London 2012 | Team Talk – The 5 Nations

Team Talk | A Team Gold Medal for GBR Would Crown Both Of These Mens’ Careers Nicely

I haven’t played any team sports since I left school, a bit of Badminton doubles maybe or Sunday soccer, but that’s as close as I’ve come to being in a team for some time. Eventing isn’t really what you’d call a team sport, I mean it’s not like they pass a baton to one another, but this is a home games and there are team medals to play for so I’ll park that discussion!

What I love about the team game is how it highlights the uniqueness of the equestrian disciplines amongst the Olympic mix. Look at the ages of some of the guys in these teams; Mark Todd, Mary King, Andrew Hoy, Andrew Nicholson,- all in their 50’s, these guys must have been born into the games, not to mention some of the showjumpers, and the 71 year-old dressage rider from Japan. To me this illustrates just how difficult it is to control half a ton of horse flesh around a given task, and how much effort, skill and experience that requires. Yet we also have some of the youngest competitors giving these living legends a run for their money, now that’s real talent! I just wish our only Rolex Grand Slam winner, Pippa Funnell, was in a position to challenge for a home games, that really would complete the set. 

Thirteen teams, from every continent bar Africa, are all dreaming of chalking up a victory of some sort in London. When you consider what you need to do just to get a team qualified for the Olympics – just understanding what’s needed, let alone qualifying, it’s quite an achievement in a sport such as ours for so many to get a full squad to the games. Hats off to them all!

Make No Mistake, Mark Todd Will Be Riding To Win (Again!)

Many of the teams have, by their own admission, ruled themselves out of medal contention, but I’m sure they have all spent a night or two dreaming about it, wouldn’t you? I remember interviewing Nick Turner, who trains the Brazilian team, at the start of last year and he was quite candid about the team looking to complete as their main goal for London. I really hope they do, convincingly, it would be great for them to go into a home games in Rio on the front foot.

Before dismissing any nation flippantly from medal contention, like the Dutch seem to have been, I think it’s worth casting your eye over the team medal winners from previous Olympiad.  It is possible to win a team gold without having won an individual medal, France did exactly that as recently as 2004 in Athens – but that was a year Mark Todd didn’t ride!

In 1932 only 2 teams finished, and it wasn’t until 1956 that ‘civilians’ were allowed to compete. From more recent times you’ll notice other stark changes in modern times too, like the nations that have been winning in the last fifty years compared to those in the previous fifty, bar one perhaps – The Americans, pretty consistent performers in Olympic eventing throughout the ages. 

Since 1984 (gosh, that’s nearly 30 years ago), 5 nations have dominated the podium for team medals; Great Britain, Australia, Germany, New Zealand & USA. 

These five nations probably still demand the lion’s share of the betting pool for the medals. So what might the Bookies board look like for the team medals:

Here’s Hoping Mary Will Be All Smiles Next Week Too

Great Britain – Gold: 4/1 Silver/Bronze: 11/8

The Brits win European Gold almost always, but clearly didn’t take to the rain and mud at Luhmuhlen last year, handing off the prize to the Germans for the first time in decades. Their World Championship gold record is a little sketchy up until 2010, and Olympic Gold has been absent from these shores since 1972. I think this is a comeback team though with a good chance of Gold, and only a natural disaster would rob them of either of the other medals – they’re a solid crew, and on the hockey stick curve.

Chris Burton

Australia – Gold: 7/1 Silver/Bronze: 10/1

The Aussies are as tough as any jackeroo. One of the few teams made up of people from all over the globe, but they’ve probably got more Olympic medals between them than any of the other teams at London. I recon they’ll either sky rocket or fail to make the podium. 3 good scores is all it takes, and I can see all of them posting a decent score. Andrew Hoy is going to be interesting to watch – his 7th Olympics, and on a young horse that ran at both Rolex & Luhmuhlen, and looked pretty quick round the German track. Listen to an interview with him on An Eventful Life. Both the Fredericks should be posting leading scores for the Aussies, plus their smoking gun, Chris Burton. Megan Jones is no stranger to this game so watch closely, I really think the Aussie’s could hit the team jackpot.

Michael Jung

Germany – Gold: 3/1 Silver Bronze: 6/1

They surely have to be favourites, right? No matter what effect the cross country time has on the competition, at this level, in this field, Dressage is going to be a key influence. Everyone in each of these teams can ride fast and efficient cross country, and horses will have been selected with very good showjumping in mind, but Dressage is what separates the Germans from the rest of the pack, so all the Germans need to do is maintain their current form to win gold. As I said in the previous post Michael Jung is going to prove hard to beat – bonus for the team score!

Andrew Nicholson

New Zealand – Gold: 8/1 Silver/Bronze: 3/1

These guys have it all lined up, a bit like the Brits. Three senior members, who all get along, with a string of top flight 4 star & championship experience between them, plus two very serious horses (Lenamore & Nereo), and they have two very talented newcomers. Gold is achievable for this crew, but given the opposition I think silver or bronze is more certain, but who can possibly bet against Mark Todd or Andrew Nicholson, they are on fire.

Mr. Medicott | Another Golden Import For Team USA

USA – Gold 7/1 Silver/Bronze: 11/10

The Americans take everything seriously, including Olympic team medals. They selected some serious horse power this year, not least of which is a gold medal horse from the Germans (Mr. Medicott), and whilst 3 of the team might be maidens at this competition, Boyd Martin for sure is as good in the saddle as Karen or Phillip. OK, so WEG 2010 on home turf was best forgotten, but these guys are on good form away from home. Maybe not Gold but one of the other colours ‘for sure’.

It’s a tough call, and at least two of these teams are going home with less than they dreamt was possible. If you prefer betting on long shots take a look at:

Hawley Bennet-Awad (CAN)

Canada – Gold: 40/1 Silver/Bronze: 12/1
Give a nation great horse power, add a first class coach, and Canada is what emerges. That’s not to take anything away from the talented group of individuals that make up the Canadian team. They have a couple of really classy riders who helped the team win Silver at WEG 2010 when the USA had a few hiccups. They may not be fancied as individual medalists against such strong competition, but they are solid enough to take a team medal on their own merits, especially if one of the other nations has a bad day at the office. Watch out for anyone on course wearing a maple leaf, because I think they’re all pretty interesting.

Nicholas Touzaint

France – Gold: 33/1 Silver/Bronze: 10/1
There really is no telling how the French may do. Young Nicholas Touzaint is just a neck behind Michael Jung in my opinion and much of the rest of the team I find hard to guage, but they are a dark horse as an event team. They have succeeded in championships before, and need careful ‘attention’.

By now the teams are all fully submerged in the Greenwich & Olympic Village extravaganza. I’ve been glued avidly to the twitter channel, and have found the Australian Team the most fun to watch with tweets and photos from their official Olympic account from right across the sports spectrum – really fun and entertaining. To top all that, this is the snazziest cross country helmet I think I’ve ever seen – owned by Clayton Fredericks’ and courtesy of the Champion hat company.

Sod the medals, I’ll happily pay to compete if someone gives me riding gear like this!

Thanks to Clayton of Team Fredericks for the use of the photo – cheers mate – go steal the Gold!

TEAM LIST & OTHER FACTS (courtesy of British Eventing)

Amateur event rider, aspiring photographer. Technologist by day.

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