New Zealand eventing coach Eric Duvander is backing Andrew Nicholson after the Kiwi No 1 slammed organisers for imposing a controversial weather delay that has cost him a shot at an individual Olympic medal.
Nicholson, the world No 2 and two-time Olympic teams medallist, was fuming after his dressage test, which was delayed by 10 minutes because the thunder and lightning around Greenwich Park was considered too dangerous.
The 50-year-old was told "six or seven" minutes before his scheduled start at 1.10pm that there would be a delay, something he, Duvander, and other insiders say is unheard of.
After the resumption, Niklas Lindback of Sweden completed his test and Nicholson and Nereo then entered the arena.
Lindback was reportedly in tears afterward, distraught that six years of hard work had been scuppered. The Swede lies 22nd one spot below Nicholson, whose score of 45.0 penalties was about five more than he would have liked.
Nicholson, in his seventh Olympics, also looked a broken man, added this to a long line of Olympic bad luck stories.
"I thought Nereo was very good; I was just disgusted with the organisation,'' he told Fairfax Media, ironically as the skies cleared again.
"With dressage, we're given a time, we work it to the minute. You're prepping the horse up, getting stronger and stronger, more energy, and then suddenly you're told to stop.
"Do you let the horse down so he thinks he's finished work, or do you carry on pressurising him for 10 more minutes, when you know you then can't have him right in the arena?"
Nereo had an exceptional entry and he trotted and walked well but he struggled on the canter and there were 4s all around (out of 10) for a flying change.
Realistically, there are too many good riders ahead of him to feature individually, although fourth-placed New Zealand are still in the teams hunt and Nicholson, an exceptional cross-country rider, is a vital cog.
He held nothing back when assessing the grand jury's decision, and its impact on his test. He said Nereo's muscles tired and the horse was not on his game mentally, because he had to stop and build again.
"He obviously thought he was just in another training session and he felt a bit quiet and confused. I would think Mr Pooh (Lindback's horse) was as well.
"I've been in the rain, I've been in the lightning, I've been in the thunder, and nobody held anything then. It's just the principle of it all. I'd expect at an Olympic Games it would be a bit better run."
It continues a run of terrible luck at the Olympics.
His horse had a showjumping meltdown in 1992 as the New Zealand team fell from gold to silver, he had to retire from the individual event in 1996, didn't even get to ride his horses in 2000, and was eliminated in 2008.
Duvander said: "It's very disappointing. In my time in the sport I have never seen them put a hold on.
"The planning for a performance like this has been done over the last four years and we had it timed to the T.
"Of course it's upsetting when they pull the plug on for no, in my opinion, apparent reason.
"Horses get fatigue in muscles, they get tired if you give them 10 more minutes work. Reactions get slower. You end up with a different type of horse."
- © Fairfax NZ News