Team GB have claimed their first team gold in the eventing championship at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, H&C is thrilled to report. 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.
Germany's Michael Jung took the individual gold with ease, and delivered a flawless performance from his 10-year-old gelding La Biosthetique Sam. Team GB's William Fox-Pitt, whose polished ride with Cool Mountain secured individual silver, paid the highest compliment to the winner, who led the competition from the outset. Asked what he thought of the German rider's result he said: "Quite honestly it's a case of Michael Jung - one, the rest - nowhere! He's so far ahead we've all got our work cut out for us for the next two years!"
Nicola 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 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-American, 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.
As the top 10 took their turn yesterday the tension was palpable and British individual rider Pippa Funnell 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 however 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.
Not to be outdone, Team GB's dressage stars also shone during the Kur. Unsurprisingly. Edward Gal with the untouchable Moorlands Totilas claimed their third gold medal of the week with a stunning performance, but it seems GB's Laura Bechtolsheimer is hot on his heels. Laura recorded a personal best of 85.35% with Mistral Hojris to take the silver medal.