By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LONDON, Aug. 10–When the Grand Prix musical freestyle ended the Olympic equestrian program, the failure of the United States to win a single medal in dressage, eventing and jumping marked these Games as the worst for America since 1956, according to a review of the records, and could impact millions of dollars in funding from the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The last hope for a medal was Steffen Peters and Ravel in the freestyle, but the horse who was being ridden in his last event did not perform at his best.
Steffen of San Diego, California, and the 14-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, scored 77.268 per cent for 17th place. The pair was fourth individually at the 2008 Olympics, won the 2009 World Cup Final, the 2009 Aachen CDIO, two bronze medals at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and has twice been U.S. Grand Prix dressage champion.
“I had a super warm-up but he was definitely a bit distracted,” Steffen said. “He kept looking around in the trot extensions and the canter extensions. If you remember Ravel for his career and you put it all together –this is just a little glitch today.”
“He’s an extremely generous horse and one of the best horses anyone could ever ride. This is it for him. Unfortunately this is it for him and that is why it is so sad that it didn’t work out today. It just wasn’t a good freestyle and it wasn’t the way I wanted to finish this.
“It is very sad that it happened at the end of his career but I still love him,” he said. “He has given us so much just not quite today…”
Some perspective on the level of scoring in the 2012 Grand Prix Freestyle–in 2008, Anky van Grunsven and Salinero won with a score of 82.400 per cent with Isabell Werth second on 78.100 per cent and Steffen and Ravel third on 76.500 percent. This year, 17 of the 18 starting combinations bettered the mark of 76.500 per cent, while half the field were awarded scores above 80 per cent.
The lack of medals could impact funding for equestrian sports from the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is a major source of money in addition to sponsors and contributors. No taxpayers funds are provided.
The USOC has told the national governing bodies of sports–in horse sports it is the U.S. Equestrian Federation–“they are gong to focus their funding on sports with proven ability to win medals,” a USEF spokesperson said.
The USEF will submit its high performance program to the USOC in November.
Failure to win a medal in London, the spokesperson said, “will negatively impact our funding but we won’t know how much until they issue the grants at the end of the year.”
The USOC provided about 10 per cent of the total budget of more than $25 million of the USEF, according to a federation spokesperson.
The United States was one of a handful of nations to qualify teams in all three disciplines in London.
For dressage, these London Olympics were the second in a row in which no medals were won but prior to the 2008 Games the U.S. had won team bronze at four straight Olympics–Athens in 2004, Sydney in 2000, Atlanta in 1996 and Barcelona in 1992.
The U.S. jumping team won gold at both the 2004 and 2008 Games as well as individual medals. The eventing team won bronze in Athens in 2004, and individual medals in both 2004 and 2008.
The Olympics are held once every four years but the U.S. did not participate in the 1980 Moscow Games. Although the 1956 Games were awarded to Melbourne, Australia, that country’s strict quarantine laws caused equestrian events to be held in Sweden. That was the last occasion the U.S. did not medal in equestrian sports.
At London, team dressage gold was won by Great Britain, their first ever Olympic medal in the sport, with Germany on silver and the Netherlands bronze. Individual medals went to Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain and Valegro gold, Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands and Parzival silver and Laura Bechtolsheimer also of Great Britain and Mistral Hojris bronze.
(An earlier version did not include details of U.S. Olympic Committee funding for horse sports.)