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Rio Olympics 2016

25-August-2016
25-August-2016 15:39
in General
by Admin

 

I am now back in the land of the living after Rio, so have got a moment to let you know about the Rio experience.
 
Overall it was a fantastic one, and will certainly be remembered.  There was a lot of negative press in the lead up and we were very lucky to experience no troubles at all.  
 
We went out well in advance of the competition in order to get everything well settled down before things started.  We stayed in the Olympic village throughout our stay and that in itself was a true experience.  The village had been constructed for Rio and will be in the future a substantial housing estate.  It was made up of 35 x 19 floor tower blocks, along with a very large canteen and facilities for all our staff.  We were up on the 18th floor and were perfectly comfortable - we lived not in luxury but in certain comfort.  Our block of flats had been designated to just Team GB, so we were only in a british building which was very exciting.
 
It was a big journey for Chilli but he travelled over very well, and settled easily into the stables, which were far more luxurious and comfortable than you would ever see in Europe.  I arrived at the same time as him but gave him a couple of days off to settle in before reintroducing normal work.  He was very relaxed and happy throughout, so at no point did I have my work cut out, and at times was rather twiddling my thumbs.
 
After much discussion it was decided that Chilli would run second in the team, and would therefore go on the afternoon of the first day of dressage, which I was quite happy with.  We had worked him well with Tracy in the lead up and he was on great form for his dressage, producing a lovely test which was mistake free, and put him very excitingly at the head of affairs at this stage.  I have not led the dressage very often at 4* level in my career so it was even more exciting, but he is a lovely horse on the flat and he totally deserved his lead.
With Pierre Michelin designing the cross country course he executed quite a serious track and indeed there were quite a few questions all the way round, but it was very fair.  What I particularly noticed was how long all his related distances were, they were a good metre or two further than we would see in any Mark Phillips course, so he was encouraging forward riding.
 
Overall the track was impressive, beautifully presented on specially prepared ground which, although dead, was quite firm and level, and it was a very undulating track all the way around making it physically demanding even though the time was only 10min 15sec.  I think all riders worried about fence 6 which was a double of corners, it was a good question but I think they had come out slightly wrong as they didn’t really line up.  Pierre designed it to be ridden on 4 strides but the reality was that you needed to make more of a curve and get 5 to make a safer jump.  This fence was influential and the majority ended up surprisingly going the long route.  The other fence which I felt was quite disappointing was to jump the corner of a table and then turn on a very short stride to a downhill offset frangible gate, which you couldn’t see as you jumped the corner.  This was undoubtedly a fairly mad fence.  Not only was it on the 8 minute marker, but it would have been totally unsafe to have the gate in that place had it not been a frangible, and that to me is a sign of a bad jump.  If it had been an angled hedge or a skinny instead of the gate it would have been totally fine, and I was very surprised that the ground jury had passed it.  In the end 95% of people went the long way anyway so it was hard to see what it achieved.
 
The last tricky fence on the course was a water, four from the end, which tested forward riding and line holding.  Quite a few were caught out here, again largely due to the very forward distance, but I felt this was at least a fair question and could be well ridden.
 
So, on cross country day I took Chilli for his usual hack in the morning and then sat down to watch the first 10 horses go cross country. I was very grateful to have this opportunity to see how the course was riding, but I was not exposed to much very encouraging viewing.  It caused a fair amount of trouble for some of the good combinations going early, showing us that we were right thinking the cross country would be influential.  The horses were finishing surprisingly tired and looked under pressure on the way round.  What I feel looking back is that the one disappointment in the day was that several of the weaker combinations had clear rounds and some of the good combinations incurred a 20 – and I am always a believer that a good course provides a good winner.  However luckily Michel Jung came out on top which was totally expected and absolutely deserved.
 
Chilli Morning gave me a fantastic ride and went well, although it felt that he had to try harder than normal.  At the fence I got 20 penalties it was totally my fault.  There was a long distance from a log downhill to a skinny and being concerned about the distance I came too quickly, so I was unable to turn to the next skinny on a 3 stride right hand turn.  I think I incurred a 20 for a runout, but had I not, I would have been given 20 for crossing my tracks which I stupidly did having bypassed the first element.
 
Chilli ran well round the rest and finished in good shape although he was quite hot and tired, fortunately he came out of his excursions brilliantly and trotted up well the next day.
 
Luckily all the british horses looked good after their runs so we could focus on the show jumping.  Very disappointingly we found ourselves in 8th place after the cross country which was embarrassingly down the order but we all knew we were sat on good jumpers.  The show jumping course was big and fair and perhaps lacked much technical demand, the time was very tight.  Peter Murphy helped me warm Chilli up well and he jumped a good solid clear inside the time.  This clear round moved him up to 18th which wasn’t a great deal, and I was the only Brit to have to jump again in the individual round being in the top 25.
The whole team jumped clear which is incredibly rare, I think we have only ever done it once before, in Aachen in the World Championships, and this moved us up the order into 5th place which is only slightly more respectable.  But the bottom line was that none of us had jumped a clear round the cross country which is unbelievable.  
 
Chilli then had a nice rest before his individual round, this round was slightly shorter than the first but the fences were all 1m30 and it was quite decent.  Chilli was incredible and jumped another clear moving up to 12th place, which in itself was an amazing place to finish in an Olympic games including a refusal.  
TeamGB was naturally very disappointed overall as none of us had performed to our best, and it being Yogi’s last championship we really had hoped we might reward all his hard work with a decent performance.
 
Personally the sad thing was that all the people who put so much in to my Olympic effort were all given nothing to show for it, I know I was very fortunate to be there but it would have been amazing if Chilli and I performed as well as we normally do.  I would love to have been able to say thank you to everyone with a whole hearted performance and not excuses for a near miss. 
 
Following the Olympics the horses flew back home and all arrived happily in 'good nick' thanks to the amazing Liz Brown, our vet, who spoilt them all rotten.
I had decided to spend a few days with Alice and the boys in the Amazon while we were in that neck of the woods, so we disappeared off to the jungle, which was an incredible experience and a lovely escape from our Rio disaster.
 
Life is rather strange with the Rio focus gone but it is great to be back home and able to move forward with the other horses, which gives me lots to look forward to. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2013 William Fox-Pitt. Photos copyright of William Murray in partnership with Fox-Pitt Eventing. With contributions from Kit Houghton, Fiona Scott-Maxwell, Julia Shearwood, Gavin Hudspith, Ian Loveland & Adam Fanthorpe.

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