Great Britain’s showjumpers qualified for the team final on Saturday with Ben Maher hoping to add to his stunning individual gold, while Jessica Springsteen and the USA team have also gone through with the desire to prove they are born to ride.
Maher, on Explosion W, was the third of the British riders to complete the course and took down one fence at the Equestrian Park, meaning Team GB finished the qualifying round in seventh, con 20 faults and a combined time of 241.50sec.
Maher won gold in the individual event after an astonishingly quick round on Wednesday – finishing the course in 37.85 and pipping the Swedish rider Peder Fredricson to the top spot by 17 hundredths of a second.
But Team GB’s route to team gold has become significantly harder after Scott Brash withdrew because his horse Jefferson has a minor strain. He was replaced by Harry Charles and Romeo 88, who will compete once again with the team completed by Holly Smith and Denver.
Sweden look favourite for gold after finishing qualifying with the best time and the only team of 19 to record zero faults across all three riders. Belgium finished second and Germany finished third. The US came fifth, with the Boss’s daughter Springsteen, on the gloriously named Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, taking down just one rail.
There was agony for the Irish team when Shane Sweetnam, drafted in after Cian O’Connor’s mount Kilkenny suffered a nosebleed in the individual final on Wednesday, and the 12-year-old gelding Alejandro were eliminated. The pair crashed to the floor at fence nine, after a series of fences had already hit the floor.
It has been a good performance from Team GB’s equestrians in Tokyo, with five medals including two gold. As well as Maher’s gold in the individual showjumping, il eventing team of Oliver Townend, Laura Collett and Tom McEwen won gold and McEwen added silver in the individual eventing. Those medals came on the heels of a team dressage bronze and Charlotte Dujardin’s historic individual dressage bronze – equalling GB’s best medal tally in equestrian at London 2012.
A sumo wrestler that some riders have complained was spooking their horses has been removed from the Olympic equestrian ring for the team event on Friday evening. The jumping course is always changed between the individual and team rounds, and several of the Japanese‑themed jumps were removed: new fences include a life‑size samurai and jumbo sushi.