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Chiacchia Fourth After Dressage, Day I in Eventing Competition

Equestrian Olympics Press Release

Under conditions much more windy and cool than Saturday’s heat wave and temperatures soaring over 100 degrees, American eventers began their bid for an Olympic medal during Day I of the two-day dressage phase at Athens’ beautiful new equestrian facility – Markopoulo Center. Three Americans were scheduled during the Saturday night draw of riders to begin their work on the first of two days of dressage. Thirty-seven riders posted scores today.

The Americans face strong competition from a host of other countries including Great Britain, Germany, France, New Zealand and Australia whose majority of riders will compete on Day II. However all bets are off in picking a Gold medalist until Tuesday’s cross-country phase and Wednesday’s final day of eventing competition wrapping up with the show jumping phase. Nonetheless, American spirits are flying high with their sites set on the medal podium.

But before that happens, strong competition is slated for today from 23 countries.

First up for Team USA was Duvall, WA, resident Amy Tryon. Beginning her dressage test in the number five position (out of a scheduled 75 to compete over the two days), the Team Gold medalist from the 2002 World Equestrian Games and fourth place finisher at the 2004 Rolex Modified Three-Day Event in Kentucky, posted a score of 50.60 for her test – the best of the first group to enter the arena. Tryon and the Thoroughbred gelding appeared cool and confident and offered up an impressive challenge to all who followed.

“I am very pleased with how the horse went,” said Tryon. “Although he is not too experienced in dressage, he did better than I thought.”

Scoring one of the morning’s lowest in penalties, Tryon admitted that, “The scoring was conservative. I was hoping to get in the 40s…we were hoping for 40s to 50.”

Tryon’s score of 50.60 had her in 11th place of the 37 riders having gone by day’s end.

Australia’s Stuart Tinney and Jeepster were eighth in the order of go with hopes to repeat his top score from his appearance in the 2000 Sydney Games. Today, he posted a 48.8 landing in ninth place overall.

“I went as I thought I would go,” said Tinney. “I am very confident about myself and my horse…the Australian team will definitely be among the medalists, although all the teams are serious competitors.”

Such bravado held no measure for Germany’s Bettina Hoy and her Irish Sport Horse Ringwood Cockatoo posting the day’s low score of 32.0. The big moving grey gelding looked the picture of perfection and the expression on Hoy’s face just after completing her test told the story. Her score of 32.0 held for first place among the first day’s competition.

“He is a very experienced horse,” said Hoy. “He knows when it matters…The judges can see when they are judging a good performance whenever it comes.”

First up after the day’s third break were Newnan, GA, resident Julie Richards and her Canadian Thoroughbred gelding Jacob Two Two. Richards knows the pressure of Olympic competition having represented the U.S. at the 2000 Sydney Games in Australia (posting a ninth-placed finish in the Individual competition).

Gusts of wind had their own plans for the pairing. Just as they were preparing to enter the arena, the wind wreaked havoc and spooked the horse.

A disappointed but optimistic Richards said, “Oh well!” showing her spirit and making the best of a difficult situation. “There was a lot of ‘atmosphere’ in the air and usually he rises to the occasion. But, I think, it caught him a little of guard. It’s been so quiet all week,” she said.

“We’re competitors and you have to take the good with the bad,” she continued. “I’m disappointed, because my goal here was to get under 50 in dressage. But as a competitor you really have to take something like this and finish on it. And that is certainly what we will do.”

The aforementioned wind combined with a noisy arena left their score at 65.4 left – in 28th place at the end of the first day’s standings.

Last to go for the three American’s competing on Day I were Darren Chiacchia and Windfall 2 of Springville, NY. With the wind continuing to bluster and causing a stir for competitors, Chiacchia and his Trakehner stallion entered the dressage arena just after 6 p.m. All eyes were on the pair as they were expected to post a promising score having taken the 2004 Modified Rolex Three-Day Event title in a warm-up for the Athens Games.

Despite the gale force winds that closed the umbrellas of the competition venue cafés and had many holding on to their hats, Chiacchia and Windfall 2 posted a solid score of 44.6 to land him as the top finisher among the American contingent – in fourth place overall of the 37 first-day competitors.

“Obviously I wasn’t too happy with the wind today,” admitted Chiacchia. “It’s caused a very unpredictable environment, but I think he handled that pretty well…he’s always been one to put in his better tests in these really big environments.”

He continued, “At a competition like this, you tend to try a little too hard and that was probably what he reacted to more. But, I was very proud of him.” In his characteristic good nature, Chiacchia quipped, “Two more phases to go. Keep going! Keep going!”

New Zealand’s Blyth Tait and Ready Teddy (Gold medalists from the 1996 Atlanta Games) were sure to bring their A-game with them to Athens. However, the wind and the noise created by the stadium made for a less-than-hoped-for performance by the pairing.

“He was very, very nervous and scared,” commented Tait on his horse’s performance. “He’s capable of doing large courses…but he was literally terrified. He wasn’t trying to be naughty, or looking for a way to be misbehaving. It was that he was truly frightened.”

So at day’s end it was Chiacchia in fourth; Tryon at 11th and Richards at 28th among Team USA members.

Monday’s Day II of the dressage phase will see Americans John Williams aboard Carrick and Kim Severson aboard Winsome Adante perform their tests in their bids to stand upon the medal podium during Wednesday’s medal ceremony at Markopoulo Center.

Photo Credit: Diana DeRosa