Clear Rounds Abound as Ben Maher and Darragh Kenny Lead Individual Qualifier at Tokyo 2020

Tokyo, Japan – August 3, 2021 – The first day of Olympic Show Jumping competition at the stadium at Baji Koen [the official equestrian park] in Setagaya City, Tokyo kicked off on Tuesday with the Individual Qualifier as athletes competed for the first time under a new with format at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. At the end of the competition, it was only the athletes who left all the rails intact that advanced to the Individual Final. Every athlete from Japan, Ireland, Great Britain, Sweden and Belgium advanced to the Individual Final. Ben Maher with Explosion W and Darragh Kenny aboard Cartello put in the most competitive clear rounds and will return last and second to last, respectively for the Individual Final.

Ben Maher and Explosion W

Seventy-three athletes participated in the Individual Qualifier, marking the first year that the Individual events were held first during the Olympic competition. Each country was permitted a maximum of three riders, who were divided into three groups based on FEI Nations Cup standings and FEI horse-and-rider combination standings. All three riders from each nation started in the same group.

While the event was not set against the clock, time was still a determining factor towards qualification and rank for the Individual Final. The Individual Final is open to the top 30-athletes and athletes with zero penalties automatically qualified. The starting order will go in reverse order of merit from rankings in the qualifier. With 25 clear rounds, the remaining five athletes who had 2 time faults or less also advanced to the Individual Final as well.

Course Designer, Santiago Varela (ESP), set a technical and sizeable 1.60m 14-obstacle track that challenged athletes with a skinny vertical, a triple bar set a maximum height, a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination early in the course, and an oxer-vertical double combination set four strides from a wall before a bending line to the final oxer. The jumps showcased many of the most recognizable aspects of Japanese culture including a Geisha and Sumo wrestler to name a few.

The first section of the competition was dominated by Japan and Ireland. Daisuke Fukushima (JPN) and Chanyon produced the first clear round for the host nation after Egypt’s Mouda Zeyada and Galanthos SHK were clear over the fences but had just a single time fault at he beginning of the order.

Darragh Kenny and Cartello

Kenny was the first athlete in the stadium for Ireland aboard Cartello, and easily produced a clear effort and the second fastest round of the day in 82.01 seconds. Koki Saito followed with another clear round for Japan riding Chilensky, while Bertram Allen and Pacino Amiro cleared the track for Ireland a second time.

Eiken Sato and Saphyr Des Lacs

Eiken Sato (JPN) and Saphyr des Lacs had a single time fault, but were still good enough to qualify for the Individual Final, while Ireland’s third and final rider, Cian O’Connor, completed another fault- free round with Kilkenny . France qualified a single athlete thanks to a clear effort by Nicolas Delmotte and Urvoso du Roch.

Cian O’Connor and Kilkenny

Competing as individuals for their countries, Nayel Nassar (EGY) was faultless with Igor Van de Wittemoere, while veteran Olympic athlete Mario Deslaurieres (CAN) was the final athlete to compete in the first round and cleared the track with Bardolina 2 in a speedy 84.76 seconds.

Nayel Nassar and Igor Van De Wittemoere
Mario Deslauriers and Bardolina 2

Moving into the second section, Israel’s Ashlee Bond produced the first clear round with Donatello 14, just shy of Kenny’s time in 82.84 seconds and will be third to last to return on Wednesday. This marked Israel’s first time fielding a team for equestrian competition at the Olympic Games, and Bond is thrilled to have the opportunity to represent her country during the Individual Final.

Ashlee Bond and Donatello 141

Great Britain, who has produced multiple Individual and Team medalists in equestrian sports, had a strong showing in the second round of competition. Harry Charles and Romeo 88 were the first to go for Great Britain and easily left all the fences intact. Teammates Maher with Explosion W and Scott Brash aboard Hello Jefferson completed the faultless trifecta.. With the fastest round of the day, Maher will be the last athlete to return for the Individual Final, giving him an edge over the extremely competitive field. All of the Swedish athletes were clear, including defending Silver medalist from the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Peder Fredricson riding All In. Teammates Malin Baryard-Johnsson with Indiana and Henrik van Eckermann with King Edward were also faultless.

Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson

From Switzerland, fan favorite Martin Fuchs was clear with Clooney 51 while Beat Mandli and Dsarie had a single time fault. In a somewhat surprising turn of events, London Gold medalist Steve Guerdat had an early rail down with Venard de Cerisy and was unable to qualify for the Individual Final.

Martin Fuchs and Clooney 51

Additional qualifiers from the second group with clear rounds included Latvia’s Kristaps Neretnieks (LAT) with Valour, Luciana Diniz (POR) riding Vertigo Du Desert and Yuri Mansur (BRA) with Alfons. Norway’s Geir Gulliksen had a single time fault with Quatro, just narrowly advancing to the Individual Final.

Jessican Springsteen and Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve

The United States made their debut during the third and final section of competition, leading off with Jessica Springsteen and Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve. In their very first Olympic competition together, the pair had just a single rail down jumping into the double combination, sadly leaving her just off the list for the Individual Final. Teammate Kent Farrington had the same rail as Springsteen with Gazelle, also missing the Individual Final with a 4-fault score. Laura Kraut had the same rail down at the double combination as well as the final jump down for 8 faults aboard her new mount, Baloutinue.

Kent Farrington and Gazelle

The final section saw all of the Belgian athletes earn a ticket to the Individual Final including Gregory Wathelet with Nevados S, Jerome Guery with Quel Homme De Hus and Niels Bruynseels with Delux Van T & L. For The Netherlands, it was Maikel van der Vleuten with Beauville Z and Marc Houtzager with Dante that were able to advance.

Maikel Van Der Vleuten and Beauville Z

Daniel Deusser was the only German athlete to produce a clear round aboard his top mout Killer Queen. Although they left all the rails intact, Daniel Meech of New Zealand had 2 time faults and was the last rider to qualify with Cinca 3. This result means that he will be the first to return for the Individual Final.

Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen

With the Individual Qualifier complete, athletes will now look ahead to the Individual Final where they will start with a clean slate for one round set against the clock and a jump-off to determine any ties for medals.

Competition will get under at 6am ET with 30 of the world’s best athletes going head-to-head for the individual championship title.


Ben Maher – Great Britain

On his ride:
“Yeah, he was great. Been waiting here a long time like everybody else, very boring and just kind of edgy to get going, I guess. [The course] was a bit spooky. I don’t know if it’s the jumps or the lights. And I felt that on him. And this is my most nervous round of the week. He’s a horse that normally improves as the rounds go on. So he was having a lot of luck today, but he’s naturally a fast horse, and he did everything he needed to do.”

On the course:
“It’s a good course. It was difficult with the new format – didn’t want to miss qualifying today, so I made the decision to go in and attack a little bit. Just went a little bit wider to the sumo wrestling jump, a few horses were doing some strange things there, but he felt great. And yeah, it fills me with confidence today.”

Ben Maher and Explosion W

On team Great Britain’s performance:
“As a team, we jumped three clear rounds today. We have team tactics this week. But setting out on day one is very strong. And we’re here to try and get a result.”

On his horse:
“He did very little last year, until sort of April, May of this year with Covid. I had a back operation last year, then Covid. He competed in one major Grand Prix last year. And I think it was the biggest Grand Prix of last year, and he won in New York. And then we just hit a little bit of form at the right time, with him winning the Global Tour in Valkenswaard, and then the Rolex Grand Prix in Windsor. He’s coming off the back of two five star Grand Prix wins. So we have momentum, but I mean, these weeks can throw in big surprises. So I’ll try, I’m confident, but I also just go in there and try and do my job on the day.”

Martin Fuchs – Switzerland

On the ride:
“It was a challenging round for me today. The course wasn’t that difficult or super tricky, but I think what makes it difficult is the Olympic Games, the pressure’s there. Clooney feels it, I feel it. But usually he gets better from day to day. And I think the most difficult round of the week is now behind us, and now we can start riding.”

On whether he feels pressure coming in as one of the favorites:
“I don’t think that much about the past championships. I was a little nervous for this one on Sunday night. Sunday to Monday night, I didn’t have a great sleep. And I had a good talk yesterday with our support psychologist, and he really helped me to ease this feeling a bit because I told him I’ve never been in this position. To have that feeling, it was totally new for me. And that’s why I was nervous, and why I asked him for some help.”

On his session:
“He was asking me what the problem was. I told him that on Sunday after the warm-up I was super excited because Clooney felt so good that I was just so excited, and really thought, ‘okay, now we can make a medal. We can win a medal’. And this feeling carried me through the night and woke me up a couple of times. I told him about it, and he said, ‘Martin, What are you here for? What are you doing here?’. I said, ‘I ride’. He said ‘Exactly, you ride. You don’t need to think. The Swiss team got you here to ride, not to think. So just get on your horse and ride, and leave the other things to the smart people’. And it was a good thing, because it’s not that I’m lacking confidence or something, it’s more, ‘what if I clear in the jump-off, what if I win a medal, what is this, what is that’. When he gave me this advice, he told me that if I started thinking once more about the medal, I should welcome the thought and then push it away again and think about something else.”

Jessica Springsteen – United States of America

On her round:
“My horse jumped unbelievably, I couldn’t be happier with him. When I walked the line [to the double] I thought it would be a little more up, but my horse has such a big stride and he jumped the wall big so I should have been a little bit quieter there. All in all I am thrilled with the round and excited for the rest of the week.”

On her relationship with Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve:
“I’ve had him for about two years. He’s super brave, he’s so talented, he does everything so easily. He really gives me a lot of confidence when I go in the ring because I know him like the back of my hand now. That gives me a really good feeling for my first experience at a championship.”

Jessica Springsteen and Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve

On Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve’s personality:
“He’s so sweet. He will whinny to you when you walk into the barn. He’s really fun. He’s a stallion but he’s really kind.”

On the Olympics:
“It’s not just my first Olympics but my first championship, so you definitely feel jitters going in. But to be on a team with Kent, McLain and Laura who have such incredible experience I felt really confident.”

Kent Farrington – United States

On his round in the Individual Qualifier:
“It did not go as planned. As I was saying out there, this is a harsh reality of our sport that one rail down and you are out. With the new format here being that this is the qualifier for the Individual Final tomorrow, so it is all or nothing and unfortunately for the American team it is nothing.”

On having four faults:
“I think it was a cheap fault. I think that any horse can have a rail down and unfortunately it was the wrong time to have a rail down and it was a costly night.”

Kent Farrington and Gazelle

On What Next Plans are for Team USA:
“We will go back as a team and regroup and come up with a team plan and look forward to doing better.”

On Gazelle:
“She feels great. She is a world class horse and seasoned traveler, so that was nothing new. I think we just had bad luck. That is the reality.”

On the New Olympic Jumping Format:
“As the new format is very different from the Olympics of the past where there was a cumulative score to get you to the final, this is very much a one and done. If something goes wrong in the first round it is finished and unfortunately we are seeing that today. It is what is what is it. I try to compete under whatever guidelines and rules they give us and hopefully it works out – today it didn’t. I am not blaming the format, I think that we just needed a better performance.”

On coming back from an injury to make the Olympic team:
“I think it is always an accomplishment to make a team, especially for a country as strong as the United States. Climbing back into the sport was a goal of mine to get back quickly and I have looked past it and don’t think of it much anymore. It was a story to tell and it is just a good part of my story.”

Laura Kraut – United States

On her course:
“I was really really pleased with three quarters of the course. I thought that my horse [Baloutinue] jumped fantastic. He was focused and he stuck right with the plan I wanted to have. I would not say that anything went wrong. I got the jump into the wall that I wanted, which led me into the four and he had sort of an uncharacteristic touch of a back pole. I have not ridden him for that long, but he almost never does that. I would say that I lost concentration and focus to the left and maybe did not fight as much as I should have.”

Laura Kraut and Baloutinue

On the new scoring format:
“I am not disappointed in him at all, maybe just disappointed with the score. Like I said earlier, we are all jumping the same format. I would say that the majority, if not all, of the riders were against this format, but I don’t have sour grapes because we all have to do it. I think that a lot will come at the end of this as to whether this [new format] was a good idea or not. I do have to say that I would have appreciated that when you have two or three scores that accumulated to get you into the top 30 not just a one and done type day, but it is what it is and we will see what happens.”


2020 Toyko Olympics Individual Qualifier :
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time

1. Explosion W / Ben Maher / GBR / Ben Maher, Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright / 0 | 81.34
2. VDL Cartello / Darragh Kenny / IRL / Heathman Farm and Darragh Kenny / 0 | 82.01
3. Donatello 141 / Ashlee Bond / ISR / Ashlee Bond and Little Valley Farms / 0 | 82.84
4. Beauville Z / Maikel Van Der Vleuten / NED / Marta Ortega Perez and Springstal van der Vleuten / 0 | 84.61
5. Bardolina 2 / Mario Deslaurieres / CAN / Mario Deslauriers and Wishing Well Farm LLC / 0 | 84.76
6. Pacino Amiro / Bertram Allen / IRL / Aiden McGory / 0 | 85.18
7. Nevado S / Gregory Wathelet / BEL / Nevados Group / 0 | 85.20
8. Vertigo du Desert / Luciana Diniz / POR / Growing Luciana Diniz GmbH / 0 | 85.62
9. Hello Jefferson / Scott Brash / GBR / ​​Lady Pauline Harris and Lady Pauline Kirkham / 0 | 85.72
10. H&M All-In / Peder Fredricson / SWE / Stuteri Arch / 0 | 85.83
11. Quel Homme De Hus / Jerome Guery / BEL / Jérôme Guery, Eden Farm Farl and Alexander Oancea / 0 | 86.10
12. Killer Queen VDM / Daniel Deusser / GER / Stephex Stables and Daniel Deusser / 0 | 86.14
13. Delux Van T & L / Neils Bruynseels / BEL / Niels Bruynseels and Global One Horses Ltd / 0 | 86.67
14. QH Alfons Santo Antonio / Yuri Mansur / BRA / Santo Antonio Horses BV, Clear Round B.V. and Yuri Mansur / 0 | 86.74
15. Romeo 88 / Harry Charles / GBR / Ann Thompson and Harry Charles / 0 | 86.94
16. H&M Indiana / Malin Baryard- Johnsson / SUI / Stuteri Arch / 0 | 87.42
17. Urvoso du Roch / Nicolas Delmotte / FRA / Marie Claudine Morlion / 0 | 87.49
18. Chanyon / Daisuke Fukushima / JPN / Japan Equestrian Federation and Paul Schockemöhle / 0 | 87.51
19. Clooney 51/ Martin Fuchs / SUI / Luigi Baleri / 0 | 87.56
20. Valour / Kristaps Neretnieks / LAT / Feruz Abdullaev and KN Sports SIA / 0 | 87.66
21. King Edward / Henrik Von Eckermann / SWE / Dufour Stables AG and Henrik Von Eckermann / 0 | 88.00
22. Dante / Marc Houtzager / NED / Stoeterij Sterrehof / 0 | 88.02
23. Igor Van de Wittemoere / Nayel Nassar / EGY / Evergate Stables / 0 | 88.42
24. Chilensky / Koki Saito / JPN / Paul Schockemöhle / 0 | 88.56
25. Kilkenny / Cian O’Connor / Susan Magnier / IRL / 0 | 88.66
26. VDL Groep Quatro / Gier Gullisken / NOR / Stall Gullik AS / 1 | 89.41
27. Saphyr des Lacs / Eiken Sato / JPN / Lehner Carola / 1 | 90.40
28. Dsarie / Beat Mandli / SUI / Grant Road Partners / 1 | 91.46
29. Galanthos SHK / Mouda Zeyada / EGY / Anemone sportpaarden BV, Mouda Zeyada and Hanan El Derini / 1 | 91.71
30. Cinca 3 / Daniel Meech / NZL / Johnson Horses GmbH and Daniel Meech / 2 | 93.87

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