Ireland’s star at today’s final phase of Olympic Three Day Eventing at Rio was 44 year-old Jonty Evans, who finished ninth individually on the Irish-bred Cooley Rorkes Drift, writes Jack Burns.
Evans had gradually narrowed the points gap with the leaders as he progressed through a dressage penalty score of 41.80 to a clear cross country round that produced what later proved to be crucial 22.80 time faults.
Evans began the competition as one of a four-man team who were holding fifth place after dressage, but the elimination of Irish pathfinder Padraig McCarthy and Simon Porloe on the following day’s cross country course left the Irish struggling to maintain the basic requirement of a three-rider team.
The cross-country track was said by competitors to be one of the toughest Olympic courses seen in recent Olympic Games, and despite a rash of eliminations affecting other nations, Ireland managed to retain its remaining three riders, but paid the price in time faults from Clare Abbott and Euro Prince and anchorman Mark Kyle with Jemilla.
Today’s final jumping phase saw the team of three enter the arena with a combined penalty score of 278.40, leaving them well adrift of medal contention, but Jonty Evans’s individual score of 64.60 meant that a clear round would put him in a slot for the afternoon’s top 25 individual final.
With former Army rider Gerry Flynn as show jumping coach, the Irish today finally laid to rest any lingering doubts about their jumping ability over coloured poles, with effortless clear rounds from Evans and Abbott and eight faults from Kyle giving a team finish of eighth place overall, of the 13 nations taking part.
Evans, who was 22.60 points off a medal position following the cross country phase, which had narrowed to 19 points after the first round of today’s team show jumping, produced another textbook clear round in the Individual Final to narrow the gap to 12.80 points behind Bronze when finishing in ninth place overall.
Afterwards he said: “I’m delighted with the horse, I’m delighted with ninth place” and referred to his cross country time faults perhaps costing him a silver medal.
The Olympic gold medal today went to Germany’s Michael Jung and Sam, with France’s Astier Nicolas in Silver on Piaf de b’Neville, and the USA’s Phillip Dutton in Bronze with Mighty Nice.
Jung had also won Gold for Germany in the London Olympics of 2012, where Ireland’s Aoife Clark and Master Crusoe had claimed seventh place individually, and the Irish team a fifth place in Eventing.
The focus in Brazil now will turn to Judy Reynolds, Ireland’s sole Dressage competitor, on Vancouver K, who starts competing on Thursday, and particularly Greg Broderick, who with the Irish-bred Going Global will next week attempt to equal or better Cian O’Connor’s show jumping bronze Olympic medal won for Ireland at London four years ago.
Rio Olympics Eventing Final Team Standings
1. France 169.00
2. Germany 172.80
3. Australia 175.30
4. New Zealand 178.80
5. Great Britain 252.10
6. Netherlands 252.60
7. Brazil 280.90
8. Ireland 286.40
9. Italy 330.00
10. Canada 339.10
11. Sweden 364.50
12. USA 1106.70
13. Russia 3000.00
Rio Olympics Eventing Final Individual Standings
1. Michael Jung (GER) 40.90
2. Astier Nicolas (FRA) 48.00
3. Phillip Dutton (USA) 51.80
4. Sam Griffiths (AUS) 53.10
5. Christopher Burton (AUS) 53.60
6. Clarke Johnstone (NZL) 59.30
7. Mark Todd (NZL) 62.00
8. Alex Hua Tian (CHN) 63.60
9. Jonty Evans (IRL) 64.40
10. Rebecca Howard (CAN) 65.80