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Jung wins eventing gold, Britain takes team title

October 4, 2010

Germany's Michael Jung riding La Biosthetique-Sam FBW has won the gold medal in the eventing competition at the World Equestrian Games, with Britain's William Fox-Pitt second on Cool Mountain and New Zealander Andrew Nicholson third on Nereo.

© Horsesports Photographic

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam FBW © Peter Nixon/FEI
Michael Jung interview
In German

Andrew Nicholson © Horsesports Photographic
Andrew Nicholson interview

The top three riders all finished on their dressage scores.

The British team won gold with a final score of 139.40. Canada took the silver medal with 151.50, and New Zealand was close behind with 154.80 to win the bronze. The US finished fourth with 160.30.

Germany's team was fifth on 200.70, and Belgium sixth.

Ireland competed without a discard score and finished seventh overall, narrowly missing out on the vital sixth place that would have guaranteed qualification for the London Olympics in 2012.

The aggregate Irish score of 236.50 left the team just 9.4 penalties behind Belgium, who claimed the crucial Olympic-qualifying sixth position.

Individual gold medalist Michael Jung remained atop the leader board throughout this championship on La Biosthetique Sam FBW, finishing on their dressage score of just 33.00. The German rider credits his success to the time he spends with the horse.

"I have trained him to do everything, and I've been with him almost daily," said Jung. "That's why he trusts me. We're very good working together because of our longstanding working and training together. Over the last few years we've grown together so much, and I really hope that we can do this in London [the 2012 Olympics]."

Richard Jeffery's show jumping course consisted of 16 elements to be jumped in a time allowed of 90 seconds. Some 22 of the 55 horse-and-rider combinations that started today's final phase completed the course with double-clear rounds.

The British triumph was the first in a World Championship since 1994 and it was achieved in the best possible way, with clears from Fox-Pitt, Mary King (Imperial Cavalier) and Nicola Wilson (Opposition Buzz) while Tina Cook (Miners Frolic) had two fences down. There was turmoil on the leaderboard, with the USA slipping out of medal contention and having to settle for fourth place while the sensational Canadians moved up into silver and New Zealand took bronze.

Michael Jung on the podium. © Horsesports Photographic
Wilson's Opposition Buzz, whose trail-blazing cross-country round on Saturday was one of the highlights of the day, was still full of running as he secured that important first-to-go clear for the British side. But the 90-second time limit was tight and the 13-fence track took its toll. Buck Davidson set the ball rolling for the USA who were lying in runner-up spot with just a single error from Ballynoe Castle, and when fellow-US rider, Boyd Martin, went clear with Neville Bardos a place on the podium seemed very much on the cards for the home side. But Philip Dutton and Woodburn hit the first element of the penultimate double and also picked up a time fault, so it fell to Karen O'Connor and Mandiba to save the day. Under intense pressure they entered the ring but the partnership was already looking vulnerable by the time they got to the oxer at fence five and, although they cleared the following triple bar, they missed their stride to the next fence, the gate, and Mandiba stopped, eventually crossing the finish line but carrying 12 faults which put paid to US chances.

Despite the disappointment there was still cause for celebration in the O'Connor household tonight as Karen's husband David, a former multiple eventing champion and President of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), was hailed the hero by the Canadian team which he trains. They put in another magnificent performance today, as they have done all weekend - first-line rider Kyle Carter (Madison Park) picking up nine faults but both Selena O'Hanlon (Colombo) and Hawley Bennett-Award (Gin & Juice) producing foot-perfect runs and when Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch picked up just four faults with Port Authority they found themselves elevated to silver medal position.

And those veterans of so many wonderful contests, Kiwi legends Mark Todd (Grass Valley) and Andrew Nicholson (Nereo), clinched bronze when keeping a clean sheet after Caroline Powell (Mac MacDonald) collected nine faults and Clarke Johnstone (Orient Express) picked up 13. It's an extraordinary achievement for Todd who retired from the sport in 2000 but returned for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and who is as competitive as ever at the age of 54.

"The sport has changed a lot, and its taken me a while to adjust since I've come back" he said and then, referring to gold medallist Michael Jung he added "it may take a while to close the gap to this fellow down here, but we're working on it!".

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique - Sam FBW jump to gold. © Peter Nixon/FEI
There was another battle going on further down the team leaderboard because five of the top six nations would earn an Olympic qualifying spot - the British automatically through due to the location of the 2012 Games. Germany slotted into fifth place and the Irish had a heart-breaking day when, despite an heroic performance in the cross-country phase yesterday, they were overtaken by the Belgians. The Irish must now battle for an Olympic qualifying spot at next summer's European Championships in Rotterdam (NED) while Canada, New Zealand, the USA, Germany and Belgium, along with the British, can rest easy in the knowledge that their ticket to London is already booked.

As the top 10 took their turn today the tension was palpable and British individual rider Pippa Funnell, who was absent from the sport for some time, showed she is right back in the game when, lying seventh, she recorded a superb clear with Redesigned which eventually left her in fifth place. That was followed by another classic jumping round from Belgium's Karin Donckers and the fabulous mare Gazelle de la Brasserie, but a single error saw Canada's Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch slip down the individual rankings.

With just four left to go, Andrew Nicholson piled the pressure on the remaining three with a clear from Nereo and when Germany's Ingrid Klimke faulted twice the New Zealander improved to individual bronze medal position. The final two never faltered, so he had to settle for that as the consummate horseman Fox-Pitt calmly returned a zero score and then Jung sailed home with La Biosthetique Sam who looked so fresh, composed and content that it was hard to believe he was at the end of such a monumental contest.

Jung is now looking forward to competing Sam in London 2012.

"In the last few years my horse and I have grown together and I hope we can make it to London," he said. The British will be the ones to beat on their home turf then, and Fox-Pitt pointed out that team spirit contributes greatly to his country's success in this tough sport.

"We have fantastic support from our supporters, our Chef and the BOA (British Olympic Association) - the back-up is huge and we have a great team of riders. We get on well, we give each other a hard time, but we have a lot of fun!" he said.

The Eventing Championships at the World Equestrian Games have indicated clearly that the Canadians are now truly a force to be reckoned with and that the incredible Kiwis are as hot-to-trot as they have ever been.

The stats

There were 23 clear rounds in today's eventing jumping competition.
55 horses started the final phase.
This was Great Britain's first World Championship team gold since 1994.
It was New Zealand's first time back on the team podium at a World Championship since 1998.
The last time Canada took a place on the team medal podium was in 1978.
Michael Jung is Germany's first-ever individual eventing World Champion.
The German team, which finished fifth, were defending champions.
Michael Jung, age 28, is the youngest rider to take the individual title since Lucinda Prior-Palmer in 1982.
Great Britain holds the record for the greatest number of World Team titles - 1970, 1982, 1986, 1994 and 2010.
Both Mary King and Tina Cook were also on the winning British team at The Hague in 1994.
Two riders in the Eventing Championship were following in their father's footsteps - Buck Davidson's (USA) father, Bruce Davidson, and Sam Watson's (IRL) father John Watson won individual gold and silver in 1978 at Kentucky.
Newly-crowned individual champion Michael Jung holds the Pferdewirtschafts Meister qualification. This is a issued to top-level trainers in Germany. Michael competes at a high level in both dressage and jumping, as well as eventing.
Before Great Britain's Nicola Wilson went into jump in the final phase of the Eventing Championship yesterday her husband, Alastair, was at a concession stand and was approached by an American spectator who pressed a dime into his hand and said "this is for luck for you and your horse!".

© Horsesports Photographic

Mark Todd and Clarke Johnstone on the podium for New Zealand.

The victorious British team.



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