‘The majority were against this change’: riders react to new Olympic showjumping format

  • As the Olympic showjumping individual qualifier comes to a close, riders have reacted to the new showjumping competition format at the Tokyo Games.

    The key differences from previous Olympics are that the individual medals will now be decided before the team competition, and there are only three riders in each nation’s squad, rather than four. One of the reasonings behind this decision was to make it easier for people outside the sport to understand – every rider’s score will contribute to their country’s tally. There is no drop score.

    Additionally, in the team final, there will be a 20-minute break after the first two riders from all 10 teams have jumped. An intermediate classification of teams will be established and used to determine the starting order of each team’s third rider in reverse order of merit.

    World number one Daniel Deusser said he was “not a fan” of the new format, adding that in the individual qualifier today even having one rail down meant combinations would not qualify. The top 30 riders of 73 qualified for Friday’s individual final, including Daniel, and only those who jumped clear rounds secured a place.

    “Jumping three rounds in my opinion puts the best combinations together,” said Daniel. “Today it is possible that you have a good day, you ride a clear round, [rather] than another one who should be in the final over three rounds.”

    “That’s the sport and that’s the format this year. We will have a winner tomorrow and I guess it will be a good winner. We will see how the teams go with the three riders without drop scores. If a horse spooks one time, it could theoretically destroy the whole team and that’s a shame. I liked the format before – to decide over five rounds is more, in my opinion, an Olympic champion than a one-round jump off tomorrow.”

    British riders Scott Brash, Ben Maher and Harry Charles made it safely through to the final with clear rounds, but Scott said he “didn’t love” the new format.

    “It is what it is,” he said. “It’s the same for everyone so you have to get on with it.”

    Irish riders Bertram Allen, Cian O’Connor and Darragh Kenny also all picked up qualifying places.

    “The round [today] is playing for a lot, whereas normally for the individuals you had three rounds before the final, so maybe if you had two down today you could get it back over the next two days,” said Bertram. “You’ve only really one shot here and if it doesn’t go your way, you’re out.”

    US rider’s Jessica Springsteen, Laura Kraut and Kent Farrington were among those who did not qualify for the individual final. Laura, who had two fences down with Baloutine, said she did not have “sour grapes” over the new format.

    “We’re all jumping the same format – obviously I think the majority, if not all the riders, were against this. I think a lot will come at the end of this, as to whether this was a good idea or not,” she said.

    “I would have appreciated that you had two and three scores that accumulated to get you in the top 30, not just a one-and-done type day, but it is what it is and we’ll see what happens.”

    Kent said the new format is very different from that of the past.

    “If something goes wrong in the first round, it’s finished – unfortunately we’re seeing the reality of that today,” he said.

    “It is what it is. I always try to compete under whatever guidelines or rules they give us and in a different circumstance, maybe it would work to our advantage and tonight it didn’t. I’m not blaming the format, I just think we needed a better performance.”

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