Japan and Australia claimed the last two team berths in Jumping for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Group G FEI qualifier in Hagen, Germany on Sunday August 23rd. And it was a big afternoon for Isheau Wong (pictured above), when the 26-year-old rider from Chinese Taipei clinched the sole individual place on offer.
A total of 27 athletes from 12 nations – Australia, Brunei, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, China, the Philippines, Korea, Singapore and Thailand – lined out in the competition staged at Hof Kasselmann. There were five countries in contention for the team qualification, and this was the biggest ever Group G qualifier. Only four countries competed in the same event in Aachen (GER) four years ago, two with teams and two individuals.
Held the lead
The Australians held the lead on an eight-fault scoreline at the end of the first round today, but they only had a single-point advantage over the Japanese in second place. The three-member Hong Kong side of Reanea Leung (Lalik), Kenneth Cheng (Jockey Club Caballo) and Jacqueline Lai (James Brown) were next in line with 24 on the board, while Chinese Taipei brought up the rear with 39. The Philippines’ Lucas Lorenzo (Lobelia), Joker A Arroya (Concept) and Marie Antoinette Leviste (Maximillian) were also only a three-strong side, so Lorenzo’s elimination left them on the sidelines at the halfway stage.
And it was three great second-round clears that clinched pole position for Japan, Toshiki Masiu recovering from a 12-fault first effort to leave the course completely intact second time out with Taloubetdarco KZ, and Daisuke Fukushima and Cornet adding nothing to their four-fault first effort. Tadahiro Hayashi and Corana’s M&M collected five faults on their first tour of the arena but when they were foot-perfect in round two the Japanese had already sealed their berth for Rio, so Taizo Sugitani and Avenzio, clear in round one, didn’t have to go again.
Disappeared from the reckoning
Australian anchor, Jamie Kermond (Quite Cassini) didn’t compete either in the second half, because the rest of the opposition had disappeared from the reckoning so his country’s passage to Rio was already secured.
Elimination for Reanea Leung put paid to Hong Kong’s chances, and when Po-Hsaing Huang (Cassilia) who was eliminated in round one, didn’t return to the ring, and then Tina Lu (Cobos) was eliminated during her second effort, only Jasmine Chen (Vegas de Sainte Hermelle) and Isheau Wong (Zadarijke V) completed for Chinese Taipei.
And with just four faults to her scoreline, collected at the water jump in the second round, Wong found herself in a two-way battle with New Zealand’s Samantha McIntosh for the individual qualifying spot.
It was something of a dilemma for Wong. “Sam was my trainer for a long time so I had very mixed feelings about the fact that we were up against each other. We would always both want the best for each other, but today I had to be her rival on the field of play. I didn’t see her round against the clock so I just tried to be as fast as I could!” the Dutch-based rider explained afterwards. Breaking the beam in 36.38 seconds, she was more than three seconds quicker than the considerably more experienced Kiwi contender.
Talking about her 11-year-old Dutch mare, Zadarijke V, Wong said, “I got her two years ago, she was competing with a Young Rider and had never done anything very big. She’s bred for dressage, not jumping, but from the very start we were the perfect match. We have formed a great partnership, and I have to thank her for everything!” the rider said.
There was an interesting link between the Rio-bound individual rider and the winning Japanese team. “I don’t have a trainer just now, but I used to train with Taizo Sugitani and went back to him for a few lessons before coming here and it really helped me. It’s great that now both of us are qualified for Olympics!”, Wong said.
Japanese Chef d’Equipe, Hirokazu Higashira, was thrilled with his side’s performance. “Our aim was to win and to qualify for Rio and we did exactly what we came here to do!” he said. Talking about his team he continued, “all of our riders are based in Europe and Toshiki is with Piet Raymakers in Netherlands and has been competing in the Global Champions Tour. Taizo has a lot of experience and the other two are still young, but they are very talented”, he added.
Australian Chef d’Equipe, Irishman Stevie Macken, was delighted with the result posted by Edwina Tops-Alexander (Lintea Tequila), Scott Keach (Fedor), Julia Hargreaves (Vedor) and Jamie Kermond (Quite Cassini) who completed on a 20-fault tally. “There was a lot of pressure here today, and they handled the pressure well enough and we achieved our goal, although on the day the Japanese were a better team”, he said. Talking about his side he explained, “Edwina’s horse had been going very well and competed in the Grand Prix at Valkenswaard last week, and Jamie was at the World Equestrian Games last year. Julia jumped really good today and Scott Keach is fairly new to us, but he has a lot of experience, he competed as an eventing rider at the Olympic Games in Seoul,” Macken explained.
Based in Ocala in Florida, USA, 50-year-old Keach is making quite a come-back it seems. “His horse is a nine-year-old with lots of potential, although he was a bit flat today. He travelled over from the US a week or two ago and maybe the travelling contributed to that, but Scott and his horse will be staying over and will compete in Barcelona” said Macken, referring to the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2015 which begins on 23 September.
The full list of teams now qualified for Jumping at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is: Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and USA.
-Source: Louise Parkes/FEI