LONDON (AFP) –
Germany closed in on Olympic three-day eventing gold after an enthralling cross-country Monday while Zara Phillips, the granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, marked her wedding anniversary in style.
Germany’s Ingrid Klimke, lying joint fourth after the opening dressage, was tied for first for the individual gold on 39.30 points with Swedish rider Ostholt Algottson.
With two of Klimke’s compatriots inside the top ten Germany were also out in front in the team competition ahead of the concluding leg in the jumping ring on Tuesday.
The defending team champions ended a drama-filled day on 124.70 points, with Great Britain next best on 130.20, and the Swedes (131.40) in the bronze medal position.
The last time Britain picked up a team gold was back in Munich in 1972 with Capt Mark Phillips in the mix and his daughter, Zara, was one of the stars for the home side on Monday.
“I am so pleased. It was hard work but a great feeling. The crowd was unbelievable and the best thing is that it is my wedding anniversary today,” said the wife of former England rugby captain Mike Tindall.
Her family was out in force, with Prince William, his wife Catherine, his brother Prince Harry and Camilla, the wife of Prince Charles, among the 50,000 crowd lapping up the helter-skelter action from Greenwich Park.
After a foot perfect round on former racehorse High Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter punched the air in delight, gleefully acknowledging the cheers of the partisan onlookers on this her first Olympic Games.
“They were so loud, you couldn’t hear your stopwatch beeping,” the 2006 world champion said, before complimenting High Kingdom.
“He was so honest. Awesome. It was hard work but you just have to get on with it. He’s a very suitable horse but lost a front shoe so it was even harder for him but he stepped up to the plate.”
Klimke, a member of Germany’s title-winning team in Hong Kong, venue for the equestrian events at the 2008 Beijing Games, praised her horse, Butts Abraxxas.
“I knew the course was really challenging and I am so thrilled with my very wonderful horse.
“He made it easy for me. Four years ago in Hong Kong he did the same and I am very privileged to have him.”
Veteran New Zealander Mark Todd, setting out last of the 74 competitors, put himself in with a shout of a third Olympic gold when posting a speedy clear round on Campino to retain third in the individual event on 39.50 points.
The London 2012 cross country circuit featured an eclectic and colourful collection of 28 fences designed in the shape of planets and moons, flower gardens and sundials, the Tower of London, and the final “Olympic Horses” sculptured out of horse shoes.
With the competition sited on the home of the Prime Meridian timing was all important with riders allowed precisely 10min 3sec to complete the 5728m long test.
A clutch of competitors – 15 in total – failed to cross the finish line, among them Yoshiaki Oiwa, Japan’s surprise leader after the dressage.
The 36-year-old, riding Noonday de Conde, popped over the first 19 obstacles only to come to grief at the tricky 20th.
His compatriot, intrepid Buddhist monk Kenki Sato, also fell.
Canadian Hawley Bennett-Awad, who came acropper at the third fence – the Bandstand Rails – was taken to hospital for x-rays, with organisers reporting her injuries were not serious.
Propping up the individual standings was Jamaica’s lone equestrian rider Samantha Albert riding Carraig Dubh.
Describing her experience she said: “My horse pulled a shoe off at fence three and it was like riding on an ice rink.
“We were held on the course and he behaved like a man possessed. He thought he was ready to race at Cheltenham.”
On Tuesday, team gold is calculated by a country’s best three riders’ combined scores after the final jumping session, with the top 25 riders jumping again to determine the individual honours.