Equestrianism: Britain slip up but take bronze

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The Independent Online
GERMANY RETAINED the team title at the World Equestrian Games here in the Flaminio Stadium after a marathon contest, which began soon after dawn yesterday morning and finished more than 10 hours later. The Germans, who remain the reigning world, Olympic and European champions, defeated France by a convincing margin of 12.17 faults, with Britain finishing a close third.

The British had seen their fortunes ebb and flow. In the lead overnight, they began yesterday's two-round contest on a continuing note of optimism when Di Lampard jumped a smooth clear round on Abbervail Dream, incurring just 0.25 of a time fault. But the team effort then began to fall apart.

Geoff Billington horrified British supporters when Virtual Village It's Otto stopped at the first fence on the course and lowered two others for a total of 11 jumping and 0.25 time faults. "Geoff rode like a novice," the disappointed British team manager, Ronnie Massarella, said.

Nick Skelton, regarded as the strongest member of the team on the Calgary Grand Prix winner, Hopes are High, failed to retrieve the situation when he had two fences down. To add to the misery, John Whitaker, who had held the overnight lead on Heyman, clouted three fences for the worst British score.

While Britain plummeted from first to sixth, Germany made a smooth advance from overnight fourth to take up the lead, with all four riders - Lars Nieberg, Markus Beerbaum, Franke Sloothaak and Ludger Beerbaum - jumping clear in the opening round.

Though the Germans remained out of reach, the British team found themselves moving slowly, but surely, up in the placings during the second round. Lampard had 4.25 faults before Billington, visibly determined to prove his worth after a hapless start, jumped clear on It's Otto.

"His stop in the first round came totally out of the blue," Billington said. "Otto normally grabs the bridle and takes me into the first fence. When I realised it wasn't going to happen, it was too late to do anything about it." On his reappearance, Billington made quite sure that it did not happen again.

As other countries fell by the wayside Britain moved up, overtaking the United States, Brazil and the Netherlands to be certain of bronze. There was even a possibility of silver, but that hope was dashed by Thierry Pomel, the last of the French riders. He jumped Thor des Chaines to the clear round that left the French 1.21 ahead of Britain.

Willi Melliger, a member of the Swiss team who finished in fourth place, now holds the individual lead after two clear rounds yesterday on Calvaro V. He is ahead of the champion, Sloothaak, Pomel and another German, Beerbaum.

They would love to retain these places and so qualify for Sunday's individual final in which the leading four ride their own and each other's horses. But, judging from yesterday's constant shifting of fortunes, none of them can count on a place until the completion of tomorrow's two rounds, contested by the top 25.

It may be asking too much for Lampard, now lying 11th and best of the British, to reach the final. But she will not give up trying on Abbervail Dream, who made the major contribution to Britain's bronze medals.

At Pratoni del Vivaro, where drivers are competing with their four-horse teams, Ijsbrand Chardon of the Netherlands (winner of the world title in 1988 and 1992) holds the advantage at the end of the dressage.

As they go into today's marathon, Chardon leads with 33.67 penalties, closely followed by Hungary's Jozsef Bozsik (34.88) and Britain's George Bowman Snr (35.84). Bowman and his son, George Jnr, are in the British team which is now lying third.

WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES: Team show jumping (Rome) Final results: 1 Germany 25.19 faults; 2 France 37.36; 3 Great Britain 38.57; 4 Switzerland 45.98; 5 Brazil 46.64; 6 Netherlands 50.68; 7 Italy 50.88; 8 Ireland 51.76; 9 United States 52.54; 10 Canada 77.39. Individual positions (after second leg): 1 Calvaro V (W Melliger, Swit) 2.65 faults; 2 San Patrignano Joly (F Sloothaak, Ger) 6.14; 3 Thor des Chaines (T Pomel, Fr) 6.15; 4 Lady Weingard (M Beerbaum, Ger) 7.41; 5 E.T. (H Simon, Aut) 8.79; 6 Gandini Lianos (R Pessoa, Br) 8.92. GB: 11 Abbervail Dream (D Lampard) 12.9; 18 Virtual Village Hopes are High (N Skelton) 15.91; 23 Virtual Village It's Otto (G Billington) 18.16; 28 Virtual Village Heyman (J Whitaker) 20.75.

Driving (Horse teams at Pratoni del Vivaro) Positions after dressage phase: 1 I Chardon (Neth) 33.76 penalties; 2 J Bozsik (Hun) 34.88; 3 G Bowman Snr (GB) 35.84. Best of other GB scores: 12 G Bowman Jnr 44.16; 13 K Bassett 45.12. Teams: 1 Hungary 74.24pens; 2 Netherlands 75.68; 3= Great Britain, Sweden 80.00.