Tokyo, Japan – August 4, 2021 – It was down to the wire, and every step counted during the jump-off for the Individual Final during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in the stadium at Baji Koen [the official equestrian park] in Setagaya City, Tokyo. The top thirty combinations were narrowed down to six for the jump-off, each completing a double clear effort meaning mere seconds separated the medal winners. In the end, it was Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Explosion W with the fastest effort to capture the individual gold medal. Earning his second individual silver medal in a row was Peder Fredricson (SWE) and H&M All In, followed by Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and Beauville Z earning the bronze medal.
Santiago Varela’s (ESP) course proved to be more difficult as the world’s best athletes vied for medal honors on day two. The 14-obstacle first round included the open water, a vertical-vertical aqueduct walls double combination, an oxer-vertical-oxer double combination and a triple bar-oxer double combination towards the end of the course before athletes galloped home over a delicate vertical towards the gate. Six athletes advanced to the jump-off which began over the triple bar followed by an oxer-vertical double combination to a new fence before a very tight roll back to the same final line.
Japan’s Daisuke Fukushima and Chanyon were the first to return, representing the host nation. They put pressure on the remaining athletes after finishing the course with all the rails intact, setting the pace to beat at 43.76 seconds. All three Swedish athletes qualified for the tiebreaker, and Malin Baryard-Johnsson was the first to return with H&M Indiana. She upped the pressure even more with a clear round in a faster 40.76 seconds.
Defending silver medalists from the 2016 Rio Olympics, Fredricson and H&M All In were next in the ring. Once again, all the fences stayed up and once again the time got faster, this time set at 38.02 seconds. Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) tried to better his teammates’ time with King Edward but fell just shy of the goal with a clear round in 39.71 seconds, which would just miss a podium spot.
All eyes were on team gold medalist from the 2012 London Olympics and leader from the Individual Qualifier, Maher, aboard his veteran partner Explosion W. Making the tightest turns possible and leaving a stride out to the final fence, they burst through the timers in a faultless 37.85 seconds with just one athlete remaining.
The Netherlands’ van der Vleuten and Beauville Z had their sights set on gold as they carefully traversed the track leaving each rail in place. Their clear time of 38.90 seconds was good enough to climb onto the podium, but only in the individual bronze medal position. Fredricson and All In would claim their second individual silver medal, while Maher and Explosion W would earn the title of individual Olympic gold medalists, defending the title for Great Britain after Nick Skelton and Big Star earned it during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Ahead of his jump-off round, 2012 teammates Scott Brash and Peter Charles advised Maher to go as fast as he always does to beat Fredericson, and Maher knew that big risk could come with big reward. Admitting there is no other horse like Explosion W, Maher galloped the track like there were no fences at all, a skill he believes only Exposition W can excel at. The risk paid off in spades and now Maher will add an individual Olympic gold medal to his team Olympic gold medal.
Explosion W is a 12-year-old KWPN gelding by Chacco Blue, owned by Maher along with Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright. Maher took over the ride from Emily Mason (GBR) three years ago, and they immediately began winning at the CSI5* level. They only competed six times in 2021 ahead of the Olympic Games, but three of those outings included victories, the most recent during the Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, proving they were peaking at just the right moment ahead of Tokyo.
Athletes will now refocus on their team strategy as they prepare to represent their respective countries in the Team Qualifier with the hopes of being one of the eight nations to qualify for the Team Finals. Competition will get under at 6am ET on Friday. Stay tuned for the latest updates from Phelps Sports.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Ben Maher (GBR) – Individual Gold Medalist
On the course:
“I think it was an appropriate track for this type of competition. It was tough to get qualified with the new format and I think everybody expected it to be big jumping today. In an ideal world, it would be nice to have three people in the jump off and everyone go home with a medal. But it was a big track and Santiago is an excellent course builder. I think the course had a little bit of everything today. It was fair.”
On Explosion W
“There is really nothing like him. We started him at 9 years old and he was already winning 5* Grand Prixs. Then at 10 years old, last year, he had quite a long break in America with COVID-19. We stayed in America and did not come back to Europe. He competed in one grand prix last year and won. Then we started a little later this year. Never again in my lifetime will I ride a horse like Explosion. I have had some incredible horses and support from amazing owners, but thanks to Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright who have made this all possible. They kept him for me and made this moment happen. It is just a special bond that we have. I really know everything about him, how he is feeling and what is underneath me. There was a moment there in the jump off to the brown oxer where I am not sure he knew what I was thinking, but took me a bit by surprise. He is just a phenomenal horse and is more of an athlete than a horse.”
On the new format:
“It is a new format and is the same for everybody. Yesterday was tough to qualify and there are a few people who we thought would be in the final today who just barely missed out. We are at the Olympic Games and unfortunately mistakes cannot be made. I prefer the team competition first personally, but I am quite happy with how the individual finals turned out.”
On two silver medals at championships:
“It was actually twice second individually, a silver medal at the European Championships on different horses and a small mistake with Explosion W at Rotterdam. It took me a while to get over that mistake there. Everything happened so fast here this evening, and the one thing I tell myself in the position where I was is I put everything down in the arena and not come out wishing I had done something different. Scott Brash, my teammate, and Peter Charles said Peder was fast. It’s very hard to track what was going on in the arena, but they said you have to go as fast as you can go, as you have done multiple times. So it almost made the job a little easier. It was all risk for the reward and that’s what we did.”
On preparing with Covid restrictions:
“It’s been tough for every athlete in every sport. In particular for the horses it’s hard to get some momentum. I spent the winter in Florida but I didn’t really compete in the big grand prix classes. I had two other horses, Explosion didn’t really start to compete until May here in Europe. The plan was always to build him up for this. He’s a horse that always jumps better the more he jumps. I was a little nervous about the new format because he can be a bit surprised by new fences and with the lights here. We had a good run at Valkenswaard, and Windsor he just recently really hit his stride. So we came here with a lot of confidence, but at the same time knowing anything could happen this week.”
On Explosion W’s speed:
“I think he has so many gears. I honestly can’t really explain it. Warming up for the jump-off he felt a little bit quiet because he didn’t have very long to recover, none of us did. I think he thought he was finished after the first round and he was a little bit slow. I just touched a few buttons to run him. My groom called it, Kenny, he’s been with me a long time, we don’t mention him very often but he’s an important part of the team and he takes amazing care of him. He said he looks a little slow, so that helped a lot. I did a few changes. He had a very flat canter when I opened him up. I don’t usually have to slow him down before a jump, the jump slows him down, and I’ve never ridden a horse in the jump-off like the jumps aren’t there, and he responds better to that pressure. It’s something you can’t train a horse, he’s just very, very intelligent.”
Peder Fredricson (SWE) – Individual Silver Medalist:
On the course:
“I think the course designer did a fantastic job. They asked just the right questions. I think the jump off was one of the fastest ones for an Olympic Games and it was great sport today.”
On the Swedish Team:
“I was really impressed with how every horse and rider went today. It was great competition. I am not really sure that this was the greatest preparation for the team competition. The horses are all in great shape and we will do our very very best.”
On getting All In ready:
“I am really happy to have brought him back in shape. He hasn’t done a competition in a year and a half and we had a goal to get him back for this. We were running a bit late because of Covid and the horse virus, but we were lucky and he’s just a great horse. I had two horses all the way to the quarantine and didn’t really know how it would develop. He was really fit because he’s been going a lot, he never gets tired, but competition fit is a different thing. We were running a little bit late with that. It’s just now after months that he is fit enough. We were very lucky to get him in shape at the right time. Sometimes it’s better to get it on the way up then on the way down.”
Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) – Individual Bronze Medalist
On the course:
“I agree with Ben and Peder. It is a difficult jump for the course designer to build for such a high level. It was hard to get clear today, but I think we saw a fantastic sport and jump-off. I think so far it has been very successful.”
On the new format:
“Personally, I would like to have the other format we had in the past. I think you are here for your country and that is what we are here to fight for first. Then we fight for the individual title. We had a very good final of course, but now we are going into the team competition with more tired horses. With the Nations Cup, we start out with more fresh horses. This takes a bit out of them.”
On his young horse Beauville Z:
“To be third behind these two horses is not a bad day! Beauville is a horse I got when he was 7 years old and I started in the 1.30m. I developed him in a quiet way. His first 5* was the grand prix in Monaco at the GCT, which we won over there. From that moment the right feeling was there and the horse was gaining experience, but he’s still young. I came here with no expectations but in good shape. It’s a horse that will really fight for me and I think we know each other really well. We have bonded the right way, but now I am sure a horse with the right mentality can get very far in the sport. He really wants to work for the rider, the same as the other two horses. Top horses are always fighting to get on the other side and in the end you get the farthest with these ones.”
2020 Toyko Olympics Individual Final:
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time / JO Time | JO Faults
1. Explosion W / Ben Maher / GBR / Ben Maher, Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright / 0 | 85.67 / 0 | 37.85
2. H&M All-In / Peder Fredricson / SWE / Stuteri Arch / 0 | 86.77 / 0 | 38.02
3. Beauville Z / Maikel Van Der Vleuten / NED / Marta Ortega Perez and Springstal van der Vleuten / 0 | 85.31 / 0 | 38.90
4. King Edward / Henrik Von Eckermann / SWE / Dufour Stables AG and Henrik Von Eckermann / 0 | 85.48 / 0 | 39.71
5. H&M Indiana / Malin Baryard- Johnsson / SUI / Stuteri Arch / 0 | 87.22 / 0 | 40.76
6. Chanyon / Daisuke Fukushima / JPN / Japan Equestrian Federation and Paul Schockemöhle / 0 | 87.57 / 0 | 43.76
7. Hello Jefferson / Scott Brash / GBR / Lady Pauline Harris and Lady Pauline Kirkham / 1 | 88.45
7. Kilkenny / Cian O’Connor / Susan Magnier / IRL / 1| 88.45
9. Nevado S / Gregory Wathelet / BEL / Nevados Group / 4 | 84.26
10. Vertigo du Desert / Luciana Diniz / POR / Growing Luciana Diniz GmbH / 4 | 84.69
11. Donatello 141 / Ashlee Bond / ISR / Ashlee Bond and Little Valley Farms / 0 | 88.02
12. Urvoso du Roch / Nicolas Delmotte / FRA / Marie Claudine Morlion / 1 | 88.04
13. Chilensky / Koki Saito / JPN / Paul Schockemöhle / 5 | 89.82
14. Quel Homme De Hus / Jerome Guery / BEL / Jérôme Guery, Eden Farm Farl and Alexander Oancea / 7 | 99.84
15. Pacino Amiro / Bertram Allen / IRL / Aiden McGory / 8 | 84.64
16. Clooney 51/ Martin Fuchs / SUI / Luigi Baleri / 8 | 84.99
17. VDL Cartello / Darragh Kenny / IRL / Heathman Farm and Darragh Kenny / 8 | 85.11
18. Killer Queen VDM / Daniel Deusser / GER / Stephex Stables and Daniel Deusser / 8 | 85.69
19. Galanthos SHK / Mouda Zeyada / EGY / Anemone sportpaarden BV, Mouda Zeyada and Hanan El Derini / 8 | 86.63
20. QH Alfons Santo Antonio / Yuri Mansur / BRA / Santo Antonio Horses BV, Clear Round B.V. and Yuri Mansur / 8 | 87.27
21. Dante / Marc Houtzager / NED / Stoeterij Sterrehof / 13 |88.10
22. Bardolina 2 / Mario Deslaurieres / CAN / Mario Deslauriers and Wishing Well Farm LLC / 13 | 88.51
23. Valour / Kristaps Neretnieks / LAT / Feruz Abdullaev and KN Sports SIA / 13 | 88.75
24. Igor Van de Wittemoere / Nayel Nassar / EGY / Evergate Stables / 13 | 89.63
25. Saphyr des Lacs / Eiken Sato / JPN / Lehner Carola / 16 | 84.67
26. Cinca 3 / Daniel Meech / NZL / Johnson Horses GmbH and Daniel Meech / ELIM
26. Dsarie / Beat Mandli / SUI / Grant Road Partners / RET
26. VDL Groep Quatro / Gier Gullisken / NOR / Stall Gullik AS / RET
26. Romeo 88 / Harry Charles / GBR / Ann Thompson and Harry Charles / RET
26. Delux Van T & L / Neils Bruynseels / BEL / Niels Bruynseels and Global One Horses Ltd ELM
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