LONDON — They say anything can happen in Olympic show jumping and Wednesday, anything did – Swiss rider Steve Guerdat beat favored veterans for individual gold while a streak of Irish luck helped Cian O’Connor claim bronze.
Dutch rider Gerco Schroder took the silver on a horse called London, named seven years ago with the 2012 Games in mind.
Saudi Arabia’s Kamal Bahamdan, part of the team that took team bronze on Monday, jumped clear in both rounds, but ran up two time faults to finish fourth.
A big Saudi contingent in the stands also whistled and cheered as Prince Abdullah Al-Saud finished with eight faults.
The Saudi royal did not make it into the top 20 who went through to the second round.
This is a second Olympic medal for Guerdat, who was on the Swiss team who won team bronze in 2008.
While his victory over heavily favored riders like Britain’s Nick Skelton may have surprised some, placing second in the World Cup final in the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch meant it was not such a surprise for him.
“To be honest, I always said that I would win a medal with the team or individual,” he told a news conference. “I knew also I had a horse that could jump anything — maybe he didn’t show it too many times because he doesn’t have so much experience at that level. But in Den Bosch (Hertogenbosch), I think it was clear for me that if I ride (well), I can be Olympic champion with him as well.”
Fans of the Swiss rider held up a huge banner that read “hop Steve” when he rode out on course. And hop he and horse Nino Des Buissonnets did, perfectly over everything in their path. Twice.
Guerdat was assured of gold after faultless first and second rounds, but Schroder and O’Connor — with one fault apiece for taking excessive time — had to go head-to-head for the silver.
Schroder went clear in a jump-off while O’Connor, rocketing around at a faster clip than his Dutch rival, took bronze after horse Blue Loyd 12 hit the last rail.
That rail may have been unlucky but it took a lot of Irish good fortune to get O’Connor on the podium at all. The Irish rider, stripped of his gold medal in Athens in a doping scandal and banned for three months, got an eleventh-hour call-up after rival Denis Lynch was disqualified at a Nations Cup event when his horse was found to be hypersensitive.
Skelton and teammate Scott Brash finished in joint fifth.
Britain does have another shot at individual equestrian gold Thursday.
Charlotte Dujardin and mentor Carl Hester rank high among likely prospects in the dressage freestyle competition, along with Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands.
Glory to Canada’s canoeing family
Sixty-four years after his grandfather Bert missed out on a medal at the 1948 London Games, Canada’s Mark Oldershaw returned to Britain to finally claim an Olympic medal for the illustrious canoeing family.
Oldershaw, who brought his grandfather’s canoe paddle with him to London for good luck, took bronze in the men’s canoe single 1,000 meters Wednesday.
“To have come full circle and to finally get the Oldershaw name on the Olympic podium, I am really proud of this,” said Oldershaw, whose grandfather finished fifth in a 10,000 metre race held just down the road from Dorney at Henley-on-Thames. “I think I am going to get everyone here to sign (my paddle), just like my grandfather did in 1948 and give it to my grandson or granddaughter.”
The Oldershaw name is indelibly linked to canoeing in Canada, as Mark’s father Scott and uncles Dean and Reed also competed for the country in Olympic canoe regattas.
“That was amazing, I am so proud and happy,” said Scott, now the Canadian team coach. “This is one of the bronze medals that means almost as much as a gold. It will obviously mean a lot to all of us, the whole family.” — Reuters