Equestrianism: Britain fourth as Germany triumph

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GERMANY TRIUMPHED in the European Show Jumping Championships yesterday after the closest battle on record in this competition, which takes place every two years.

A mere 1.53 faults separated the top four teams after the first round and it was the British, lying second at that stage, who sadly missed out on the medals by the infinitesimal margin of 0.43 of a fault. This was despite two clear rounds from Geoff Billington and It's Otto, who made a magnificent return to his best form.

Nick Skelton had a disappointing opening round on Hopes are High. The horse jumped superbly until refusing at the Derby Rails, the 13th of 14 fences, which he then lowered at the second attempt for seven jumping and one time fault.

Hopes are High had taken a huge leap over the preceding oxer and Skelton was unable to get him back to reach the rails on five strides. This related distance was also to prove a problem for some other long-striding horses.

Billington then jumped the first of his two foot-perfect clear rounds on It's Otto, who is now lying sixth for the individual final, which will be decided tomorrow.

Di Lampard had just half a time fault on Abbervail Dream, before Michael Whitaker had the first-round discard score of 8.5 faults on Calvaro. When they reappeared, Skelton had four faults into the double at fence five; both Lampard and Whitaker had one jumping error plus half a time fault. Over-running the time was expensive, leaving Britain behind The Netherlands and without a team medal for the first time since 1981.

EUROPEAN SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS (Hickstead): Team Championship: 1 Germany 24.13 faults; 2 Switzerland 25.91; 3 Netherlands 29.13; 4 Great Britain 29.56; 5 France 33.51; 6 Sweden 50.64; 7 Ireland 56.94; 8 Spain 68.77; 9 Belgium 68.94; 10 Bulgaria 102.91. Individual placings after second leg: 1 Auleto (M Robert, Fr) 4 faults; 2 Sprehe Stella (M Michaels- Beerbaum, Ger) 4.59; 3 Pozitano (B Mandli, Swit) 4.64; 4 For Pleasure (M Ehning, Ger) 4.91; 5 Rochet M (A Ledermann, Fr) 5.10; 6 Virtual Village It's Otto (G Billington, GB) 6.23. Other GB: 11 Abbervail Dream (D Lampard) 10.09; 17 Hopes are High (N Skelton) 13.24; 26 Calvaro (M Whitaker) 21.07.