Originally the team’s alternate, Austin and Colorado Blue were swapped in before the dressage when Cathal Daniels and Rioghan Rua withdrew for “veterinary reasons”.
“I had great confidence; things can go wrong but I’ve never sat on a horse like him and I’ve been around a while. First and foremost he’s got that bit of class,” said Austin about the 12-year-old gelding he co-owns with the Salty Syndicate.
Austin “got stuck in” as he attacked Derek de Grazia’s course, and at the end of the phase he sits 20th individually on his dressage score of 38.
“I was a little bit down in the first minute but not dramatically. I think I just let him settle into a rhythm really and where I was able to gallop I let him travel,” he said.
“It all rode as it walked, except, ironically, the fence we went long at. That was probably my most uncomfortable — I just found the distance a little bit long coming over but to call it a problem would be a serious exaggeration.”
Commenting on being swapped in ahead of the dressage, Austin said looking at the form of Colorado Blue, the gelding had “every right” to be there.
“It’s something we’ve worked at for a long time. I’ve had owners keep the horse this length of time with this in mind. We did everything accordingly and thank god I proved that,” he said, but added he “parked” any feelings of having something to prove ahead of his round.
“I was here to do a job and that was that.”
The Irish team sits in eighth on 161. Earlier in the day Sam Watson and Flamenco picked up an unlucky 11 penalties for triggering a frangible pin, plus time penalties to finish on 47.30. Sarah Ennis added 37.60 to her dressage score.
Tokyo marks 47-year-old Austin O’Connor’s third Olympic appearance. He represented Ireland at the Sydney Games in 2000, and the 2008 Games in Beijing. In June he and Colorado Blue were 10th in the Bicton CCI4*-S.
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