Dominant Germans create medal upset at the Europeans
Great Britain team manager Yogi Breisner hailed an "awesome" performance by host nation Germany after they were crowned HSBC FEI European Eventing Champions for the first time in 38 years.
The German quartet of Michael Jung, Sandra Auffarth, Ingrid Klimke and Andreas Dibowski ruthlessly ended Britain's hopes of landing a ninth successive team title, while three clear rounds in the jumping gave a surprise Silver for the French, leaving Britain to settle for Bronze.
The individual title went to reigning World Champion Jung with the Germans mopping up second third and fourth. Jung becomes the first rider since Zara Phillips in 2006 to hold World and European titles simultaneously.
Britain finished 3.5 penalties behind France, being unable to regroup sufficiently after five-time Olympian Mary King was eliminated following a crashing cross-country fall from Imperial Cavalier.
Mary escaped injury but the fall left Fox-Pitt (Cool Mountain), Piggy French (Jakata) and Nicola Wilson (Opposition Buzz) to compile Britain's three counting scores in the showjumping finale.
William finished as Britain's highest-placed individual rider in seventh, while this year's Badminton runner-up Piggy was ninth and Wilson 16th. All had four showjumping faults.
There was no escaping a command performance by the Germans, whose riders were roared home by a capacity crowd, and Breisner admitted: "The German team has been awesome these last four days. Their performance would have been good enough to win any major championship in the last 25 years. It is an unpredictable sport. We had no hiccups at the World Equestrian Games last October, and the Germans had no hiccups here. Opposition Buzz did his usual fantastic cross-country job for us. He has to be the best cross-country horse in the world at the moment, and William rode like a real trooper when we needed it."
William Fox-Pitt's battling performance was underpinned by a cross-country display that defied the odds, but underlined why he is currently world-ranked number two. Despite almost parting company with Cool Mountain at the second water challenge -¬- Fox-Pitt somehow stayed aboard after his horse's head briefly went underwater -- and then surviving another scare when taking the difficult short route at the Rolex Turn, he jumped clear three seconds inside a testing optimum time of 10 minutes, five seconds.
British individual challenger Laura Collett, meanwhile, was left to reflect on a major championship debut that started brilliantly in dressage on Rayef but ended with cross-country elimination following three refusals.
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