Olympics newsletter

Article

The rocking horse rider

Alvin Sallay
August 20,2008

Norway's Tony Andre Hansen is hoping for an individual showjumping medal on Camiro when he enters the ring at Sha Tin on Thursday.   Photo: K.Y. Cheng

He is a back-up singer and guitarist for aspiring Norwegian rock band Ovation. But Tony Andre Hansen will put his dreams of making it big on the pop charts on hold as he goes out in search of another medal in the individual showjumping competition at Sha Tin on Thursday night.

Hansen won a standing ovation on Monday night when his Norwegian team won their first equestrian Olympic medal ever – a bronze – in the team showjumping competition.

He will be hoping to put the icing on the cake with an individual medal as the curtain falls on the equestrian events on Thursday. It will be a tough task as all riders start from scratch with all penalty points accumulated in the earlier rounds forgotten.

"I harbour hopes of winning a second medal," said Hansen, one of the 36 riders who will go out for the penultimate round. The top 20 will qualify for the final medal rounds.

Hansen, who will ride Camiro, a nine-year-old horse he discovered in Germany, is coached by Irishman Gerry Mullins, a two-time Olympian. While singing is a passion, Hansen's first love is riding.

"My life is riding. Horses come first, singing comes second. But it would be nice to have a song at the top of the charts," says the 29-year-old from Sandefjord.

A posse of contenders

Together with teammates Morten Djupvik, Stein Endresen and Geir Gulliksen, Hansen spearheaded Norway to a historic bronze medal in the team event.

"Winning the bronze was as good as winning gold," said Endresen, who rides Le Beau.

But it is Hansen and Camiro who will probably represent Norway's best chances of adding to their medal tally at these Games. The pair only incurred three penalties over the opening three rounds.

Breathing down his neck are a posse of contenders, including American McLain Ward (four penalties) on Sapphire and Canada's Eric Lamaze (4) on Hickstead.

Ward, who spearheaded the US team to the Olympic gold in the team showjumping, will be looking for a golden double as will teammates Laura Kraut on Cedric and Beezie Madden on Authentic.

The Americans are still on a high after prevailing in a tense jump-off against Canada in the team competition on Monday night to secure their second successive gold medal. Four years ago, they were ruled winners after Germany were disqualified after Ludger Beerbaum's horse tested positive for doping.

Gunning for a medal

"People have been whining for the past four years that we won the gold by default. We won that fair and square in Athens as we did here. It is a great day for the sport in North America," Ward said on Monday night after the thrilling showdown was over.

Canada, who were reduced to three riders after the withdrawal of Mac Cone whose horse was sore, will also be gunning for a second medal. Lamaze will be a favourite, but all eyes will be on Ian Millar and In Style.

Millar, 61, is the oldest showjumper ever. He is taking part in his ninth Olympics and celebrated his first medal, a silver, a couple of nights ago. Millar will also be keen to wrap it up in style.

Another to watch out for will be Brazil's defending gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa on Rufus. Four years ago, Pessoa was awarded the gold medal which was stripped from Irish rider Cian O'Connor and his horse Waterford Crystal for doping. He was handed the gold medal in a ceremony at his home town of Rio de Janeiro.

Pessoa will be hoping to do that again – this time climbing the podium at the Olympics.

But the field better watch out for the ever dangerous Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on Shutterfly, who will carry the best hopes of Germany, while Great Britain's final chance of a gold medal at Sha Tin will lie with Ben Maher and Rolette.

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