Articles: Press Release
Team Medal Mix-Up Causes an International Stir - In the End, It's A
Double Gold for Germany and Individual Bronze for American Kim Severson;
Americans Left Off the Team Medal Podium
United States Equestrian Federation, Inc.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 19, 2004
It was certainly a day of surprises at the 2004 Athens final day of
eventing competition as a series of confusions left the final standings
and the Olympic Team medal up in the air for more than an hour. The
concern centered around German rider Bettina Hoy and whether or not she
should have been assigned penalty points for, what she is saying, was
unknowingly causing a technical refusal when she crossed the start line
once, and then crossed it a second time, believing that the second cross
was the official start of her qualifying round of the show jumping
phase. This left the Ground Jury and the Appeals Committee involved in
sorting out exactly what had happened and making a call to, at first,
add time penalties to her score. The FEI officials then retracted the
penalties saying that the rider's time clock had been restarted,
"resulting in a clear injustice to the rider concerned. The committee,
therefore, removed the time penalties," according to Freddy Serpieri,
vice president of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and
president of the Appeals Committee, in a jam-packed post-medal awards
ceremony press conference.
According to Hugh Thomas, a member of the Eventing Appeals Committee,
the infraction was originally noticed by a member of the Ground Jury -
not brought up by one of the Team camps for a competing country as was
widely suspected - and that once the Ground Jury noticed the infraction,
it was acted upon and discussed for a period of an hour-and-a-half
before a final determination was made.
German teammate Hoy, who had posted a 35.60 coming into the qualifier,
was left dazed when the 14 faults were added to her score for the
supposedly inadvertent infraction. She stood, for the time being, with
a score of 49.60. The decision knocked the German team off the medal
podium and into a sobering and extraordinarily disappointing fourth
place finish. But that was only for a while. In the stunning turn of
events, the Olympic officials recalled their earlier addition of 14
penalties to Hoy's score. In the end, it was a questionable double Gold
victory for the German contingent in a circus-like atmosphere.
The pairing of Hoy and her horse Ringwood Cockatoo also received the
Individual Gold medal during the medal presentations by HRH Princess
Anne of Great Britain.
Call it "momentary alchemy" - the French watched their Silver medal turn
into Olympic Gold; the British contingent took a tentative step up the
podium to land at Silver and a cautiously happy American team welcomed
the step up from fourth to a satisfying Bronze medal finish. But as
quickly as it came, it all changed.
If one thing was for certain about the final day of the eventing
competition at the 2004 Athens Olympics, it was that nothing was
certain. It was definitely one of the most interesting and surprising
moments that came out of the 2004 Athens Olympics thus far, and the only
topic of conversation on the lips of the thousands of fans who made
their way to Markopoulo Equestrian Center, not to mention the throngs of
international journalists who saw a press room turned on its ear. And
it is not over yet.
In a joint statement released on Thursday by French, British and U.S.
Olympic Teams it was announced that there would be an appeal.
"The Chef's de Mission from France, Great Britain and the United States
met in the Olympic Village this morning to discuss the controversy
surrounding the result of the equestrian three-day eventing competition
last night. In the interests of the athletes, fair play and the
integrity of sport, all parties have agreed to jointly pursue all
available avenues of appeal, and, if necessary, to take this matter to
the Court of Arbitration for Sport," the statement read.
The three teams have informed the International Equestrian Federation
(FEI) of their decision to proceed, and legal teams representing the
French, British and American delegations are currently preparing the
case, which they expect to lodge over the coming days.
Regardless, at the end of the night of eventing competition at
Markopoulo Equestrian Center, it was a Team Gold medal for Germany
(133.80); a Silver medal for France (140.40); and a Bronze medal for
Great Britain (143.00). The Americans finished the competition with a
score of 145.60 - less than one rail's difference of a medal.
Before anyone's medal dreams could be realized, and before the string of
bizarre events, the riders faced the qualifying round to narrow the
field to 25 riders to face off in a battle royale for individual honors.
The Americans began the day with all five of their riders seated in the
top half of the remaining eventers tackling the jumping course (a total
of 69 showed for the qualifier). Three of them - Darren Chiacchia, Amy
Tryon and Kim Severson made it into the Finals. An expected finalist
was to be German rider Ingrid Klimke, however she did not show her horse
Sleep Late in a last minute decision in the barn due to a stifle injury.
And earlier in the day, before the final horse inspection, the British
horse Tamarillo, ridden by William Fox-Pitt, was withheld from
competition. The Arabian/Thoroughbred gelding also suffered from a
stifle problem, causing his elimination, leaving British team member
Fox-Pitt, who was to go into the final day of show jumping in fifth
place with a score of 38.60, out of the Individual medal run (he later
received a Bronze medal as part of the British team).
America's first to go around the 13 obstacle course (including a double
at fence #9 and a triple at fence #12) was Georgia's Julie Richards and
Jacob Two Two. Putting in a 67.0 for her final score, she felt good
about her round and the condition of her horse. The eventer, whose
strength is in her show jumping, said, "My goal was to have a nice easy
round and make my next four teammates feel like it was easy and have
confidence so they can go in and do the same." She was obviously
relieved that her Olympic work was done. Richards and Jacob Two Two
finished the qualifier in a three-way tie for 23rd and a final standing
of the same on 67.00.
Up next for the United States was Washington state firefighter Amy Tryon
and Poggio II, posting a 51.80 for a 11th place spot and a ride in the
night's final. The pair's clean round added no penalties to her
previous day's score, and she completed the course well within the
90-second time limit.
"I couldn't have asked for anything better...He [Poggio II] was jumping
out of his skin out there, and I just couldn't be happier," she said
with a laugh. She compared her experiences as a firefighter with the
stress of being in the hot seat of competing for a Team medal and a
place in the Individual finals.
"It's a different kind of pressure," she said. "But it's sort of the
same...you are under the gun and having to perform. The difference is
that being a firefighter, you have 10 great people behind you on the
hose line willing to help you if you get into trouble, whereas in this
you are kind of out there by yourself." She thanked her co-workers who
rearranged their own schedules to allow Tryon to make the trip to Athens
to realize her Olympic dreams. "I couldn't have been here without
them," she shared.
In the final jump off, Tryon posted a clean round and finished her first
Olympic appearance with a score of 51.80 for a seventh place finish.
Commenting on the events of the day, she expressed sadness for Hoy, but
said that "a rule is a rule," and that a protest was likely to come.
Pulling three rails down and taking on 12 penalties was Virginia's John
Williams and Carrick. Obviously disappointed in his round, he simply
said, referring to his horse, "He just didn't jump high enough." He
noted that his horse prefers a prepared surface as opposed to the turf.
He also added that his horse was a bit "mouthy" after the cross-country
"I would have liked to have seen a bigger course. He [Carrick] tries
harder when he has to, and this is all too easy for him. He just didn't
see anything too difficult for him," he candidly said, noting that his
horse is not one to shy away from the bigger more difficult courses and
performs better when pushed to his limits.
Nonetheless, Williams landed in 21st place with a score of 60.80 after
his three rails down in the qualifier.
From the Buffalo, NY-area, Darren Chiacchia took his Windfall 2 across
the course dropping two rails and gaining a spot in the final 25 riders
of the night for an Individual medal. It was only after the ride
through the course that Chiacchia realized that he had downed the two
rails to pick up eight penalty points. He finished the qualifier round
a spot behind teammate Tryon, posting a 52.60 at 12th place.
"I'm very pleased with Windfall. He jumped a class round. I didn't
even know he had the rails. He just barely touched them," he said.
"Those things happen - sometimes you bounce one right out of the cups
and it lands back in, and other times you breathe on it and it rolls
out. That's just part of the sport."
In the final jump-off, Chiacchia was thrilled with his performance. On
the controversy, he added with good character that, "Well...people love
sport, and they love drama."
Chiacchia ended his Olympic journey posting a final score of 60.60 after
the night's jump-off and standing at a 12th place finish in Athens.
The final American rider in the qualifier was Kim Severson from Virginia
and her Winsome Adante. Knocking down one plank - tallying four
penalties - she then tacked on a one-point time penalty to leave her
within arm's reach of the top spot in the qualifier - finishing it on
A downed rail on the final round of show jumping added four points to
Severson's score - leaving her with the Individual Bronze medal position
on the podium and a score of 45.20.
Visibly displeased, Severson said little after the qualifying round,
preferring to watch the final riders take their turn at the course.
"Mark [referring to team coach Capt. Mark Phillips] said I just got
there early," referring to the downed rail at the end of the course.
Severson was upbeat, however, in describing her overall Olympic
experience, "It's really been great."
After her final round, Severson was tempered in her response saying, "I
still can't believe it. I just can't believe it. I was originally
going after Bettina, and then I was going before Bettina." Hoy's pole
position was changed due to the strange circumstances, allowing her to
be moved closer to the end of the round, moving her from her originally
scheduled spot of entering the ring 18th in the jump off.
"It was pretty crazy," she added. "It's not black-and-white at all.
This is obviously going to be a long-term thing...Mark [Phillips, team
coach] said that this is something that we will go to the Appeals
Committee with." A similar situation occurred with another rider at the
World Equestrian Games in 1998. "I don't know whether to be happy or
not," she added, half-jokingly.
Severson did say that overall, her experience was an excellent one and
that she, ultimately, did this for her and her horse and the horse's
So....at the end of a most unforgettable day, and with little more than
one rail separating them, the final honors were a double Gold for
Germany and an Individual Gold for Bettina Hoy and Ringwood Cockatoo
(41.60); an Individual Silver medal for Britain's Leslie Law and his
horse Shear L'Eau (44.40); and an Individual Bronze medal for American
Kim Severson and Winsome Adante (45.20).
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