There were enough issues on course that clear rounds carried a big payoff. Aiken-based eventer Nilson Moreira da Silva, whom we interviewed after dressage, bounded from 16th to fourth on his catch ride Tiger Lu after collecting no jump and 0.80 time on course.

Nilson says he was impressed by the quality of the course. “The cross-country course is just like the ones in Europe and the USA. The jumps are amazing.”

As a native Brazilian, he is proud of his country for defying expectation: “The international observers seem to really love the place. This is really positive for us because always people from other countries come to┬áSouth America and don’t expect these amazing venues.”

A slow-mo video of Nilson and Tiger Lu through the first two elements of the keyhole combination, one of the most unique features on the course:

It appears that there may be a variation on the bamboo theme in the works for next year’s Olympic course. A mound, perhaps?

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Photo by Leslie Wylie.

There was definitely some scrappy, seat-of-the-pants riding out there today. Some of the horses appeared quite green to the level but all managed to live and learned from their mistakes:

A modest crowd of locals came out to spectate or volunteer, including this crew of enthusiastic kids.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

The weather this week in Rio has been unseasonably hot, climbing well into the 80s despite average August temperatures of around 75. A cooling tent with big fans and water was available at the end of the course for the horses, although it was later commandeered by volunteers looking to beat the heat.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

And unlike yesterday’s course walk, gunshots were blessedly kept to a minimum. Something else you probably won’t see on an American cross-country course: the military.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Well, I spoke too soon. Now they’re herding us out of the media center and onto a shuttle to our hotel because — I kid you not — the Rio police have captured some big drug dealer and they are afraid there will be protests in the streets.

I’m out of here, y’all. This isn’t how I want to die. Once I’m safely locked in my hotel room with a cold beer from the minibar in hand, I’ll be back to upload team reactions to the course and venue.

The Aquace Rio International Horse Trials and Olympic Test Event concludes with show jumping tomorrow.

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Go Eventing.

[Aquece Rio Test Event Website]