Germany scooped team gold for the seventh time in the history of the FEI European Jumping Championships with a superb final-day performance at the Club de Campo in Madrid, Spain today. As the overnight leaders from The Netherlands faltered, eventually dropping to a disappointing fourth, the Germans flexed their not-inconsiderable muscle with three great clear rounds to snatch the title, while France moved up to seize silver and the British claimed the bronze.
An Olympic qualifying spot was some compensation to the Dutch who always looked like taking one of the three coveted spots available to non-qualified nations and, following a game of fluctuating fortunes today, it will be Switzerland and Sweden who will join them in London next summer. The Spanish also became contenders as the competition progressed, but their chances faded, as did those of the Irish whose only possibility of representation now lies in the Olympic rankings list.
Demonstration of Solidarity
The day began with a demonstration of solidarity in the sport as, following agreement by all concerned, the water fence which caused so many faults yesterday, was altered. The grey wall used in the first round was replaced with the darker frontage that had been used for the opening speed competition.
Ground Jury President, Stefan Ellenbruch, said this evening: "I am very happy that, even under Championship conditions when everyone is really under pressure for the medals, there is still the possibility to make decisions based on commonsense and horsemanship. When the discussion came up, we really tried to find a solution that would make everyone happy without giving advantage to any single team or rider. The solution we found was the right one, we had a normal result at the water today with eight horses getting penalties at it. The way we all worked together shows that we are all sitting in the same boat, and rowing in the same direction in this sport!"
Meanwhile the number of competing teams was reduced to nine when the 10th-placed Portuguese were obliged to withdraw. Already only fielding three horse and rider combinations, an injury to the 14-year-old stallion Coltaire Z put paid to their prospects of advancing any further. The Italians, who finished 11th yesterday, hoped that they might be permitted to line out in their place. But the rules were clear and, despite a written request and an unsuccessful protest, the decision of the Ground Jury held firm.
Already Looking Strong
The Dutch grip on the gold began to loosen when pathfinder Eric van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Utascha) faulted at the second element of the triple combination and the oxer two fences later, while his son, Mikael (VDL Groep Verdi) returned with three mistakes. The Germans meanwhile were establishing their authority with fabulous clears from both pathfinder Marco Kutscher, whose stallion Cornet Obolensky was at his most extravagant best, and from individual championship leader Carsten-Otto Nagel and his adorable grey mare Corradina who has been simply in a class of her own all week.
The French, lying third, solidified their position when Michel Robert (Kellemoi de Pepita) and Penelope Leprevost (Mylord Carthago) were also foot-perfect, and the British, lying fourth, were strengthened by another exciting clear from Nick Skelton and Carlo which was followed by a highly-impressive round from Guy Williams and Titus who collected just a single time fault.
As third-line German rider, Janne-Frederike Meyer came into the ring with Cellagon Lambrasco, victory was already within her country's grasp. She could afford a fence down and a time fault, but used up just one of those lives when the second element of the troublesome penultimate double hit the floor. No matter what the Dutch did now, it would be Germany at the top of podium. And when Ludger Beerbaum completed the German effort with a great clear from Gotha that just sealed the victory in the best possible way.
Gerco Schröder's clear with Eurocommerce New Orleans would boost his personal ranking, but couldn't rescue the situation, and when Jeroen Dubbeldam's BMC Vans Grunsven Simon put a foot in the water and also fell foul of the final double, the Dutch slipped to fourth and out of the medals, even after discarding the 12 picked up by Maikel van der Vleuten.
It was the British who would benefit from the Dutch slide as, with anchorman John Whitaker (Peppermill) providing the eight-fault drop score, they had just the four faults from Ben Maher's mistake at the oxer at fence five to add to Williams' single time fault - their final tally of 23.42 seeing them climb to take bronze.
The French were in fine form as they celebrated their silver medals. Kevin Staut and Silvana de Hus had rounded up the treble of foot-perfect performances so that Olivier Guillon's error at the wall - his "bete noir" during these championships as the same fence saw him lose his position as first-day leader 24 hours earlier - could be discounted to leave them with nothing to add to yesterday's tally of 15.95.
"We have been really motivated after bad results at the beginning of the year in the Nations Cup - in the last round of that we were fighting to stay in the top league. The first day here was good and we were leading, but yesterday we had no clear rounds. So last night we talked about what we should do - we were in a Japanese restaurant actually and a few of the French were sick afterwards! - but we woke up this morning really motivated to stay on the podium and, already in third, we would have been happy with bronze", he said. "Well done to the course designer by the way" he added, "he did a super job. But we will be changing restaurant this evening!" he said.
Britain's John Whitaker also complimented Santiago Varela's course. "After yesterday we knew we had a chance, and as the day went along today we were going well, but so was everyone else, so at one stage I thought it was slipping away from us but it didn't. We're very happy with the bronze and I want to add too that this was a really good course".
Speaking for the British who will host the world at next year's Olympic Games in London, team-mate Ben Maher said "this result has boosted the spirit of our team looking ahead to next year. I hope we can go two better (take the gold) than we did today! We've been struggling lately with a lack of medals so I hope we can use this result to push ourselves forward for the future."
The final word went to Germany's Ludger Beerbaum who has now collected two individual and four team gold medals at the Europeans during his long and successful career. "Overall we had a really exciting three days so far. Yesterday we thought Holland would win because they looked so dominant and so strong but this competition was open, right to the very end. Because of good course building we ended up having great sport."
And of course the story of the 2011 FEI European Jumping Championship is far from over yet, as the action resumes on Sunday when the top-25 will battle it out for the individual medals. Leading going into the final clash, and with only fractions of penalties between them, are Germany's Carsten-Otto Nagel at the top of the leaderboard followed by Britain's Nick Skelton in second and Holland's Gerco Schröder in third. Portugal's Luciana Diniz lies fourth, some compensation for the Portuguese team withdrawal.
With two more rounds of jumping to come, the fate of the title still hangs in the balance, and there is plenty more excitement to come....
Team Championship - GOLD: Germany 10.41; SILVER: France 15.95; BRONZE: Great Britain 22.46; 4, Netherlands 23.42; 5, Sweden 34.73; 6, Switzerland 40.66; 7, Belgium 41.78; 8, Spain 46.53; 9, Ireland 54.12.
Individual Standings: 1, Corradina (Carsten-Otto Nagel) GER 0.69; 2, Carlo (Nick Skelton) GBR 1.04; 3, Eurocommerce New Orleans (Gerco Schröder) NED 1.54; 4, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 4.98; 5, Ninja La Silla (Rolf-Göran Bengtsson) SWE 5.77; 6, Mylord Carthago*HN (Pénélope Leprevost) FRA 6.55; 7, Cellagon Lambrasco (Janne-Friederike Meyer) GER 6.99; 8, Kellemoi de Pepita (Michel Robert) FRA 7.16; 9, Lord de Theize (Olivier Guillon) FRA 8.00; 10, Gotha FRH (Ludger Beerbaum) GER 8.23
Facts and Figures:
The water fence was changed for the second round of the Team competition today following a high number of faults at this obstacle in yesterday's first round. The grey wall used in yesterday's competition, which did not provide sufficient contrast with the all-weather sand footing, was replaced with the darker frontage that was used at the water for the speed competition on Wednesday. The Ground Jury's decision to alter the fence was unanimously supported by all the teams involved in this afternoon's competition.
Nine teams lined out to decide the fate of the FEI European Jumping Championship team title today following the withdrawal of the 10th-placed Portuguese team when Marina Frutuoso de Melo's stallion was withdrawn with a leg injury.
Under FEI Rules for Jumping Championships and Olympic Games, the withdrawal of one of the top 10 teams does not allow for a replacement team to be promoted into the team final.
Italian Chef d'Equipe, Stefano Scaccabarozzi put in a request to the Ground Jury that the 11th-placed Italian team should be permitted to compete, but the Jury ruled against that and, following a protest to the Appeal Committee, the Ground Jury decision was upheld, leaving only nine teams to line out today.
There were three further individual withdrawals - Denmark's Andreas Schou and Emilie Martinsen and Austria's Stefan Eder.
A total of 47 horse-and-rider combinations started in today's competition.
Madrid has put in a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, and Club de Campo de Villa Madrid, venue for this week's FEI European Jumping Championships, has been proposed as host for two of four sports Golf, Modern Pentathlon, Equestrian and Hockey.
The Club de Campo stands on a site covering 214 hectares in the south-west of Spain's capital city, Madrid. The clubhouse on the 18-hole golf course boasts a hill that provides a stunning view of the city landscape.
Coincidentally, the gold, silver and bronze medallists at this year's FEI European Jumping Championships are exactly the same nations as those that stood on the podium at the recent FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen, Germany.
Germany's Janne-Frederike Meyer - "I was really happy with my round today. Maybe after a beer or two I'll have a look at the video and see what I did wrong at that fence. But two super rounds and one down is pretty OK for my first championship!"
Germany's Carsten-Otto Nagel who today won team gold and who goes into Sunday's individual final at the top of the leaderboard - "the feeling of winning team gold is really good and I'm very happy with my horse, working together with her is good and really easy, her form is unbelievable right now so there is no reason why it should stop!"
Germany's Marco Kutscher - "It is an honour for me to be in this team. We had a little discussion before the Championships. I wanted to take Cash but we had three down in the Grand Prix in Rio and I was a little depressed. We had a hard week because Marcus's horse went lame, but Otto (Becker, German Chef d'Equipe) trusted my feeling and that was that Cornet was better over his last shows".
Otto Becker, German Chef d'Equipe - "I'm really happy to work with a team like this, these riders made it easy. Thanks to our vets, and to the whole team, they are all part of the success".
French rider Michel Robert - "I'm very happy for the course designer, he built a very good course. For the French team it was a good day today, yesterday was not so good. Today we had four riders who showed nice equitation, and that makes me very happy!"
French rider Olivier Guillon who is lying ninth going into Sunday's Individual Final Competition - "I was thinking about the wall after yesterday and tried to find a solution, but it was not such a good solution for today - I hope it will be better on Sunday!"
Course designer, Santiago Varela - "We made the correct decision changing the water jump. Thanks to the Technical Delegate and the President of the Ground Jury for their understanding and to all the team managers and riders who made it possible to make the change. When you make a mistake in the first round it's better to make a change, and I'm very happy to work with this team. Today was a great day for the sport!".
Photo Caption: Carsten-Otto Nagel, Marco Kutscher, Chef d'Equipe Otto Becker, Janne-Frederike Meyer and Ludger Beerbaum celebrate Germany's seventh FEI European Jumping Championship Team title at the Club de Campo in Madrid, Spain this evening. Photo: FEI/Kit Houghton.
FEI TV commentator Steve Hadley & Irish international Jumping rider Cian O'Connor sum up today's amazing action at the FEI European Jumping Championships in Madrid, Spain on FEI Youtube Channel: http://goo.gl/ccphY