|L to R: Carsten-Otto Nagel, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Marcus Ehning and Janne-Friederike Meyer. (Kit Houghton/FEI)|
And a new page of jumping history was written, when, for the very first time, a victorious German Championship side included two lady riders. Janne Friederike Meyer and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum joined forces with Carsten-Otto Nagel and Marcus Ehning to clinch gold ahead of France in silver and the surprising Belgians who took bronze. The Belgians have been competing in the Promotional League in recent seasons, but, already set to return to the top-level Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series in 2011 after topping the rankings in the second-division series this year, they must now be considered a serious force to be reckoned with once again.
Today the Germans did it in the best way possible when producing three zero scores from their first three riders. Last man in was Ehning who picked up four faults with Plot Blue, but as he said tonight "thanks to my team I was already a World Champion before I went in!". The French rallied brilliantly to snatch silver. They were lying fifth overnight, but World No. 1 Kevin Staut was furious with himself about his opening effort on Monday and was determined to make amends. His last-to-go clear with Silvana de Hus was the clincher when added to a faultless run from Olivier Guillon and Lord de Theize and just a single error from both Penelope Leprevost (Mylord Carthago) and Patrice Deleveau (Katchina Mail).
|Laura KRAUT USA riding Cedric for the USA team. (Kit Houghton/FEI)|
The first-day leaders from the USA were lying third going into today's decider, but they couldn't hold on to a medal position when Lauren Hough's 12-fault opening effort with Quick Study was followed by thirteen from Mario Deslauriers and Urico. Things fell apart for the former Canadian when he crashed through the triple bar which replaced the open water on the track that was otherwise little changed from yesterday's first round except for increased height and width. And the American was lucky to return with just four further faults, at the first element of the penultimate double. No matter what the rest of his team might do, the host nation's chances were lost however.
Lying fourth, the Canadians looked like they might sneak up the order when pathfinder John Pearce produced a foot-perfect round from Chianto. But 12 faults from Yann Candele (Pitareusa) and nine for Jonathon Millar (Contino) halted their progress and despite a copybook round from Olympic Champions Eric Lamaze and Hickstead the Canadians slipped a place instead of improving.
|Rodrigo PESSOA BRA riding HH Rebozo, leading rider. (Kit Houghton/FEI)|
By then the Germans were already champions. Meyer's tour of the track was, as always, exciting due to the enormous power and enthusiasm of her 12 year old gelding Cellagon Lambrasco while Nagel's round was a total contrast - quiet and ordered, precise and little short of fabulous as his 12 year old grey mare Corradina took it all in her stride. And Michaels-Beerbaum made it all look very elementary too with the 15 year old Checkmate who soared around the course with consummate ease. Ehning's mistake, when hitting the plank at fence eight which followed the massive triple bar, was of no consequence from a team perspective, but he goes into Friday's top-30 semi-final in 27th place while it is Pessoa who now heads the individual leaderboard.
Le Jeune's brilliant double-clear in the team competition has raised him to second place ahead of Nagel in third, Lamaze in fourth and Pearce in fifth. The range of riders in the top 11 going into the next stage of the individual challenge is fascinating, as it includes Olympic silver medallist Rolf-Goran Bengtsson from Sweden in sixth, Sydney Olympic bronze medallist Khaled Al Eid in seventh, Ireland's Billy Twomey in eighth and Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Sharbatly, riding the former Italian team mare Seldana di Campalto who was stunning again today, in ninth. Staut lies tenth while the relatively unknown Chilean, Christian Santis, is in 11th place with Fanatico de Huincul.
|Carsten-Otto Nagel riding Corradina for the gold medal winning German team. (Kit Houghton/FEI)|
Germany's Marcus Ehning said tonight "I've had an unbelievable year winning the Rolex FEI World Cup™ final with two horses, the Global Champions Tour with three horses and now this!" Meyer she could hardly believe the situation she was finding herself in either. "I'm so happy to ride on this team - Meredith, Marcus and Carsten-Otto are my idols. Now I'm looking forward to having some beer and wine so that I wake up tomorrow morning wondering why I'm feeling so bad and then I'll remember - because I'm a World Champion!" she joked. German Chef d'Equipe Otto Becker said he was delighted with the result because his country has not won gold for 12 years "and that's a long time!" he pointed out. Michaels-Beerbaum talked about balancing her life as a jumping rider with being mother to baby Brianne who she describes as "a good luck charm" for herself and the German team. And she perfectly described the challenge set out for the teams today. "The fences were bigger, there was no fault between the top seven teams and there was a lot of pressure on the riders so that created a lot of excitement - it made for a great competition, and now we are pleased and proud" she said.
The Brazilians and Canadians might have been disappointed to finish out of a medal position tonight but they have the consolation of knowing that their efforts this week have earned qualification for the 2012 Olympic Games in London along with today's medal winning sides from Germany, France and Belgium.