In an instant, things could change. But, despite the attempts to take the lead away from Great Britain, at these Olympic Games that was not in the cards. In fact, Great Britain dominated the field until the very end when Oliver Townend, despite his one rail down for 4 faults, sealed the deal for the eventing gold medal. Taking them to that victory were teammates Tom McEwen, riding Toledo De Kerser, and Laura Collett aboard London 52. Collett was also in a good position for an individual medal, but garnered 4 faults, giving her and London 52 an individual score of 29.80, behind McEwen’s 28.90 and Townend’s 27.60.
Great Britain’s total team score of 86.30 gave them room, because their closest challenger was Australia, who finished on a score of 100.20. Australia only accumulated penalties for one downed rail by Shane Rose riding Virgil. Both Kevin McNab, riding Don Quidam, and teammate Andrew Hoy, riding Vassily De Lassos, drew cheers from those watching from the Kiss & Cry as they ended on clear rounds. That was their ticket to a silver medal ahead of France who was just mere fractions behind them.
Defending champions, France, continued to stay strong but garnered 4 penalty points when Karim Florent Laghouag and Triton Fontaine added 4 penalty points and Nicolas Touzaint and Absolut Gold added .40 time faults while Christopher Six and Totem De Brecey were clean. Those added penalty points made the difference because they ended less than 2 seconds (or to be exact 1.30 seconds) behind Australia to move down into the bronze position with a final team score of 101.50.
The team from the United States stood 5th before the final round but moved down to 6th after both Doug Payne and Vandiver and Boyd Martin with Tsetserleg TSF added 4 penalty points to their score, plus Martin's time faults of .40. Phillip Dutton and Z had an unlucky two rails down adding another 8 faults to their score. Team USA finished on a total of 125.80.
Once the teams were finished it was time to move onto the Individual finals. Unlike in the past, the individual finals had their own separate final competition. In the past the results for both the team and individual came from the same final round.
Krajewski Wins Individual Gold and Sets a Record
After the results were tallied at the top of the individual list, all three riders from Great Britain were in the top five, while the leading contender was from Germany. Julia Krajewski’s 25.60 stood in the gold medal position, Townend’s 28.60 in silver and McEwen’s 28.90 in bronze. Andrew Hoy was less than 1 penalty point behind at 29.60, with Collett’s 29.80 mere fractions behind Hoy. These point totals kept those watching on edge as even just time faults could change the order. It was one of those situations the viewers love and riders worry about.
For Krajewski, it continued to be a home run and when her final individual round was a no fault, clean round. The joy she felt from knowing she had won was very evident. Afterwards, Krajewski revealed that she had a tough winter having lost her father, but that the horses helped her get through it.
On her mare, Amanda De B'neville, Krajewski commented, “She has this extra character and she knows when it matters and she always fights for me.”
About the venue she added, “We’ve felt really welcome here. This place is second to none.”
As it turned out, a rail down for Townend took him out of podium contention and allowed McEwen to move into the silver slot with only .40 time faults. That same downed rail by Oliver and a totally clear final round did the trick for Hoy who claimed the bronze.
At 62-years-old, some wonder what continues to give Hoy the drive he seems to have to stay so immersed in the horse world, but he was quick to explain.
“I love working with horses and I’m always wanting to be better. I have a passion and I pick up and run with it.”
In addition to the honor of winning this individual gold medal, Krajewski also claimed the honor of being the first woman to ever win an eventing individual gold medal.
Team USA riders were among those with ups and downs as all continued with one or two rails down. When the final scores were tallied, Doug Payne riding Vandiver finished in the 16th spot, Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF were 20th and Phillip Dutton and Z were 22nd.
Payne was surprised by his rails because he felt his horse was jumping really well. However, despite some disappointment, Payne was quick to comment, “You can’t ask for a whole lot more. He’s shown a lot of heart and I’m glad to have him.”
Boyd was a little disappointed when his horse just nicked a rail in one of the combinations, but was still proud of Tsetserleg noting, “I’m pleased with him all around. He’s a great horse and he tries hard and he’s a champion.”
Dutton was clearly disappointed and after having a distance problem at one of the fences he felt rattled Z. But, like the rest of the team, his horse had given his best and that’s really all you can ask for.
No matter what the result, there was not one rider who didn’t praise the venue. In fact, Hoy commented, “The Japanese deserve a gold medal. They have gone through enormous challenges to make this happen. So, a big thank you to them!”
No truer words were ever spoken!