Equestrian: Cian O'Connor wins bronze for Ireland
Updated: Wednesday, 08 Aug 2012 17:05
Ireland’s Cian O’Connor has won a bronze medal in the individual jumping event at the London Olympics.
Steve Guerdat of Switzerland claimed the gold medal with two faultless rounds, leaving O’Connor and Gerco Schroder of the Netherlands in joint second place on one penalty point.
That left O’Connor, aboard his horse Blue Loyd 12 and Schroder on London, in a jump-off on a redesigned course to decide the silver- and bronze-medal positions.
Schroder was first up in the jump-off, posting a faultless round in a time of 49.79, leaving O'Connor with a fast time to chase.
The Meath rider set out on a blistering pace, determined to beat Schroder's time and with just one fence to jump, he looked set to claim the silver medal.
However, ill fortune struck and Blue Loyd clipped the final jump, picking up four penalty points and handing silver to Schroder.
It's often the narrowest of margins that prove decisive in world-class jumping, and so it proved today.
O'Connor was denied a head-to-head jump off for the gold medal with Guerdat by just 0.02 of a second.
The Irishman posted a double clear in the opening round of the final. That score ensured O'Connor would progress to the second of two final rounds, the result of which was added to the first for a cumulative total.
Having seen Guerdat set the mark with two fault-free rounds, O'Connor knew that there was no room for error in his second round and avoided any fence faults throughout his run.
However, he finished his run in 80.02 seconds, just 0.02 of a second outside of the allotted time and incurred one penalty point.
Nonetheless, O'Connor will be delighted with his medal, aware of the fact that he was not originally supposed to be competing in the final.
The Meath man and Blue Loyd 12 finished in 36th place after the two qualifying rounds and got a last minute call-up to the final as the first reserve.
Swedish rider Rolf-Goran Bengtsson's horse Casall was withdrawn from the event this morning after failing to pass a veterinary test.
O'Connor said: "I never say never, I think it's important to be optimistic. Last night I went out for food with my wife Ruth and I was first reserve.
"I said to her, 'I'm going to get in tomorrow; I'm going to jump a clear round.'
"This morning we got down here to the show, we had a veterinary inspection. One horse from another rider didn't pass and that meant we got in, so sometimes things happen for the best.
"To be able to deliver at the Olympic Games is the place to do it. And Blue Loyd, he mightn't be the biggest horse in the world, but he's got the biggest heart.
"I've been fortunate with my owners, who are the O'Reilly-Highlands. We bought the horse seven months ago, with the aim of coming here.
"We came here and we delivered and we did what we were supposed to do.
"So, it's a win-win situation."
O'Connor continued: "When you come into this arena the crowd get behind you. There's a great rivalry between the Irish and the English, but they have a bit of a soft spot for the Paddy and they give him a cheer, and that's the kind of thing that spurs you on.
"That's the kind of thing that makes you want to do well is the public support, of which there is so much of at home."