I'm not too interested in round robin team matches, so those were out. So I decided on cross country equestrian. It's probably not the number one choice of most people, but it piqued my interest for sure.
Turns out it was pretty great! Unlike dressage, which I had watched before and gotten bored really easily, cross country is a speeding/jumping event. The winding course is 2 3/4 to 4 miles long and filled with obstacles like hills, logs, or ponds. In Rio, there are 33 obstacles total, and my favorite is the Bamboo Keyhole, which is a wall of vines (bamboo, I'm guessing) with a hole cut in the middle.
The first competitor I watched did the course so flawlessly that I wasn't too concerned about competitors failing. But as I watched more and more horses, I realized that this was really, really hard!
The lowest score wins in this event, and every time something goes wrong, you get points added on. The announcers were talking about "twenty penalties" and once I even heard "hundreds of penalty points"! When I looked it up, I saw that error by the jockey is much more harsh than error by the horse. If a horse doesn't do what it's supposed to, it's called a "refusal." If they refuse to do an obstacle or cross tracks into something else, they get penalty points, and if they do it three or four times, they're eliminated.
When the jockey messes up, it is just elimination. Period.
There are so many rules and requirements that it's hard to comprehend that this actually works, but it does. When riders get the horses correctly into position, they do beautifully. In Olympic events, that means that the jockeys have to be quick on timing and be ready to maneuver into the next position with little to no breaks in between.
Even more important, if you manage to get through the course fast enough, you move on to the third and final round, and can also compete as a team with other riders from your country. You can still compete as an individual if you don't have enough to field a team. But if you're eliminated, you're out.
I saw a couple riders fall of their horse, and I did see one horse go down, but he walked it off, thankfully.
Teams from Oceania are dominating this year; Australia and New Zealand are leading in the team event, with France right behind. I'll try to catch the final tomorrow and let you know what happens!
Time for mini blurbs!
- Monday roundup:
- equestrian cross-country
- men's gymnastics
- women's volleyball
- beach volleyball
- women's tennis
- men's weightlifting
- men's diving
- It was incredibly frustrating to watch men's gymnastics. I had said on Saturday that other countries would have to fall a lot to get the US men to the podium, and I was totally right. Unfortunately, it was the US men that fell. Alex Naddour and Sam Mikulak both messed up their floor exercise routines, Naddour messed up the event he was picked to dominate in pommel horse, and Danell Leyva just barely missed the high bar on his final release. They finished in fifth, after being second in qualification. It was almost a mirror image of 2012 in London, and I'm bummed. Proud of the team, but bummed.
Meanwhile, the rest of the field did everything really, really well. The Russians were spot on and clinched silver, while Japan came back from two poor Olympic team events and took gold this time.
- It was fun to watch - I viewed the entire three hour stream!
- It's usually Monday of the first Olympic week where I hear a news report about the empty seats, and Miguel Almaguer didn't disappoint me today. Yes! Preliminary events won't be as full! There are a bajillion events going on - you can count on empty seats to be all over the place. It's when the finals of premier events have empty seats that we can start to worry.
- In my random Olympic moments I can think of stupid things. For example, as I watched men's beach volleyball, I thought, "Which secondary color in US Olympic uniforms do I despise the most: grey or light blue?" The answer? Grey is so dull. Stop using it.
- Women's volleyball was fun to watch, especially when they were down 2 games to 1, and were really close to losing in game 4, but won three straight to take the match against the Netherlands.
- Kayaking is so much fun! I think it's the hardest sport to do in the Olympics. The gates are suspended and you have to get your head around them without touching them! Green gates are normal entry, and red gates you have to go in backwards. Plus you're racing for time.
- Got word from my little brother that his wife, who wasn't a big Olympics fan before, has now grown to love it and enjoys the main events, like swimming and gymnastics, as well as the lesser-knowns like judo and kayaking. I couldn't be prouder!
Have a great day, and I'll see you tomorrow!