By Caroline Stauffer
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – The United States show jumping team arrived in Rio determined to get back on a gold medal winning streak that ended in London in 2012, when the team finished off the podium for the first time since 2000.
Expectations are high from a powerful U.S. squad that includes four-time Olympians in Beezie Madden and McLain Ward, “stronger horse and rider combinations” and two impressive Olympic debutants in Lucy Davis and Kent Farrington.
“London was definitely a disappointment. Not only are we out for redemption but I think it looks good for our chances,” said Beezie Madden, 52, who was part of the 2004 and 2008 gold medal teams.
“On paper we have a stronger team with better, stronger horse and rider combinations,” she said on Thursday.
The team’s new chef d’equipe Robert Ridland, who took over from his predecessor George Morris in 2013, agreed that U.S. medal hopes in Rio were lofty.
“All sports go in cycles — we are in a bit of an up-cycle here and we hope to be able to take advantage of it,” he told Reuters.
Show jumping is the last of three Olympic equestrian competitions, following eventing and dressage. Qualifying jumping rounds start on Sunday.
Concerns over the security of the Deodoro equestrian centre have increased in recent days, especially when a second bullet was found near the stables on Wednesday, prompting more soldiers to be sent to the venue.
“The security was notably enhanced today when we showed up,” Ridland said. “Overall, they are doing a great job with the security. The state department, of course, is behind us with our U.S. riders and they have been in touch with us.”
Asked what the riders thought of the Olympic atmosphere and whether they had seen anything else of Rio, Ward said the team had enjoyed the athlete’s village but was mostly “focused on the job”.
He added: “This is not a team here to just participate, we are here for the gold.”
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)