Oliver Townend and Great Britain Lead the Way on Tokyo Cross Country Day, USA in 5th Oliver Townend (GBR) and Ballaghmor Class. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography. It was a challenge of epic proportions for the Olympic eventers today, in more ways than one. As soon as we got off the shuttles at 7 a.m. this morning, you could at once feel that the lovely sea breezes we’d glimpsed on course walks were...not really existent. It was hot, and the air wasn’t really moving, making for even tougher conditions that would test the combinations setting out on cross country in Tokyo. After our trailblazers, Thailand’s Aridadtha Chavatanont had an unfortunate peck on landing at the first water, fence four, it was all we could do to wait and see how the upcoming rides would unfold. But as top-ranked rider and FEi world number one Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class make it through the intense first minute of Derek di Grazia’s track - which contained an eye-popping seven jumping efforts - we began to see that the questions were doable, the conditions could be manageable. And the time was gettable - Oliver crossed the finish in 7 minutes, 40 seconds to dislodge the knot in many of our stomachs and send team scouts back to the barns reporting that the time we all thought would be nearly impossible might actually be more achievable than originally thought. After overnight leader Michael Jung knocked the yellow MIM clipped-corner at fence 14C to subsequently drop down into 10th individually, Oliver Townend now finds himself atop the individual leaderboard still on his dressage score of 23.6. Michael Jung (GER) and Chipmunk FRH. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography. Not all rides went to plan, but they certainly did for Team Great Britain, who now find themselves solidly in gold medal position, adding no penalties across all three riders to remain on their collective dressage score of 78.3, giving them a 17.9 point cushion ahead of silver-placed Australia (96.2). France moves up into bronze position hot on Australia’s heels on a score of 97.1. After trouble on course for both Michael Jung and Sandra Auffarth, who had a drive-by at fence 9C, Germany drops out of their medal position into sixth overall. “Early on, I thought he was slightly (running) away with me,” Oliver said after his ride. “In fact, a couple of places I thought ‘he's in control, I'm not’. But I sat behind him and helped find good distances for him. And once I got into the course I started picking up very good, quick, big, fast distances, almost racing distances to the straightforward fences, and he answered beautifully.” Oliver - along with many other riders - mwas quick to compliment course designer Derek di Grazia on a job well done. The thought was that the course was designed to test the horses to the max, but not trick them. “I’d be his biggest fan,” he said. “I think he’s such a fair course builder. I think that a lot of people could learn things from him because even when he tests horses, the tests are very fair. He doesn’t try to trick horses, he just tries to test them.” Julia Krajewski (GER) and Amande de B’Neville. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography. A test indeed, as problems did crop up for many other competitors - 28 riders picked up jumping penalties. The yellow MIM clip at fence 14C - which is a new clip this year designed to break at a lower amount of pressure than its red counterparts and is designed for use on corners and angled fences - was broken seven times (including for Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH). Fence 18, the Bumps and Stumps coffin question, also caused its share of issues, with nine riders coming to grief here in the form of refusals or broken pins. This prompted many riders later in the day to opt for the longer option here, which didn’t seem to eat up a ton of time on the clock as some riders reported. Laura Collett (GBR) and London 52. Photo by Sally Spickard. In total, just seven riders came home clear inside the time. An additional two riders - Michael Jung and Italy’s Susanna Bordonne - also made the time but were given 11 penalties for frangible devices. The U.S. riders all turned in clear performances to keep themselves in contention for finishing on the podium tomorrow. As the first out for Team USA, Doug Payne and Vandiver made short work of the track and came home with 6.8 time penalties, moving into 23rd individually. Phillip Dutton and Z collected 4.8 time penalties to end the day in 17th place individually, and Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF will be the highest placed American riders with 3.2 time penalties and 14th place overnight. Boyd Martin (USA) and Tsetserleg TSF. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography. As it stands now, the U.S. will is 12.3 points out of medal contention, meaning that the possibility of a podium finish is still very real if the three team members can produce double clear show jumping rounds tomorrow evening. “It’s incredible,” Doug said after his ride this morning, the third to leave the start box. “I'll tell you right off the bat, I couldn't be happier to have (Vandiver). He's got probably the biggest heart of any horse I've had the opportunity to work with and although a bit unconventional times, he tries his heart out. That's really all you could ask for on a course like this.” Doug Payne (USA) and Vandiver. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography. Phillip was held on course with Z after Thailand’s Weerapat Pitakanonda fell from Carnival March at the C element of fence 20, the Mt. Fuji Water. Carnival March caught a ride back to the stabling in the horse ambulance but has been reported to be fine this evening, along with Weerapat. “When you go that fast, you got to take a few chances,” Phillip said. “And I had a little bit of a life at the last water. And then I got held on course, which is not ideal. I stop and then have to start again. But he's a great little horse and he's got a big heart and I think it couldn't have gone much better.” Phillip Dutton (USA) and Z. Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photography. The day was clouded by tragedy, as Switzerland’s Robin Godel had to pull up Jet Set, who came up extremely lame after the Mt. Fuji Water at fence 20. Veterinarians were immediately on site to assist and Jet Set was loaded onto the horse ambulance for transport to the on-site clinic, where it was revealed he had sustained an irreparable ligament rupture on the right front, just above the hoof. As a result, the decision was made to humanely euthanize the 14-year-old gelding. We are devastated for Robin and all of Jet Set’s connections and are so very sorry for their loss. Eventing is drawing to a close, and we’ll begin to wrap things up with the Second Horse Inspection at 9:30 a.m. JST / 8:30 p.m. EST on Monday. Show jumping will be held later in the day, beginning at 5 p.m. JST / 4 a.m. EST for the team jumping and individual qualifier. The top 20 will then return for a second jumping round to determine individual medals at 8:45 p.m. JST / 7:45 a.m. EST.