The equestrian competitions began in Hong Kong only a few hours after the Games of the XIX Olympiad were officially inaugurated during a spectacular Opening Ceremony in Beijing. After the first 25 of the 70 riders taking part in the Eventing competition performed their Dressage test, Lucinda Fredericks aboard the brilliant little mare Headley Britannia is firmly in the lead with 30.40 points. She is followed by husband and Australian fellow team member Clayton on Ben Along Time (37 points). Gina Miles and Mckinlaigh of the United Staes are third on a personal best of 39.30.
Thanks to the performances of the Fredericks Family, both of whom are first-time Olympians, the Australian team is well in the lead on a score of 67.40. The USA are in runner up position with 85.80 after tests of the first two team members Amy Tryon / Poggio II (46.50) and Gina Miles / Mckinlaigh. Sweden are third (93.50).
Lucinda was delighted with the effort of her “funny little thing” who is always so trustworthy in the Dressage phase. She – the mare that is not the rider – has gradually evolved from a “sewing machine” into an excellent competitor with fluid movements. The fact that both Lucinda and Clayton, who are always on the go at home between taking care of their daughter, their many horses and pupils, have had much more time to spend with their Olympic mounts has certainly contributed to this morning’s success. The support of their numerous fans – Clayton’s entire family has come from Australia – played certainly a role too.
A very successful morning then but the Games are only just beginning. And this “won’t be a Dressage competition,” says Eventing veteran Mark Todd who was the very first rider in the arena this morning at 6h30. Surrounded by the media – “it feels as if I have never gone away,” he joked – he explained that Cross Country was a real Olympic challenge and was going to be very influential. The time – 8 minutes for 4,560m – is going to be very difficult to get among the numerous turns and twists which make up the course. But before riders and horses tackle the challenges at Beas River, there are two more Dressage sessions: tonight at 19h15 local time and tomorrow morning at 6h30.