German riders were simply the best on the final day of the Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle (GBR) where, in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, who presented the medals, they won team gold by more than 50 penalties and the matchless Michael Jung captured the fifth individual title of his career.
All four team members – Jung, Sandra Auffarth, who also took individual silver, Ingrid Klimke and Dirk Schrade – went clear in the Jumping phase to give Germany a fifth successive team title. Their winning run began at the 2011 FEI European Eventing Championship at Luhmühlen (GER) and has included three European titles plus Olympic and world team golds.
Jung confirmed his place in Eventing history as one of the world’s greats when he equalled Ginny Elliot’s (GBR) record, set in the 1980s, of three European titles on three different horses. He has, however, now beaten her record of six consecutive individual medals – this is his seventh since his senior championship debut in 2009.
This third European title was perhaps the hardest fought, as it came on an inexperienced eight-year-old horse and after a Cross Country phase run in the most testing of weather.
“Now I can say I have a champion for the future,” said a visibly thrilled Jung, in a warning to the rest of the world that he is not planning to give anyone else a chance just yet. “fischerTakinou is a really good horse and I think he has the quality for the next championships.”
Great Britain, the silver medallists, have not been beaten at a home European Championship since 1959, but they faced a mountainous task when they had to add Nicola Wilson’s Cross Country penalties after the retirement of William Fox-Pitt.
“I feel rather fraudulent sitting here,” joked Fox-Pitt, who was competing at his 10th European Championship and has only once failed to bring home a medal. “But the girls did so well. They really deserved the silver.”
Pippa Funnell, who finished eighth on the nine-year-old Sandman 7, and Kitty King (Persimmon) both produced clear rounds, and team newcomer King, fourth, only missed an individual medal by 0.1 penalty. British individual Izzy Taylor, in overnight third with KBIS Briarlands Matilda, hit the planks to drop to sixth.
Funnell, European champion in 1999 and 2001, summed up a weekend of personal triumph: “I think the selectors hoped that with my experience I would coax a good result out of an inexperienced horse, but I didn’t need to coax at all. This has kept my Olympic dream alive.”
A difficult weekend for Wilson nearly got worse when she misjudged fence seven and One Two Many tripped through it, leaving her clinging on around his neck. “It felt like a lifetime in which I had plenty of time to think through the consequences of falling off,” she said. “I knew we were down to three riders and I kept saying ‘don’t fall off, don’t fall off!’ to myself.”
The French were a very happy quartet after taking the team bronze medal and securing their Olympic qualification. The icing on the cake was an individual bronze medal for team newcomer Thibaut Vallette.
The French army officer, a Lieutenant-Colonel based at the army equitation school at Saumur (FRA), jumped a superb clear round on Qing du Briot ENE HN, an 11-year-old Selle Francais by Eolien ll.
“I never expected this to happen,” said Vallette. “Our first job was to qualify for the Olympics so to come home with two medals is a real bonus.”
The other Olympic qualifying spot goes to the Swedes, who finished in fifth place behind the Netherlands, who had booked their ticket to Rio last year in Normandy.
The magnitude of the German victory will have left the rest of the world wondering what they can do to beat them. “You can see by our smiles how much this means to us,” said Ingrid Klimke. “But we are very aware that we have to keep working to stay here because there are many other nations who want to be standing where we are.”
“The best team has definitely won,” concluded Event Director Alec Lochore. “The Germans did the best job of dealing with Scotch mist!”
Final Individual Results
1 Michael Jung/fischerTakinou (GER)* 33.5 + 0 + 0 = 33.5
2 Sandra Auffarth/Opgun Louvo (GER)* 31.4 + 11.2 + 0 = 42.6
3 Thibaut Vallette/Qing du Briot ENE HN (FRA)* 36.8 + 8.4 + 0 = 45.2
4 Kitty King/Persimmon (GBR)* 36.9 + 8.4 + 0 = 45.3
5 Ingrid Klimke/Horseware Hale Bob (GER)* 37.8 + 8.8 + 0 = 46.6
6 Izzy Taylor/KBIS Briarlands Matilda (GBR) 44.0 + 0 + 4 = 48.0
7 Dirk Schrade/Hop And Skip (GER)* 43.1 + 5.2 + 0 = 48.3
8 Pippa Funnell/Sandman 7 (GBR)* 41.0 + 9.6 + 0 = 50.6
9 Gemma Tattersall/Arctic Soul (GBR) 47.3 + 0 + 6 = 53.3
10 Peter Thomsen/Horseware Barney (GER) 47.3 + 10.4 + 0 = 57.7
*denotes team rider
Final Team Results
1 Germany 122.7; 2 Great Britain 173.3; 3 France 183.7; 4 Netherlands 213.3; 5 Sweden 284.8 Full results on www.blair2015.com