History will show that the 2016 Rio Olympics show jumping competition was one of the most thrilling roller coaster spectator experiences in recent years, and Team USA has a medal to show for it.

Germany was always the superstar team to beat, but today they found themselves in a jump-off with the Canadian underdogs. Three of the four teams who entered the day on a zero score found themselves without a fourth rider, and therefore no drop score.

Out of those teams, the U.S. won silver, the Brazilians placed fifth, and the Netherlands came in dead last.

Germany had all their ducks in a row to win a gold medal with loads of clears and four great riders, and instead were lucky to claim a bronze over Canada.

France was quietly lurking just outside the picture with a single time fault and four exceptional riders, and managed to add only two more time faults to claim the gold medal, giving France their second team gold in Equestrian these Olympics. (They won the gold in eventing the first week.) France was so dominant, their anchor rider didn’t even need to ride.

Team USA Fights Off the Drop Score Blues with Silver

The Americans found themselves in a devastating predicament this morning when it was discovered that Beezie Madden’s mount ‘Tiny’ had injured himself the previous day.

“We are heartbroken to announce that Cortes ‘C’ sustained a tendon injury in yesterday’s competition and will be unable to compete for Team USA today. We are confident that he will make a full recovery,” said Beezie’s team in a statement. This left her teammates with absolutely no room for error to guarantee a successful finish.

Kent Farrington led the team out with fire in his eyes and smoke coming out of Voyeur’s nose as they stormed around the difficult Team Final course which omitted an open water today, but included two very difficult combinations, a tricky line to a liverpool, and some eye-popping spreads. Kent and Voyeur went beautifully clear with only a single time fault on a day where the time was nearly impossible to make.

Lucy Davis and Barron headed out next, and they fell victim to the most notorious fence on course: The middle fence of the triple combination. The striding required absolute perfection on entry and a huge stride throughout, and Barron just nicked the top rail. But their gusty ride was one of just a handful to be under the time.

Mclain Ward and HH Azur put in an absolutely clutch, gutsy, singular performance for Team USA with one of only five double clears all day, ensuring that Team USA would finish no worse than Bronze, and they’d eventually climb to silver. usa silverMedia courtesy of USEF.org

French Team Demonstrates Absolute Dominance

Today’s win for France was a simple game of mathematics – by being the only team not to add a jumping penalty to their nation’s total today, the French secured a championship in Rio. Kevin Staut joined Mclain in the elite group of five not to have a single penalty today, and teammates Roger Yves-Bost and Philippe Rozier added only one time fault each.Olympic Games Rio 2016Staut Kevin, FRA, Reveur de Hurtebise HDC. Olympic Games Rio 2016. Photo © Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans

This dominant performance not only secured gold, but didn’t even require a ride from their anchor, #3 FEI ranked Penelope Leprovost. Kevin, Bosty, and Philippe will all be returning on Friday for the individual competition. (Had Penelope not fallen in the first round, she would have ridden today to attempt to qualify for the individual final. But team gold isn’t a terrible consolation prize.)

We’ll be discussing in the coming weeks exactly what it is about France’s program that separates them from other competitors, and what could be learned from their methods in other nations.

Dramatic Highs and Lows for Dutch, Germans, and Canadians

The Dutch were poised for a glorious day in the team final, but it wasn’t meant to be. Short a rider in Jur Vrieling choosing not to contest the team final rounds today, the other members of Team Orange had to stay on their game. Jeroen Dubbeldam and Zenith had a silly rail down early on a fence that caused no other problems, and added a time fault to that. Maikel Van der Vleuten attempted to right the ship with only a single time fault, but an uncharacteristically disastrous round by #19 Globally Harrie Smolders and Emerald imploded the Netherland’s chances at a medal, putting them in last on the second day.Maikel van der Vleuten NL riding VerdiRio Olympics 2016 Maikel van der Vleuten NL riding Verdi. PC: Arnd Bronkhorst

The Germans too seemed to suffer a bit of glorious implosion, as no one had a truly terrible round, but only Ludger Beerbaum — in a heart-pounding final ride of the day — could sniff out a clear ride among them. Ludger’s clear just barely landed them in a jump-off with Canada, and gave team USA the silver. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum riding FibonacciMeredith Michaels-Beerbaum riding Fibonacci. PC: Richard Juilliart/FEI

Canada paradoxically came into round two the underdogs, performed exceptionally with two double clear rounds and a rail to get them in a jump-off, and then self-destructed against the clock, as their speed led to messy mistakes, and rails from Yann Candele and Amy Millar handed Germany the bronze on a not-so-silver platter.

Brazil too couldn’t seem to capitalize on their first round performance short a rider, and ultimately finished in a respectable fifth with lots of love from the crowd.

Individual Final on Friday is a Showdown of Legends

The very last contest for the Equestrian disciplines at these Olympics will be Friday morning at 10:00 a.m., where the top 35 individuals after three rounds will duke it out over two rounds on the last of course designer Guilherme Jorge’s gauntlets. The time was nearly impossible to make today, and we expect to see more of that type of pressure on Friday, with loads of maximum heights and spreads, tough turns, and difficult distances.

Canada’s hopes for a medal rest on 2008 Beijing Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze, whose whole life reads like a long roller coaster, and whose car currently rests at the greatest of heights on the leaderboard tracks. He alone has not touched a single rail in these Olympic games, and if he can continue his winning ways on Friday, he’ll make history as only the second repeat show jumping champion in history.  The only other to do it was Pierre Jonquères d’Oriola of France, who won in 1952 and 1964.

Eric Lamaze CAN riding Fine lady 5Eric Lamaze CAN riding Fine lady 5. Photo Arnd Bronkhorst/FEI

34 other combinations will attempt to make their own run at glory, and it’s anyone’s game with the slate wiped clean from the previous rounds.

Keep it locked in JN for more coverage from Rio, vet reports, social media roundups in the event’s final hours!

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Complete Team Final:

  1. France (3)
  2. USA (5)
  3. Germany (8 – jump off winners)
  4. Canada (8)
  5. Brazil (13)
  6. Switzerland (15)
  7. Sweden (18)
  8. Netherlands (18)