Nick Skelton and Big Star jumped a superb clear in the first of two rounds to determine the individual showjumping medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Thirteen combinations jumped clear and inside the time over Brazilian course designer Guilherme Jorge’s testing track.
All of them — plus the all the four-faulters — progress into this afternoon’s class, where the individual medals will be decided. Two riders jumped clear but with a single time fault, and they have also qualified. All penalties are carried forward. A total of 27 horses have qualified, as those tied for qualifying spots all progress.
Ben Maher and Tic Tac are the only other Brits left in the running after Michael Whitaker withdrew Cassionato as he was suffering with colic symptoms. They had one fence down this morning, the first part of the triple combination that took many scalps. He is through to the deciding round.
Nick, who had a foot in the water and a rail down in earlier rounds, said: “Big Star’s got his act together now. I think he was a bit rusty — he hasn’t jumped anything as big as the other day since the grand prix in Aachen. The course rode a lot bigger than it walked.”
Ben was pleased with Tic Tac’s performance.
“He’s jumped great today again,” he said. “I think he’s improved every day. I don’t know that I’d do a lot differently if I went again to be honest. It’s a little bit disappointing [to have a fence down] but things can change a lot in the second round — we saw that in London and Beijing — so we’ll stay positive and try to go clear in the second round.
Eric Lamaze, who jumped last and produced a clear round from Fine Lady 5, said: “There was no room for a little mistake at this point if you want to have a chance at a medal.”
In the final round, riders jump in reverse order and carry forward their penalties from this morning. It is not against the clock (though there is a maximum time allowed). Any riders tied for any medal positions then progress to a jump-off against the clock.
Full 20-page report from the Olympic showjumping in Rio in the issue of H&H published Thursday, 25 August, including full analysis of every round of the competition and expert comment from Geoff Billington and William Funnell.