There were jubilant scenes as Michael Jung (GER) was crowned European Champion and his team deservedly took gold in a nail-biting finale to the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships at Luhmühlen (GER).
Although a German victory had never been in doubt, the final score sheet was considerably re-arranged after the unfortunate Ingrid Klimke (GER), who had led the first two phases with such flamboyance, suffered the devastating experience of hitting six fences and dropping to 11th place.
The individual medals were still a German whitewash, though, as the hugely talented Sandra Auffarth jumped clear to take individual silver and Frank Ostholt moved up two places to achieve his first individual medal.
Ostholt’s wife, Sara, who was best of the fourth-placed Swedish team, also suffered a dramatic drop down the order. There had been a run of clear rounds as the higher-placed riders found the key to this technically-demanding track. Algotsson-Ostholt had her much-admired mare Wega jumping beautifully until a misunderstanding on the approach to the final double at fence 11. The mare hit the first part and then ran out at the second element. Eighteen penalties dropped her to 12th place but the team held onto fourth and, more importantly, earned their ticket to next year’s Olympics in London.
“It’s very disappointing for my wife,” Ostholt said. “I know how she’s feeling and feel very sorry for her. Most of the year she’s always been ahead of me. Normally her horse jumps so well so it was a real surprise. She’s completely devastated, but pleased that Sweden has qualified for the Olympics.”
The French were only fifth after Dressage but the dashing trio of Donatien Schauly, Nicolas Touzaint, and Stanislas de Zuchowicz (Pascal Leroy was eliminated after a Cross Country fall) all jumped superb clear Jumping rounds and moved up to take team silver and earn their slot at London 2012.
“We’re very happy with the result,” former European Champion Nicolas Touzaint said, “and I’m especially happy with the horse. It’s only his second three-day. He’s learnt a lot this week and is definitely a horse for the future.”
Great Britain dropped to bronze – the first time they’ve missed gold since 1993. The defending champions started to look vulnerable when Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz hit the first fence and, with another error from Piggy French, William Fox-Pitt had no room for error. When Cool Mountain rapped the third fence, it was all over. “We knew it had to end some time,” said Fox-Pitt. “This might be the result that gives us the motivation for the Olympics in London next year, which is our big goal.”
The last time there was a one-nation whitewash of the medals was in 1991 when Great Britain took team gold and all three individual medals. Naturally enough, the Germans were ecstatic with the result. Michael Jung – “It’s an absolute dream,” Michael Jung said, “and that it happened in Germany and here in Luhmühlen is even more exciting. To have four first places is exceptional for any nation." Jung now joins Mary Gordon Watson (GBR), Ginny Elliot (GBR) and Zara Phillips (GBR) in the elite band of riders who have held World and European titles simultaneously. He is Germany’s first individual European Champion since Bettina Hoy in 1997, and this is Germany’s first European team gold since Kiev (RUS) in 1973.
Ulrich Sprenger of HSBC Trinkaus was thrilled with the way the Championships had gone. “I’d like to thank the remarkable organising committee,” he said. “Julia Otto and her team have done the most remarkable job. I’d also like to than the volunteers for their dedication and hard work that brings this event together, also the the riders and their horses, and the incredible teams behind them. We told you in the beginning of 2011 that we had extended our sponsorship contract for a further three years, and now we’re looking forward to seeing you at the Championships in 2013 in Malmö.”
Event Director Julia Otto was of course delighted with the German result, but was quick to compliment all the riders. “I raise my glass to all the riders, to your wonderful horses and your chefs d’equipes. I’m glad you’re all back here and smiling today. It’s been a fantastic European Championships and we look forward to seeing everyone back here in June 2012.”
About the Individual Medallists
Gold: Michael Jung (GER) - Michael, 29, is perhaps the most talented natural horseman to emerge from Germany in recent years. He made his CCI4* debut in 2009 at Luhmühlen and won, on La Biosthetique-Sam, following up with victory in the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing™ Final at Strzegom (POL) and an individual bronze medal in the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships at Fontainebleau (FRA) in the same year. In 2010, he again topped the HSBC FEI World Cup rankings and went on to win the individual World title at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky, again on Sam, owned by Sabine Kreuter. His family runs a riding establishment at Horb, in the south of Germany near Stuttgart.
Silver: Sandra Auffarth (GER) - Sandra, 25, has been the discovery of the championships, making her debut on the senior German team. She won a team bronze medal in the Young Rider Europeans in 2006 and is a former national Young Rider champion. She took over the ride on Opgun Louvo, one of the youngest horses in the championships, three years ago and finished ninth at Boekelo CCI3* last year. She made her CCI4* debut at Luhmühlen in June, finishing second. Sandra is based at Warendorf.
Bronze: Frank Ostholt (GER) - Frank, 36, has been a member of the senior German team since 1993. Riding his best-known horse, Air Jordan, he was a member of the fourth-placed German team at the Athens Olympics in 2004, won European team bronze in 2005 and World team gold in 2006. They also won Luhmühlen CCI4* in 2006 and were placed at Badminton CCI4* in 2007. Riding Mr Medicott, he won Olympic team gold in 2008 in Hong Kong. Frank is married to Swedish team member Sara Algotsson-Ostholt. they are based at Warendorf and have one young daughter, Wilma.
HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships Individual standings:
- 1 Michael Jung/La Biosthetique Sam FBW (GER*) 33.3 + 0 + 0 = 33.3
- 2 Sandra Auffarth/Opgun Louvo (GER*) 35.4 + 1.6 + 0 = 37.0
- 3 Frank Ostholt/Little Paint (GER) 34.0 + 6 + 0 = 40.0
- 4 Dirk Schrade/King Artus (GER) 36.7 + 6 + 0 = 42.7
- 5 Stefano Brecciaroli/Apollo van der Wendi Kurt Hoeve (ITA*) 35.8 + 9.2 + 0 = 45.0
- 6 Donatien Schauly/Ocarina du Chanois (FRA*) 45.6 + 0 + 0 = 45.6
- 7 William Fox-Pitt/Cool Mountain (GBR*) 42.7 + 0 + 4 = 46.7
- 8 Nicolas Touzaint/Neptune de Sartene (FRA*) 37.9 + 9.2 + 0 = 47.1
- 9 Piggy French/Jakata (GBR*) 40.4 + 6.8 + 4 = 51.2
- 10 Joris van Springel/Lully des Aulnes (BEL*) 51.0 + 1.6 + 0 = 52.6
(* denotes team member)
Team standings: 1, Germany, 124.3; 2, France, 151.1; 3, Great Britain, 154.6; 4, Sweden, 199.2; 5, Ireland, 206.7; 6, Italy, 209.2; 7, Netherlands, 217.5; 8, Spain, 316.0; 9, Switzerland, 373.2; 10, Belgium, 1,121.6; 11, Poland, 1,229.2
Full results on www.luhmuehlen.de
Photo caption: . Germany claimed team gold and all three individual medals on home ground at the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships at Luhmühlen - (from left) Sandra Auffarth (silver), Michael Jung (gold), Frank Ostholt (bronze). Photo: Kit Houghton/FEI.