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London 2012 Olympics: The Big Day

The Opening Ceremony is always a great way to kick off the Olympics. I have attended every opening Ceremony at all four Olympics I have been to and London was certainly a highlight. We began by gathering outside our Australian House in the village, distinctive for the three life size Emus out front. This was already a chance to meet other Athletes from different sports. As the only show jumping rider marching was Julia Hargraves, we tagged her into our team and when I was asked to march in the front row as it was my fourth Olympics, I was joined close by, by the rest of the Equestrian team. Being a pushy lot by the end we had pretty well all equestrian in the front row! It was great feeling to march into the main arena and made me very proud to be in the Aussie team. The main fun for us was meeting other athletes , as we didn’t get to see much of the ceremony itself. The next day was back to business as our horses were in the venue at Greenwich Park. The stables although temporary were more than adequate, although a bit hot and lacking ventilation. Fans fixed that problem, so mostly the horses were comfortable. The surfaces on the arenas however were excellent and Sancette seemed to get more spring in his stride every day. It was great to have the chance to watch other top riders training their horses, and I learn so much just to be able to observe the other riders. I have never at any other competition in the World seen such a high standard as the eventual results showed, with record breaking performances. Ton de Ritter our trainer did a great job, and was able to keep me calm and focussed and was careful to pay attention to details and kept me from overworking my horse. We had two opportunities to familiarize our horses with the main arena, and Sancette felt great both times. When the big day arrived I felt surprisingly calm, although I always do have that little moment when I think to myself “What the hell am I doing here and why am I not at home knitting booties for my Grand Daughter??” Well firstly I can’t knit and secondly as Princess Nathalie reminded me I was here to represent my country! Thanks Nathalie for the reality check! My warm up started not quite as planned as it was very windy and Sancette was not impressed with the flapping canvas in the temporary indoor where our first warm up was. It took some time to settle him once we got outdoors, but by the time I entered the main arena he felt great. He trotted in feeling super powerful if not a little exuberant. Once he started the test he felt great, and only in the walk I think I was a little too cautious and should have let him stretch more. In the canter he held his back a little but he tried so hard and really rose to the occasion. It would have been over optimistic to expect a great score after all the negative publicity our team had suffered , but even so, inspite of feeling very happy with my test I was extremely disappointed with the score, especially looking at it afterwards in comparison to some other higher scored tests. However that’s Dressage and if we can’t cope with that aspect we shouldn’t do it. I felt for my relatively young horse it was a good effort, but I was sorry not to be able to help our team more. We all did our best and scored at the upper range of our recent scores. However inspite of achieving the highest average team score ever for an Olympic or World Championship Australian team , it was one of our worst overall placings. Simply, even though we have improved, the overall World wide standard of Dressage has skyrocketed and we have failed to keep up. I don’t know the solution. I can only make it my personal aim to keep going. I think I have a very talented horse who can achieve well over 70% if I keep working, and training. Every little detail of the test has to be ridden perfectly and no points wasted. I hope to get back to Europe next year. Meanwhile Sancette will come home for the summer and compete and I look forward to getting back to do lots of teaching and in particular would like to help a new generation of young riders in Australia work towards Grand Prix. I hope we can promote the under 25 grand Prix classes for young riders as that has produced many of the Olympic stars in London. I would also like to thank in particular my groom and friend Carol Newby who took care of my horses, and made it all possible. She did a brilliant job and I am extremely grateful to her. Currently she is in quarantine with Sancette and that is a great relief , as it was after Athens Olympics in quarantine that I lost my beloved friend Limbo, who had to travel without his regular groom Simone. At least I know he is in safe hands with Carol, and I just pray he makes it home safe and sound.


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