There’s something about the evening contests under lights here at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that makes my heart beat a little faster. After last week’s dressage freestyle, yesterday evening was the showjumping team final.
I was nipping up and down, watching each Brit and then going to the mixed zone to speak to them. Then I’d shoot back up into the stands to watch the final riders in each rotation — the top-placed ones — and the next Brit, then back to the mixed zone. Luckily, all this kept me warm — poor Sarah Jenkins, my colleague, was shivering in the stands keeping score for me while I was interviewing.
After I’d spoken to final Brit Michael Whitaker, the battle for the bronze and silver medals was incredibly close — Germany had the gold stitched up — so I didn’t want to miss a thing going back to the stands. So I stayed in the mixed zone for the final riders, watching on the television in a tiny tent.
But I didn’t feel like I was missing out on the tension at all. Shoulder to shoulder with journalists of every nationality, with a few riders alongside us and the television crews interviewing behind (right), the atmosphere was crackling, like, well… Rice Crispies? (snap, crackle and pop…).
Although as eventing editor I don’t think there’s much to beat the final moments of a three-day event for nerve-racking, I have to admit, this was just as exciting. I’ll definitely be badgering showjumping editor Jennifer Donald for some showjumping gigs next year.
With the showjumping team competition finished — I spent this morning writing my magazine report, fuelled by leftover macademia nut brownie, eaten with a straw, the only “cutlery” available in my hotel room — I’m relinquishing that discipline to Sarah for the individual contest. But I’ll definitely be watching on Saturday night when the top four riders all swap horses in the final — I wouldn’t miss that.
Meanwhile, it’s driving and vaulting for me today and tomorrow. Sadly, they’re over a mile apart at opposite ends of the park, so I’ve decided to prioritise watching vaulting today — with our Joanne Eccles leading the female individual and no Brits in the driving that seems only right — but I’ll be “nipping” back (can you “nip” a mile?) in the middle to catch the driving press conference.
The vaulting freestyles today are amazing to watch, combining dance, gym and horsesport, and with tremendous skill involved. Hannah Eccles — Joanne’s sister — just cartwheeled along WH Bentley’s back. As someone who was thrown out of gym class with no horse involved, I’m frankly gobsmacked.
Lastly, I have to mention that even the arena rakers in vaulting do it in sync. Do you think they auditioned their volunteers for that job?
Log back on through the week for more updates on the vaulting and driving. Full reports in H&H, out 14 October.