The British showjumpers got their Olympic quest off to a convincing start today when all three team riders jumped clear and qualified for tomorrow’s individual final in Tokyo.
Ben Maher (Explosion W), Scott Brash (Jefferson) and Harry Charles (Romeo 88) each pulled off flawless rounds over Santiago Varela’s bright and beautiful 14-fence track.
Ben and Explosion W — one of the favourites to secure individual gold — recorded the fastest clear which means they have the advantage of being last to go in tomorrow’s final phase, which runs in reverse order of merit.
“We’ve been waiting a long time and we’ve been edgy to get going,” said Ben. “It was a big enough course today and a lot of horses are a little bit spooky, I don’t know whether it’s the new jumps or the lights and I felt that with [Explosion].
“This is my most nervous round of the week. He’s a horse that improves as the rounds go on, so he was having a little look today but he’s naturally a fast horse and he did everything he needed to do.”
Harry is the son of Peter Charles, who was a part of the British gold medal-winning team at the London 2012 Games alongside Ben and Scott. The fourth member of that Olympic team, Nick Skelton, went on to net individual gold at the Rio Games four years later, riding Big Star.
A total of 73 horse-and-athlete combinations came forward to tackle the course and the top 30 qualify for the individual final. Each of them start on a clean sheet (zero) tomorrow).
Of those who qualified, 25 horses jumped clear rounds and four finished with a single time penalty. New Zealand’s Daniel Meech was the last to make the final cut when piloting Cinca 3 home with two time-faults.
One of the biggest surprises of the night was that not a single member of the American team qualified for the final. Jessica Springsteen (Don Juan van de Donkhoeve) — daughter of USA singer and songwriter Bruce — and Kent Farrington (Gazelle) collected four faults each, while Laura Kraut (Baloutine) collected eight penalties. It means they won’t be in action again until the team competition begins on Friday.
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Photo: Ben Maher and Explosion W. Credit: FEI/Christophe Taniére