Michael Jung and the German team gave an outstanding display of cross-country riding at the HSBC FEI European Championships to remain in gold medal position, as all four riders came home clear and inside the optimum time.
The flamboyant Swedish quartet also made it look easy, flying through the direct routes with confidence, to the delight of an enthusiastic, flag-waving crowd clearly revelling in the spectacular sight of horses galloping alongside the beach at Malmö in Sweden.
The home side matched the Germans round for round, adding a mere 0.4 of a penalty when Ludwig Svennerstal, still in individual bronze position on Shamwari 4, finished just one second over the optimum time of 10 minutes 30 seconds.
It was also a great day for the French, who moved up a place to bronze medal position with four fast clear rounds. Former European Champion Nicolas Touzaint, riding the stallion Lesbos, is also within reach of an individual medal in seventh place.
The Olympic, World and European Champion Michael Jung was again flawless, riding an assured clear round on the inexperienced Halunke FBW, despite setting off in a torrential downpour. He now has two fences in hand over William Fox-Pitt (GBR) to win a second consecutive European title.
“My reins and saddle were wet and slippery, but the going was perfect,” Jung said. “I was a little bit behind the time at each minute marker but step by step I got closer. Halunke is a wonderful horse; he is not the fastest, but he takes big strides.”
It has been 20 years since Britain returned from a European Championships without a team medal, but they had a disastrous day. Pippa Funnell was battling with steering problems on Mirage d’Elle and eventually had a run-out at the downhill brush corner fence at 22b, and Lucy Wiegersma fell when Simon Porloe caught a leg over the boat at 8.
“I’m very disappointed for myself and connections but more so for the team,” Wiegersma said. “To me it felt like the horse just left a leg; it was an uncharacteristic mistake for him, he’s a fantastic jumper and I was really annoyed but if I had the chance to ride it again, I’d ride it exactly the same. Simon’s fine, he had a soft landing, and is all OK.”
Funnell said: “It wasn’t my best ride. It wasn’t the easiest ride today; it was quite a tricky fence, and we landed big over the first hedge. I thought he jumped the other fences well; he’s a big jumper and has his own way of going; I’m a bit gutted, but we’ve all been there before.”
Kristina Cook was superb on Miners Frolic and is in ninth place. After a small “wake-up” at the second fence, Cook rode a superb round to finish clear, 11 seconds within the time allowed to carry her dressage score into the final day.
The team is a distant sixth and Britain’s medal hopes now rest on anchorman Fox-Pitt, who gave a masterclass of riding on the chestnut stallion Chilli Morning.
“When the bubble bursts, it can be hard to pick yourself up,” admitted Fox-Pitt. “I certainly felt sick for several hours before my round. Still, things could only get better. Chilli can be opinionated but he was magical today. He is an exceptional horse, a cool chap. I was very worried about the twists and turns because I was on a strong horse, but it rode very comfortably and that is the sign of a good track.”
Dirk Schrade (GER), the first rider out on Rüdiger Schwarz’s much-praised track, gave everyone confidence when he produced an easy, neat clear on Hop and Skip. He took two long routes, avoiding the sharp turn out of the water to a corner (10b) and taking the circuitous route at 30, and still finished eight seconds inside the time.
Frida Andersen got the host team off to a brilliant start on the home-bred Herta. She took only one long route, at fence 8, and finished an incredible 31 seconds inside the optimum time, despite the distraction of both her boots coming unzipped.
“She is a really fast horse,” said Andersen, who has been based at Warendorf in Germany with Frank and Sara Ostholt since April. “It felt so easy that I smiled the whole way round.”
Andersen explained that she had ordered new boots but they were too small. “So I borrowed Sara’s, but I forgot to zip them up properly when I left the stables. I could feel them coming down by fence 3, but it didn’t bother me.”
Twenty of the 61 starters achieved the optimum time, there were 42 clear rounds and 52 completed.
Swiss team member Felix Vogg (Onfire) and Belgium’s Xavier Snackers (Ramses de Hurtebise Ewalco) both retired after two refusals; the Netherlands’ Althea Bleekman was eliminated after she fell from Ziomf at the keyhole fence at 12, and Ireland’s Joseph Murphy (Electric Cruise) was eliminated for failing to jump fence 27a when he re-routed after a run-out.
Murphy’s team-mate Sam Watson came home with just 0.40 time faults with Horseware Bushman to end the day as the leading Irish team rider.
Ireland finished the day in seventh place, after holding a sixth position following the dressage.
The Belarusian team was eliminated after Viachaslau Poita fell with Dervish at the table at fence 16, and Aliaksandr Faminou was eliminated for three refusals on Ekstrakt.
Ludwig Svennerstal said the mood in the Swedish camp was one of elation. “We were under a lot of pressure on home ground, but this has been a great day for the sport and a great day for the sport in Sweden.”
Per Magnusson, Sport Director at Malmö, said: “I am very proud that we produced such good pictures for Swedish television. I think today will do a lot for the sport in this country.”
Additional reporting: BEF, HSI
Individual Results after Cross Country
1 Michael Jung/Halunke FBW (GER) 28.6 + 0 = 28.6
2 William Fox-Pitt/Chilli Morning (GBR) 36.6 + 0 = 36.6
3 Ludwig Svennerstal/Shamwari 4 (SWE) 37.6 + 0.4 = 38.0
4 Ingrid Klimke/FRH Escada JS (GER) 39.4 + 0 = 39.4
5 Sara Algotsson-Ostholt/Reality 39 (SWE) 40.6 + 0 = 40.6
6 Niklas Lindbäck/Mister Pooh (SWE), 42.0 + 0 = 42.0
7 Nicolas Touzaint/Lesbos (FRA) 40.8 + 1.2 = 42.0
8 Peter Thomsen/Horseware’s Cayenne (GER) 40.6 + 2 = 42.6*
9 Kristina Cook/Miners Frolic (GBR) 43.4 + 0 = 43.4
10 Dirk Schrade/Hop and Skip (GER) 44.2 + 0 = 44.2
*denotes individual rider
1 Germany, 112.2
2 Sweden, 120.6
3 France, 135.4
4 Italy, 155.0
5 Belgium, 163.0
6 Great Britain, 167.6
7 Ireland, 205.4
8 Netherlands, 239.0
9 Switzerland, 247.6
10 Belarus, 2,102.6