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Fighting spirit helps Britain to Bronze
The British held their metal during a testing championships to salvage team bronze from the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships 2011 – a championships that never looked to be going their way. Gold went to the home nation Germany who fulfilled all their early promise, leading from the front to take a convincing team gold on 124.30. Meanwhile the French show jumped their way to silver producing three double clears to clinch second from GB by just 3.5 penalties.
The British campaign in Luhmuhlen had been plagued by hitches from the start; Polly Stockton’s horse Regulus was withdrawn before the competition when he came out of the stable feeling unlevel. Just Mary King and Laura Collett (riding as an individual) got off to the dressage start that they had hoped for, only to have it sadly unravel for them both cross country with Mary suffering a heavy fall from Imperial Cavalier.
But all was not lost; a flyer of a cross country round from Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz set British hopes alight and Piggy French held on, clocking up just a handful of time penalties with Jakata to add to her dressage score. The pressure was on and with GB still very much in the game William Fox-Pitt kept his cool and defied gravity – twice – to ride home clear inside the time on Cool Mountain.
The gutsy trio had made it through to the final phase against the odds. One unlucky fence down apiece in the show jumping sealed bronze for the Brits but with Mary King back in the saddle to claim her medal there was no room for disappointment in the team.
“We were lucky to be in the running at all after yesterday” commented William. “I did my best to fall off, Mary wasn’t so fortunate; we’re very proud to come home with bronze, given the circumstances. Eventing doesn’t always go to plan and we’ve been beaten this week by two great teams.”
Equestrian Performance Director Will Connell added: “This has not always been the easiest of weeks for Great Britain – that they have kept fighting and come away with a team medal is testament to the spirit of both riders and team staff. The Germans did an outstanding job with a strong squad. We will now fully focus on London and continue to work and prepare in the manner that has allowed us to deliver medals consistently in eventing. It is always sad to end a winning run but this is a very strong team and we will be back in 2012.”
Germany, on fire all week, also swept the board in the individual stakes, the only upset being to dressage and cross country leader Ingrid Klimke. Her immaculate form with FRH Butts Abraxxas ended swiftly with six fences down in the show jumping, dropping them to eventual eleventh place. The spoils were left for her team mates who filled the podium with reigning World Champion Michael Jung adding the new European title to his list of honours.
21. August 70
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS