Despite early European domination at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, a pair of South American riders jumped off for individual gold last night.Uruguay’s Marcelo Chirico and Links Hot Gossip clinched gold against Colombian rider Mario Gamboa, while Saudi Arabia’s Dalma Rushdi H Malhas won out in a six-way jump-off for the bronze.»I was so happy to win today! I never imagined I would be a Youth Olympic Games champion!» Chirico said.
«Now I am hoping one day I can be an Olympic champion, maybe in London or Rio? My horse jumped very well today. He was careful and wanted to help me. He was excellent! I would really like to say thanks to my family and my coach and everybody who has supported me here at the Youth Olympic Games.»
All riders from Sunday’s first individual round, with the exception of Maria Victoria Paz (ARG) who was eliminated, went forward to the second round. They were jumping in reverse order of merit, which meant that the nine riders with clears in Sunday’s competition were last into the arena.
Course Designer John Vallance upped the degree of difficulty for the individual final and this was reflected in the number of clear rounds. The obstacle that caused most grief was fence 4, a Liverpool, with wings made in the image of the Singapore Flyer, which was on a related line from the double.
Although there were foot-perfect performances from five of those who had faulted on Sunday, it appeared that there would be no double clear rounds. But Chirico, 20th on the startlist, produced the first double zero and spectators had to wait until the last rider, Mario Gamboa, who was also faultless to guarantee a South American jump off for the gold and silver medals.
Australian rider Thomas McDermott rode an extremely smooth and balanced round but faulted at the second last fence, while Samantha McIntosh (RSA) also produced an excellent round, but unfortunately had a rail down at 10. A medal was still in reach for these two riders, however, as they joined a quartet of others on four penalties to go against the clock for bronze.
Also in the decider for third place were Dalma Rushdi H Malhas (KSA), Abdurahman Al Marri (QAT), Wojciech Dahlke (POL) and Mohamad Alanzarouti (SYR).
As there were six athletes jumping off for the bronze medal, the excitement was considerable, with riders speeding up and cutting corners in a bid for the fastest time. After the dust had settled, it was Dalma Rushdi Malhas (KSA), riding a tight course for a faultless clear and the fastest time on the colourful Australian Paint Horse, Flash Top Hat, who secured the bronze medal.
Marcelo Chirico (URU) was first in to jump off for the gold and silver medals and once again his skilful riding and harmonious partnership with Links Hot Gossip, produced a smooth clear round. Mario Gamboa (COL) and LH Titan were next to jump and, when they faulted at the second fence, the Uruguayan was guaranteed the title of Youth Olympic champion and the coveted gold medal, with the Colombian claiming silver.
Bronze medalist Dalma Rushdi Malhas was the first female from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to compete at an Olympic event. Her participation was facilitated by the FEI working in conjunction with the IOC to «widen the participation quota», the FEI said.
Dalma competed in the two rounds of the team competition hors concours (out of competition) as she was not part of an official team, picking up 16 faults in the first round and then going clear in the second.
IOC President Jacques Rogge was full of praise for the equestrian venue, which he said would remain «great legacy in Singapore. I am also impressed with the level of the riders and feel that the Continental Team Competition is a very interesting idea and liked greatly by the athletes.»
FEI President Princess Haya said the event had provided top quality sport. «I think it’s fantastic to see so many riders getting into the jump off. We’ve been blessed by the fact that in the team and individual competitions at the Youth Olympics, and in the senior games at Beijing, we have had jump-offs. The public love it and it’s wonderful for our sport – a tribute to the quality of the athletes competing,» she said.