European eventing: Germans are kings of the Castle

GREAT Britain’s eventing team received another stark reminder of the task they will face at next year’s Rio Olympics after Germany completed a golden double at the Longines FEI European Championships.

Michael Jung with Sandra Auffarth and Frances Thibaut Vallette. Picture: PA
Michael Jung with Sandra Auffarth and Frances Thibaut Vallette. Picture: PA
Michael Jung with Sandra Auffarth and Frances Thibaut Vallette. Picture: PA

The German team of Michael Jung, Sandra Auffarth, Ingrid Klimke and Dirk Schrade made it a hat-trick of European titles.

Olympic champion Jung was also crowned individual gold medallist for a third successive time, emulating former British star Ginny Leng’s feat between 1985 and 1989.

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With the Queen watching from packed grandstands at a spectacular Blair Castle setting in Perthshire, Germany romped to victory by the landslide margin of 50.6 penalties from silver medallists Britain and third-placed France.

Jung, meanwhile, was joined on the individual podium by Auffarth, while Frenchman Thibaut Vallette took bronze, just 0.1 of a penalty in front of leading British finisher Kitty King, who was fourth on Persimmon.

The Queen presented medals to team riders King, Nicola Wilson, Pippa Funnell and William Fox-Pitt but, while Britain had four combinations in the top nine, they were bystanders during another German procession.

“I think that the Germans have yet again shown how impressive they are,” Great Britain chef d’equipe Yogi Breisner said.

“I said before coming into the competition that we could end up having the best team score that the British team has had and still finish second.

“We have not achieved that score, and the conditions [for cross-country on Saturday] didn’t allow for that. If it had stayed dry, it would have been a different competition altogether.

“I think we have learnt a lot. We have managed to give riders championship experience and there have been one or two horses and riders with very, very good form.”

Wiltshire-based King, on her senior championship team debut, thrust herself into Rio contention after she followed an impressive cross-country display by delivering a showjumping clear, which Funnell and Sandman 7 matched, while Wilson had four faults aboard One Two Many.

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Wilson, though, almost fell from her horse after clattering fence eight, which would have meant team elimination had she not clung on after One Two Many somehow got through it by knocking only one pole down following Fox-Pitt’s cross-country exit.

“I over-prepared and put him in an impossible position [to jump the fence],” Wilson said. “Going through my head was ‘there are only three of us, do not fall off, you have got to stay on’.

“It felt like a lifetime – I had a lot of time to think about the consequences.”

Oxfordshire’s Izzy Taylor held the individual bronze medal place overnight, but one fence down on KBIS Briarlands Matilda dropped her from third to sixth, while King’s clear moved up her one position. All four German team riders, led by Jung and fischerTakinou, finished in the top seven.

“My horse has really delivered this week,” King said. “He has been on really good form and really onside. I couldn’t ask for more, I am just a bit gutted to be only 0.1 off third place, and to win team silver is absolutely brilliant.

“I have got Persimmon and a very nice eight-year-old called Ceylor Lan. I hope to have both horses in the selectors’ eyes, but anything can happen. The Olympics is definitely a huge goal of mine and I would love to try and get there.”

Of the other British challengers, Funnell finished eighth, Gemma Tattersall was ninth with Arctic Soul, Laura Collett 13th aboard Grand Manoeuvre, Oliver Townend 17th with Fenyas Elegance, Holly Woodhead 21st on DHI Lupison, Sarah Bullimore 26th with Lilly Corinne and Wilson 27th.

Fox-Pitt and Francis Whittington (Easy Target) failed to finish the cross-country course, while Wills Oakden withdrew Greystone Midnight Melody before yesterday’s showjumping finale.