It remains 40 years since Great Britain won gold for eventing but there has been no need for Baddiel and Skinner to write a song about it. Far from being years of hurt, they have been four rich decades of achievement in equestrianism, to which yesterday's silver in the team event added further distinction. It was a fifth runners-up finish in the team event during that time, and an improvement too on the bronze of four years ago.
Yet had Zara Phillips managed a clear round, as she did later in the individual competition, instead of collecting seven penalty points, they would have won gold.
Emulating the individual gold to which Leslie Law was belatedly promoted in 2004, has proved more difficult. Yesterday afternoon, Mary King on Imperial Cavalier had begun in third place but like Tina Cook on Miners Frolic, who had started fourth, she collected eight faults and dropped out of contention.
In finishing a respectable fifth and sixth respectively, their disappointment – mitigated by the team medal – was as nothing compared to poor Sara Algotsson Ostholt, one of two Swedish sisters competing, who only needed to jump the last fence to become the first woman to win the individual gold.
The Swedish contingent leapt in the air in delight as she appeared to have done so, then held heads in hands as one bar dropped to the ground. So it was Michael Jung on Sam who stepped on to the top step of the podium, completing a double as part of Germany's winning team and becoming the first rider to hold world, European and Olympic titles simultaneously.
Germany had won four years ago, too. Here they maintained their overnight lead of 5.50 penalty points on Great Britain, with Sweden, third overnight, pushed down into fourth by New Zealand.
William Fox-Pitt on Lionheart and King both had a double clear round (no faults and inside the allotted 83 seconds) to encourage thoughts of Britain's first gold of the Games but in collecting seven penalty points, a disappointed Phillips on High Kingdom only just stayed in front of Fox-Pitt to qualify for the individual event.
"I messed up," Phillips said, adding a rueful comment about her mother the Princess Royal – from whom she collected her silver medal yesterday – who competed at Montreal in 1976. "[The horse] must have been thinking: 'I wish your mum was riding'."
The 51-year-old King, at her sixth Olympics, said: "We were hoping to overtake the Germans but they put in a great performance and deserve it."Reuse content