Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt got his fifth Olympic Games off to a superb start as he finished the first day of the equestrian eventing competition in the lead with Chilli Morning.
Fox-Pitt has defied all the odds to be in Rio following a serious head injury in France last October whilst competing which left him in a coma for two weeks. But he looked back at his best and produced a beautiful test with the 16 year old stallion.
Finding their rhythm, the duo produced some lovely work in the impressive arena; a final halt saw big pats for Chilli, with cheers from the crowd as a score of 37.0 penalties was confirmed.
Fox-Pitt said after his test; “It’s what I was dreaming of, he’s good on the flat and he’s worked brilliantly with Tracie Robinson in the build-up to being here. He did a good test at the World Equestrian Games, a good test at Malmo and I just didn’t want to let him down. He felt lovely and calm, it’s a good start.”
Australia’s Christopher Burton lies just behind Fox-Pitt on a score of 37.6. Burton couldn’t be happier with his first phase performance. “He makes my job really easy, that lovely horse. He’s super,” Burton said. “I was nervous as I rode down to the warm-up but I thought, come on Chris if you ever get a chance to enjoy yourself it’s on this horse in this arena at the Olympics. After the medium trot I heard a bit of a gasp from the crowd and I thought, that’s not a bad gasp.”
Defending champion Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW lie in third place with a score of 40.9 after a small mistake in the canter.
The German team holds the lead in the team competition as Jung’s team mate Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo also had a strong performance to finish on 41.9.
Australia is holding down second position in the team standings, with Chris Burton’s team mate Sam Griffiths also putting in a solid performance. Only 1.4 penalties separate them from the German team at the halfway stage as Griffiths finished the first day in ninth with Paulank Brockagh on 46.3.
“I was pleased with my performance,” Griffiths said. “It’s just a few marks off my personal best and I was hoping to go better than that, but the judging is tough at the Olympic Games. There’s still two more phases of competition to go and my horse’s forte is the cross country and show jumping, so that’s hopefully where I can come to the fore as a team member.”
Great Britain lie third in the team competition, with Gemma Tattersall leading the team off in with Quicklook V. Producing some some lovely movements throughout the test with the grey mare, Gemma was unlucky to incur a slight mistake in the first extended trot, in an otherwise flawless routine. They finished on a score of 47.2 and lie in 15th place.
Commenting after her test she said; “A little bit disappointed with the score but she went in and we both did our absolute best and she tried really, really hard for me. It’s hot today and she just slightly dropped behind me a little bit which is perhaps why we didn’t get the score today, but its still a good team score. She did all the movements really well apart from one mistake and I was really proud of her.”
France takes up fourth in the team competition – it’s riders finished the day in fifth (Astier Nicolas, Piaf De B’Neville, 42.0) and sixth (Karim Laghouag, Entebbe, 43.4). Eventing Team New Zealand sits in fifth spot with Sir Mark Todd lying in seventh on Leonidas II (44.0) and Tim Price with Ringwood Sky Boy sit in 13th (47.0).
Ireland lie in sixth place overall halfway through the opening dressage phase, with only a handful of points separating the top eight teams. Padraig McCarthy had the honour of being the first Irish rider to take to the arena and produced a personal best score of 46.80 penalties with the 16-year-old gelding Simon Porloe to finish the day in 12th place overall. Clare Abbott and Europrince also finished with a personal best score of 47.0 and is just one place behind her team mate.
Pippa Funnell and Billy The Biz will enter the arena for their dressage test at 3.20pm (UK time) followed by Kitty King and CEYLOR LAN at 6.58pm.