‘One’s not good in the morning and the other would have been terrified, so it had to be me’: riders react to being Olympic team pathfinders

  • The Tokyo Olympic eventing team pathfinders have been giving their reaction to being first out for their countries in this new format competition.

    Jonelle Price said that “sadly” there hadn’t been much discussion about the New Zealand order, joking about her husband and team-mate Tim and their third team-mate, Olympic debutant Jesse Campbell: “Tim is definitely not at his best early in the morning and Jesse would have been crapping himself going number one, so it was really me by default.”

    Tokyo Olympic eventing team pathfinder Jonelle Price’s support team watch her test

    Jonelle Price’s team-mates Tim Price (second from left) and Jesse Campbell (third from right) watch her test at the Tokyo Olympics, alongside members of the New Zealand support team. Credit: Peter Nixon

    She added that having no drop score, a change to other eventing championships and previous modern Olympics, is “a different kettle of fish”.

    “If I was coming out here on my own, I’d be riding very differently to what I’m going to have to do riding for the team – playing a bit of a safer game because if one person has a mistake somewhere, you can’t afford that person to be on your team. So it slightly changes the way we look at things,” she said.

    Alex Hua Tian is by far the most experienced rider of the Chinese team and many would have expected him to be the anchorman. But he said it worked for him and the team for him to go first with Don Geniro.

    He explained: “The forecast for Sunday is hit and miss – it was going to be very hot, now it might be raining. ‘Don’ isn’t the most blood animal in the world. He was always going to find the heat hard, especially with that level of intensity on the course. So for me personally, I really didn’t want to go last. With the possibility that it might still be very hot on Sunday, it suits me to go first and give him as much of a chance as possible.

    “Our other two team riders are great horseman, sat on good horses, but I think if I have a good ride, it’ll hopefully give them the confidence to go out there and attack it.”

    US team rider Doug Payne, another of the Tokyo Olympic eventing team pathfinders, said he chose to be first out with Vandiver.

    “‘Quinn’ is very good on cross country – he’s quick, efficient, good on his feet, but he’s also a little bit unconventional, so in the end, watching a whole lot of people doesn’t necessarily add as much value for me riding him as it would for some of the others, riding a more conventional type of horse.”

    Doug went on to explain in what way Vandiver is unconventional: “Any sort of drop or a blind fence or a jump into water, for many horses the first landing step is kind of normal to a little bit big. But he would tend to sort of do a little stuttered choppy step. For example, at the first water here, I would imagine we’re going to see some people get down there [from the log in to the fish in the water] in three strides. That’ll never happen, that’ll be just a normal four for him.

    “In many ways, that allows him to be sort of be agile, catlike and get out of trouble pretty quick. He’s super genuine and he’s got a massive heart.”

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