Tuesday 09 August - 22h01 | Lulu Kyriacou
Incomparable Jung Rides Sam To Defend Title
Michael Jung and Sam, the incomparable German eventing combination, today added a second Olympic title to their huge list of achievements.
Those lucky enough to be in Rio at the Deodoro equestrian facility were privileged to watch sporting history being made as Jung finished on his dressage score to do what no rider has done before in Olympic eventing, and defend the title won four years previously. The records will show that he had eight penalties in hand over silver medallist Astier Nicholas but that does not really give the measure of his superiority. Together with Sam, he has won all three Grand Slam titles, some more than once, a World Championship, a European Championship and the 2010 Olympic Gold. He has helped his team to a gold and a silver at the last two Games, and a World team win. There has been no combination like them in the history of the sport. Phillip Dutton took the bronze for the USA but like every other rider in the world, he must be wodering what he needs to do to beat the force that is Michael Jung.
Of his rivals, it was Sam Griffith who ended up best of the Australian team, jumping a nother clear round on Paulank Brockagh to take fourth while dressage leader and team mate Chris Burton had two rails down with Santano, who perhaps was feeling the effects of his exhertions yesterday. But it did not really matter about them, today was all about hailing the best combination that there has ever been.
After a horse inspection earlier today, forty-six horses came forward to contest the third and final phase, with twelve nations represented across the team event. With two showjumping rounds at an Olympic Games deciding first the team, and then the individual medals, the British team were looking to deliver some good performances, and they did just that.
Gemma Tattersall with The Pebbles Syndicate’s Quicklook V got Team GB off to a great start, as the first British rider into the Olympic Equestrian Centre, Deodoro. The duo produced a lovely clear round, but were unfortunate to pick up just four time penalties as they crossed the line.
Commenting afterwards Gemma said; “I’m so pleased with that. She came out really well this morning and jumped a beautiful clear round. She really tried and I am really happy with her.
“It is amazing to be here at the Olympics, I am very proud and honoured. Obviously yesterday was far from ideal; we tried our absolute best. We were unbelievably hungry to win a medal but things did not go our way.”
Next up for the British team were Kitty King and Ceylor L A N, owned by Diana Bown, Jacqueline Owen and Samantha Wilson, who came out with a skip in their step and produced a stunning round, recording a clear inside the time with two British riders still to come.
Kitty said; “It has been a wonderful experience. I have learnt an incredible amount and so has my horse. It has been a great team atmosphere. Everyone has gelled and got on really well. We have had good preparation. Not everything went according to plan but that is something which we will learn from, and move on and not dwell on too much.
“There are a lot of positives to take from this. Overall, I have had a great experience at my first Olympics and it has been an incredible event to compete in.”
With the late Carol Toliver’s Billy The Biz, it was next the turn of Pippa Funnell. Producing some brilliant jumping from the start, the combination flew round the arena, producing the second clear round of the day, which was welcomed by cheers from the British fans.
“It has been disappointing overall but I’m really pleased for the young riders Gemma and Kitty who have performed so well. The way they rode on this stage is really exciting for the future. I was really impressed with them,” commented Pippa, “we have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and it has been a great team.
“I also really want to say thank you to UK Sport and the British Equestrian Federation’s World Class Programme because without the National Lottery funding we get, we simply wouldn’t be here. We are sad we didn’t deliver a medal for them but the support has been outstanding and we are very grateful for it.”
Highest placed British rider after the cross-country phase, William Fox-Pitt was the final combination to go for Team GB. With Christopher Stone’s Chilli Morning, the pair showed their quality as they recorded yet another clear round, to move Britain up the team standings from eighth to fifth.
Speaking afterwards William said; “It was really great to finish on a good note after the disappointment of yesterday. We just didn’t have that luck with us yesterday; it was a very strong team and we’ve a fantastic team behind us. We’re very lucky in the UK to have some great support. I think today was rewarding for our whole team.”
In a dramatic finish to the team competition, the gold medal went to France, with Germany taking the silver and Australia the bronze.
After the excitement of the team round, fans were in for more thrilling competition as the individual showjumping round got underway. With only the top twenty-five combinations going forward to contest the individual final, it was William Fox-Pitt who was the sole British representative, with Pippa finishing an agonising twenty-sixth place.
In the midday heat, William and Chilli again produced a stunning clear round inside the time, to finish their Olympics on a high. Commenting after, William spoke about his eventing companion; “I think it will be the last time I ride him [at a Championship]. He has been fantastic here; he’s sixteen and he’s done everything I’ve asked of him.”