CORK’S Austin O’Connor and the Irish-bred gelding ‘Colorado Blue’, owned by the Salty Syndicate, finished best of the Irish in 13th place following a brilliant performance in Monday’s individual final of the Eventing competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
O’Connor was in 49th place following Friday’s opening Dressage phase, but climbed a massive 29 places to 20th after a stunning Cross-Country performance on Saturday, where they were one of just a handful of riders to jump clear inside the time. They lowered a single fence in Monday morning’s first Show Jumping round and that moved them up another two places to 18th to comfortably finish among the top 25, who qualified for the individual final.
A tough final of the individual competition saw O’Connor post the first round inside the time allowed with one fence down. That left him in 13th place at the finish on a final score of 46.0.
Germany’s Julia Krajewski and ‘Amande De B’Neville’ are the new Olympic Eventing individual Gold Medal winners, after they finished on a final score of 26.0. Britain’s Tom McEwen took silver with ‘Toledo De Kerser’ (29.3), while the bronze went to Australia’s Andrew Hoy and ‘Vassily De Lassos’ (29.6).
Carlow’s Sam Watson and the Vahe Bogossian-owned ‘Tullabeg Flamenco’ (ISH) finished in 30th place overall on a score of 55.30, after picking up eight penalties in the final jumping phase.
Meath’s Sarah Ennis and the Breda Kennedy-owned ‘Horseware Woodcourt Garrison’ (ISH) finished in 36th place on 79.70, with just one fence down in their jumping round.
IRELAND EIGHTH IN OLYMPIC EVENTING TEAM COMPETITION
O’Connor, Watson, Ennis and reserve athlete Cathal Daniels made up the Irish team, managed by Sally Corscadden, who finished in eighth place overall of 14 teams on a score of 177.0 following the conclusion of the Olympic Eventing team competition in Tokyo.
O’Connor, who travelled to Tokyo as Reserve/ P Alternate, had replaced Cathal Daniels after the Irish Eventing team were dealt a blow last Thursday, less than 24 hours before the start of the Olympic Eventing competition in Tokyo, with news that Galway’s Daniels had been forced to withdraw his mare ‘Rioghan Rua’ (ISH) from the opening Dressage competition for veterinary reasons.
The Olympic Eventing team gold medal went to a British team, which included the Irish Sport Horse ‘Ballaghmor Class’, who was bred in Co. Limerick by the late Noel Hickey and was produced in Co. Kilkenny as a young horse by Katherine Charlton. Britain finished on a team total of 86.30, with the silver medal going to Australia (100.2), while France took home the bronze (101.5).
The Irish Eventing team lay in 13th place overall following the conclusion of the opening Dressage phase of the Eventing competition in Tokyo. With just over 30 penalties separating the top 13 teams, the competition was still wide open heading into the Cross-Country.
The Irish trio of Sam Watson (‘Tullabeg Flamenco’ (ISH)), Austin O’Connor (‘Colorado Blue’) and Sarah Ennis (‘Horseware Woodcourt Garrison’ (ISH)), were on a combined score of 110.4, while the medal positions were at that point occupied by Britain (78.3), Germany (80.4) and New Zealand (86.4).
Carlow’s Sam Watson and ‘Tullabeg Flamenco’ (ISH) were best of the Irish individually and were in 38th place on 34.30.
Speaking after his Dressage test, Watson said: “I was pleased with the horse and I think the foundations were there. The softness and suppleness was there, the relaxation was there. I possibly didn’t give him enough punch and enough X-Factor for what they are looking for at the Olympic Games. It was a little safe and then I made a small mistake, which was on me, I shouldn’t be missing changes at the Olympic Games. I am pretty happy with the horse, I am a little disappointed with the mark and there are a few things that I could have done better.”
There was a late change to the Irish team, when Cathal Daniels and ‘Rioghan Rua’ (ISH) were replaced by Austin O’Connor and ‘Colorado Blue’ on veterinary advice.
Speaking about the change, Sam Watson commented: “It is really, really hard for Cathal. He is disappointed, but thankfully the mare is in good shape. If she needs to come in and show jump, she is in good order to do so. Whether it was the journey over or something else, it took a bit out of her and it would be a risk for cross-country. We have a really strong team member in Austin. It was a very difficult decision for management, very difficult for Cathal and his owners and there is no getting away from that.”
All Irish Equestrian athletes at the Games are wearing yellow ribbons in memory of Irish teenager Tiggy Hancock, who tragically lost her life following a fall while training.in June of this year.
Sam Watson explained: “At the age of 15, she was a really special person and a really talented young rider and tragically last month she had a fall that she didn’t survive. She was someone I was lucky enough to train with and I think she was someone that could have been at the Olympics one day. To remember her is special and very important to us.”
Austin O’Connor and ‘Colorado Blue’ scored 38.0 in their Dressage test, which put them in 49th position. Commenting on his performance, Cork native O’Connor said: “Coming out of the ring and seeing that score, I am naturally disappointed. There is no hiding that fact. I don’t know where it went wrong, I think the horse got a little bit shy in the ring. From a horse that has been doing good flying changes in the ring, he was seeing imaginary show jumps tonight and getting a bit high. It is over now and the beauty of this sport is that there are two more days to look forward to. I think being under the lights might have had an affect to his performance. There is shadows, it is a new venue but it is the same for everybody. I am excited and looking forward to the next few days and we will give it our best shot.”
Ireland’s final team member, Sarah Ennis with ‘Horseware Woodcourt Garrison’ (ISH) performed their test in the early hours of Saturday morning and were lying just behind O’Connor in 50th place on a score of 38.1.
Speaking about her test, Ennis said: “Being very honest, I am very disappointed. We really thought we had him in a position to get a much better mark. He has been going amazing all week. He has been very happy in this heat, he is not struggling with it. He just got nervous when he went into the ring. It is very difficult, he is so he is and he gets nervous every so often. We just have to hope that the rest of it goes a bit better. Covid was a factor today as he is lacking a bit of ring practise. I would normally have been over to England two or three times by this time of year and I went over once. It was so difficult to travel.”
Sarah Ennis is now looking forward to the next phase of the competition: “I can’t change my mark, he worked really hard and I couldn’t have asked more of him. Hopefully he behaves for the next phase! It would have been nicer to have been in one of the top five teams heading out. It would have been really exciting, but it won’t be a dressage competition. The time is going to be really influential. It is like an ERM [Event Riders Masters], it is going to be really fast and quick and I think there are going to be a lot of time penalties out there.”
Meath native Ennis gave her take on the Tokyo Cross-Country course: “It will depend how they get into it. It will be nice to get over the first few fences and get a feel for it. There are a lot of fences in the first three minutes. It comes up really fast.”
Having been based at Equestrian Park for the Dressage phase of the Games, all the Eventing horses had to travel to Sea Forest Cross Country Course, which was about an hour away.
Germany’s Michael Jung and ‘Chipmunk FRH’ held the individual lead after dressage on a score of 21.10, with Britain’s Oliver Townend in silver with the Irish Sport Horse ‘Ballaghmor Class’ on 23.6. China’s Alex Hua Tian currently was in the bronze medal position with ‘Don Geniro’ on 23.9.
The Irish Eventing team rose five places to eighth overall following the Cross-Country phase of the Olympic Eventing competition at Sea Forest Island in Tokyo, while the Irish Sport Horse ‘Ballaghmor Class’ (ISH) moved into the gold medal position on the individual standings with Britain’s Oliver Townend.
Carlow’s Sam Watson and ‘Tullabeg Flamenco’ (ISH) were pathfinders for the Irish in the Cross-Country. A fast round saw them pick up just two time penalties, but they unfortunately also picked up 11 penalties when a slight rub broke a frangible pin at fence 14C. That put Watson on a total score 47.3 after Dressage and Cross-Country and into 31st place individually.
Austin O’Connor and ‘Colorado Blue’ were second to go for the Irish team and they produced an absolutely stunning round to jump clear inside the time to stay on their Dressage score of 38.0. O’Connor and ‘Colorado Blue’s’ brilliant round, one of just six clears inside the time, saw him shoot up the leaderboard and after being in 49th place after Dressage, they moved to 20th position.
The last member of the Irish trio to take on the Cross-Country course was Meath’s Sarah Ennis with ‘Horseware Woodcourt Garrison’ (ISH), who picked up 20 penalties for a refusal at fence 16C and 17.6 time penalties for a total score after Dressage and Cross-Country of 75.70 in 39th position.
That left Ireland on a team total of 161.0 heading into the final Show Jumping phase. Britain remained in the gold medal position in the team competition after they added no penalties to their Dressage score of 78.30. Australia were in silver, with France in bronze position.
Britain’s Oliver Townend and ‘Ballaghmor Class’ (ISH) were in the gold medal position on the individual standings with a score of 23.6.
Austin O’Connor made it through to Monday afternoon’s individual final of the Eventing competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, while the Irish team finished in eighth place overall of 14 teams.
Riding ‘Colorado Blue’, Austin O’Connor had a brilliant clear round in Sunday’s Cross-Country and was lying in 20th place heading into Monday morning’s final Show Jumping phase, from which the top 25 qualified for the afternoon’s individual final. O’Connor lowered just a single fence during his Show Jumping round, which moved him up two places to 18th to comfortably make the final.
Sam Watson and ‘Tullabeg Flamenco’ (ISH) finished in 30th place overall, while Sarah Ennis and ‘Horseware Woodcourt Garrison’ (ISH) finished in 36th.
The Olympic Eventing team gold medal went the British team, which included the Irish Sport Horse ‘Ballaghmor Class’. ‘Ballaghmor Class’ went forward to the individual final in the silver medal position with Oliver Townend (GBR).
Austin O’Connor with Colorado Blue (SHBGB) – 2009 grey gelding by Jaguar Mail, out of Rock Me Baby by Rock Kind. Breeder: Mellon Stud, Owner Austin O’Connor and The Salty Syndicate.
Sam Watson with Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH) – 2009 gelding by Tullabeg Fusion [ISH], out of Tullabeg Heidi (unk) by Ardenteggle Sir (IPSA). Breeder: Nicholas Cousins (Wexford). Owner: Vahe Bogossian.
Sarah Ennis with Horseware Woodcourt Garrison (ISH) [was Woodcourt Garrison] – 2009 gelding by Garrison Royal (ISH) out of Davitt Star (ISH) by Furisto (HANN). Breeder: Patrick J Kearns (Laois). Owner: Breda Kennedy.
Oliver Townend with Ballaghmor Class (ISH) – 2007 gelding by Courage II (HOLST), out of Kilderry Place (ISH) (no dam of sire recorded). He was bred by Noel Hickey of Co. Limerick, ridden by Oliver Townend (GBR) and owned by Val Ryan, Angela Hislop and Karyn Shuter.
MORE OLYMPIC ACTION
There is plenty more equestrian action remaining at the Olympic Games with Michael Blake’s Irish Show Jumping team of Bertram Allen, Darragh Kenny, Cian O’Connor and Shane Sweetnam (reserve) having already competed in the individual competition. The first round of the Show Jumping team competition takes place on Friday, August 6, with 10 of the 20 teams looking to book a place in the team final on Saturday, August 7.