Team GB’s eventing team hold gold medal position after first phase

Saturday, 31 July 2021

The third and final dressage session of the eventing competition took place this morning, with the last rotation of team riders and a smattering of individuals heading down the centre line. The efforts of Oliver Townend and Laura Collett had seen Team GB rise to gold medal position overnight, so it was down to Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser to see if they could hold onto it going into cross-country.

Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser

It’s a sign of quality within the British team that all three combinations are previous CCI5* winners, with Tom and 14-year-old Toledo de Kerser picking up their title at Pau in 2019. Their test today was fluid, rhythmic and at times looked to challenge teammates Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class for the top spot on the individual leader board – until minor issues in the first set of flying changes pulled the score down.

Regardless, Tom was full of praise for his long-time equine partner (Diamant de Semilly x Papillion), who’s owned by Fred and Penny Barker, Jane Inns and Tom’s mother Ali McEwen.

“I’m actually very pleased with him, he coped very well in there – he loves situations likes that,” said Tom. “It was just the two early changes that really cost me – the preparation was good, but they were a bit of a flop really. As a team we’re still in a strong position, though, and it gives me more emphasis to get cracking tomorrow [for cross-country].

“He’s been amazing since he got here, absolutely unreal – which makes it more of a shame to go in there and get a 28 or 29 because I knew he could have been very low twenties or even into the teens on the right day. His changes are usually very good, very correct. So, yeah – very pleased with him, but to be worked on.”

This Games is the first time that the eventing competition has been run without teams having the luxury of a drop score, meaning that every rider contributes to the final tally – and any mistakes could prove very expensive.

“Obviously, we don’t often compete as a team, so to be here as a team adds a bit of pressure, especially because we’re a team of three,” Tom commented. “Wherever you go, there’s a job to be done, though, and I think it makes no difference if you’re the lead or right at the end. For me, I quite enjoy the pressure – although it all went a bit out the window today! I love it, he’s great and loving this heat and temperature, so we thought coming a little bit later tomorrow would suit him.”

First phase standings

At the end of the first phase, Team GB hold onto their gold medal position on the leaderboard with 78.3, sitting 2.1 penalties above second-placed Germany on 80.4.

In the individual rankings, Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class slip to silver medal position with 23.3, while Laura Collett and London 52 sit sixth on 25.8 and Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser sit 12th on 28.9.

The team and individual scoreboards after the first phase are available here.

Coming up

This evening, the horses will travel to Sea Forest Park, a reclaimed island in the Tokyo Bay, which will be the site of tomorrow’s cross-country phase. The tight, twisty course that’s been designed by Derek di Grazia has been constructed on a former landfill site, and the many slopes and undulations are entirely man-made.

The timings are still to be confirmed, but the team rotation will remain the same, meaning that Team GB pathfinders Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class will be the first British combination out on course.

Live coverage of the cross-country will be available from 23:35 BST this evening on Discovery+ and Eurosport Player, and some coverage will be shown as part of the BBC One coverage that starts at 00:10 BST tomorrow morning. Full details are available here.