A collective cheer – Australians Jumping towards Paris
A collective cheer followed by a sigh of relief could be heard around the country last night, as the Australian Jumping Team put together a performance which has earned us a place in the Teams competition at the Paris Olympics, scheduled for just over a year’s time.
The Australians only had to finish in either of the top two places in the quad country competition and they exceeded requirements by taking out the win and sealing a trip on the Pathway to Paris.
With the other three countries being New Zealand, Japan and China, the competition was always going to be fierce, however, magnificent jumping, particularly by Lauren Balcomb and Verdini D’Houtveld Z who were the best performed combination from any country, secured the win from Japan, who will also be packing their bags and looking forward to the Olympics, where the Jumping will be held in the grounds of the historic Palace of Versailles.
The action was compelling from the first fence to the last.
Hilary Scott and her 16-year-old grey mare Oaks Milky Way were the first combination of the 16 involved to hit the course and they provided a near perfect start for Team Australia. They left all the rails intact, but their steady approach incurred just a single time penalty. When the first combinations from the other three nations all took at least a rail, Australia were well positioned after just four combinations.
Above: Hilary Scott & Oaks Milky Way. Photo credit Libby Law Photography.
Second out for the Australians were Christopher Burton and Chedington Hazy Toulana, an 11-year-old bay mare. The first part of their round was flawless, however a refusal and the time penalties that resulted, as well as a rail, in the end scored them a total of 17 faults. The next two combinations from New Zealand and China each had faults (4 and 13 respectively), however, it was the Japanese second combination of Yuko Itakura and Stakkatisa PS, who really applied the pressure to the Australians by recording the first clear round of the competition.
Above: Christopher Burton & Chedington Hazy Toulana. Photo credit Libby Law Photography.
The very next combination on course, Australia’s third pair of Lauren Balcomb and Verdini D’Houtveld Z fought back emphatically with a clear round of their own and when the third riders from each country scored 12, 33 and saw a retirement, the momentum well and truly had turned back towards the Australians.
Above: Lauren Balcomb & Verdini D’Houtveld Z. Photo credit Libby Law Photography.
The last of the Australian combinations, Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield, who have been in great form on the LGCT circuit, were next. A single rail and a pair of time penalties saw them record a total of 6, which meant that Burton and Chedington Hazy Toulana’s 17 faults would be our drop score. Australia finished the first round on a total of just 7, however, the Japanese team were breathing down our necks, with a total of 8.
Above: Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield. Photo credit Libby Law Photography.
After the first round, the standings were as follows, with the drop scores in brackets:
In the second round, combinations came out in seeded order, meaning that the Australians rode in 4th, 8th 12th and 16th positions in the draw.
Hilary and Oaks Milky Way matched the performances of the first combinations for the other countries, where their two rails were the equal best of the four countries. Burton and Chedington Hazy Toulana had a much improved second round, this time taking just a single rail, to keep Australia in the lead.
Next out was the stars of the team, Lauren Balcomb and her 12-year-old bay gelding, Verdini D’Houtveld Z. While they could not emulate their first round clear, just a single rail saw them total 4 faults on the day, which was the best performance, with the next best combination totalling 8 faults. By the time they left the arena, Australia had secured the win, because our maximum score, regardless of how our last combination performed would be 23, while the minimum score that any other team could achieve was going to be 24.
The last pair out in the competition were Edwina Tops-Alexander and Fellow Castlefield. With no pressure on they, they unfortunately took a couple of rails, which meant nothing to the overall competition. Australia showed their dominance by having the lowest drop score in the second round to finish it on a total of 16 and a grand total of 23 for the event.
The final scores, including the drop scores in brackets for round 2 were as follows:
Full results can be found HERE.
Now that the spot has been clinched, we can start counting down the 374 sleeps to go until the Paris Olympics opening Ceremony on 26 July 2024. It will be fascinating now to watch the competition unfold as Australia’s top riders and horses, both based in Australia and overseas, will battle it out, firstly to meet the minimum eligibility requirements for selection, then to catch the eyes of the selectors as they pursue a place on the Paris podium. Let the competition begin!