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Australia’s showjumpers triumph in Valkenswaard, securing Paris 2024 Olympics berth

Jul 19, 2023

In a display of equestrian excellence, Australia’s showjumping team soared to victory in the qualifier event held in Valkenswaard last night, securing their spot at the highly anticipated Paris 2024 Olympics.

To qualify for the Olympics, Australia had to achieve either first or second place in the intense competition in the Netherlands. But it soon became clear Australia was the team to chase leading from the first round leaving behind opponents from Japan, New Zealand, and China. The tricky track proved to be a formidable challenge, with no double clear rounds for any team.

Leading the charge were the talented Lauren Baulcom and Hillary Scott. Lauren, and her exceptionally careful 12-year-old gelding Verdini d’Houtveld Z, secured just four penalties over the two rounds not only securing Australia’s victory but also claiming the title of the best performing combination among all competing nations.

The in-form Lauren Baulcom and her talented gelding Verdini d’Houtveld Z look strong for Olympic selection after helping to secure the win for Australia.

Lauren Baulcom, a former eventer like her teammate Chris Burton, has been amassing an impressive record of clear rounds across major tracks in the United States. And last night she shone again playing a pivotal role in Australia’s victory and further cementing her credentials for a coveted spot on the final team for Paris.

Hillary Scott faced the challenging task of being the first out, but she swiftly set the standard with a magnificent clear round aboard her homebred star, the 16-year-old mare, Oaks Milky Way, adding just one time penalty to Australia’s score. While time penalties can often make or break competitions, the difficulty of the track proved tough for many subsequent riders, with no combination achieving a double clear round.

Hillary Scott and her big track jumping mare, the homebred Oaks Milky Way set the early lead for Australia.

Chris Burton, riding Chedington Hazy Toulana, who was previously ridden by his teammate Edwina Tops-Alexander, showed great promise until a rare refusal on the home stretch, resulting in time penalties and ultimately taking the drop score for Australia.

Edwina Tops-Alexander, the final rider for Australia, skilfully piloted her talented but sensitive gelding Fellow Castlefield, owned by French-Greek heiress and equestrian Athina Onassis. With only one rail and a couple of time penalties added to the score, Australia maintained its leading position heading into the second round, albeit with just a one-point margin over Japan.

The second round brought both moments of triumph and challenge for the Australian team. While Hillary and Oaks Milky Way faced two rails, Chris Burton and Chedington Hazy Toulana staged a strong recovery with just one rail added to their first-round score. With a solid performance by the team across the two rounds Australia’s anchor rider, Edwina Tops-Alexander, took to the ring for the second time, relieved of pressure, as the win was already secured.

Australia finished with an impressive score of 23, firmly ahead of Japan on 32, with New Zealand claiming third place on 46, and China securing the fourth spot with a score of 59.

A final victory for Australia’s Todd Hinde as he now heads to Switzerland to assume duties as FEI Jumping Director.

This victory is a bitter sweet one for Australia’s High Performance Jumping Manage, Todd Hinde as it marks the end of his work for Australia. In September, he will assume the esteemed role of FEI Jumping Director in Switzerland, becoming the first Australian to hold this prestigious position.

While the team’s exceptional performance secured their spot for the Paris 2024 Olympics, the journey is far from over. Australian riders at home and abroad will spend the following months chasing their minimum eligibility requirements (MER) for selection and will be looking to deliver some outstanding individual performances in pursuit of securing their positions in the final Olympic team.

This recent victory comes on the heels of the Australia eventing team’s qualification for the Paris Olympics last month. Remarkably, all of the Australian showjumpers have lived, competed, and like the eventer’s honed their equestrian skills in the Hawkesbury region.  Notably, Edwina Tops-Alexander lived and trained in the Hawkesbury for many years before heading to Europe and becoming an international jumping star. Former eventing Olympian, Chris Burton also lived and trained in the Hawkesbury before setting in Europe to compete at the highest levels of both eventing and showjumping.

Congratulations and good luck to all riders chasing their dreams to Partis 2024!

 

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