Defending Olympic champion Germany’s Michael Jung claimed top honours in the eventing test event for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
The 37-year-old, who has three gold medals and one silver from two Olympic appearances with the now retired La Biosthetique Sam FBW, shadowed the leaders from the outset to take victory on Fischerwild Wave – the youngest horse in the field.
After the dressage phase it was Japan’s Yoshiaki Oiwa who put down a strong marker to take the lead. The three-time Olympian, who claimed the individual and team gold medals at last year’s Asian Games in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, earned top marks from all three judges to lead the field at Equestrian Park at Baji Koen.
Riding the talented Bart L JRA, previously ridden by Frenchman Mathieu Lemoine on the Olympic gold medal-winning team at Rio 2016, Oiwa finished on a mark of 24.5 penalties. He was followed by triple Olympic team gold medallist Andrew Hoy of Australia, who was 3.2 penalties adrift in second with Bloom Des Hauts Crets, with double Olympic champion Michael Jung of Germany in third on Fischerwild Wave with 28.0.
As the eventing competition is being run on two sites, following the dressage all of the horses were transported to the stables at Sea Forest, where they spent the night before the cross country.
There was a change at the top of the leader board following the cross country as Hoy galloped his way into top spot with Bloom Des Hauts Crets. Sixth out onto Derek Di Grazia’s 20-fence course at Sea Forest, the seven-time Olympian and the eight-year-old Selle Français mare flew across the finish line with seven seconds to spare to take the early lead on a score of 27.7 penalties.
“It’s a very nice position to be in and if I win I’m very happy for this year, but it’s next year I want to win,” Hoy said. “My horse galloped very well and her heart rate and temperature were very good when I arrived. The cooling facilities here at the venue were absolutely excellent. As an Olympic venue it’s ready one year before because the ground is excellent and the construction of the cross-country fences is very good, but next year will be very different fences.”
As the Australian combination were lying second after the dressage phase, only overnight leaders Yoshiaki Oiwa and Bart L JRA could challenge them. But the Japanese rider was 14 seconds down on the clock to collect 5.6 time faults and drop to fourth.
As a result this moved Jung up into the silver medal position after two phases. Japanese rider Ryuzo Kitajima and Vick Du Gisors, were almost bang on the optimum time of 5 minutes 30 seconds to move up from fourth after the dressage to third.
“All the horses recovered really well after the cross country, despite the challenging conditions, and they are all now back home in their air-conditioned stables at Baji Koen resting ready for tomorrow’s jumping,” Goran Akerström, the FEI’s veterinary director, said.
In mixed weather conditions which veered from heavy rain to hot sunshine, nine horses were foot-perfect over the 11-fence track
A superb clear in the final jumping test from Jung put pressure on overnight leaders, Australia’s Andrew Hoy with Bloom Des Hauts Crets. The mare had jumped impeccably around Derek Di Grazia’s Sea Forest cross-country course 24 hours earlier but became increasingly headstrong over the coloured poles and, when the middle element of the triple combination hit the sand to drop Hoy down the order to fifth, with Jung taking victory with a score of 28.0.
Jung was quick to praise the facilities provided at the two venues, Equestrian Park and Sea Forest.
“For me it was very interesting to be here and nice to see how everything works, especially the cross country with the horses,” he said. “It felt very good. It is difficult but still possible and I think it’s really not a problem. For sure you need a very good preparation and you have to be very fit before you arrive here, the horses and the riders as well. I think it will be very nice next year if you see everything this year and we have one more year to prepare and to make some little details a bit better. I’m really looking forward to next season.”
Other clear rounds included Japan’s Ryuzo Kitajima on Vick Du Grisors JRA and dressage leaders Oiwa and Bart L JRA. This moved the pair up to podium spots in second and third respectively.
Second-placed Kitajima, a member of Japan’s gold medal-winning team at last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta, was delighted with the performance of his horse Vick Du Grisors JRA.
“It was hard work in the very hot weather, but my horse had a very good reaction in the cross country,” he said. “In the practice arena he was too fresh today, so I’m very happy with a double clear. It’s a fantastic result.”
Great Britain sent two representatives to the test event; Georgie Spence with Halltown Harley, and William Fox-Pitt with Summer at Fernhill. Fox-Pitt finished in eighth on a score of 34.6, while Spence finished on her dressage score of 30.6 to rise to 4th place – just .5 penalties off the podium. In updates posted by Equestrian Team GBR they says: “It’s been a brilliant competition and we’re now even more excited for Tokyo 2020 after getting this taste of what to expect. The facilities and venues out here have been really impressive and only look set to improve over the next year.”
The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) claims the overwhelming impression from the 20 National Olympic and Paralympic Committees which competed was positive.
“The facilities are very impressive and we had the chance to test everything we needed to test, which was the purpose of this week’s test event,” Sydney 2000 Olympic eventing champion David O’Connor, who chairs the FEI Eventing Committee, said. “There are some adjustments to be made but they are minor ones as the Organising Committee has thought through all the details and is right on track to make 2020 a really great Olympic Games for equestrian sport.”
The Ready Steady Tokyo Test Event is a ‘dress rehearsal’ organised by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee ahead of next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It is used to confirm and improve the competition and Games operation capabilities in order to ensure a successful operation during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which take place from 24 July to 9 August 2020.