Equestrianism: Britain's gold from William the conqueror: Thomson and her sturdy steed steady British team's nerves and win victory in three-day event

Click to follow
THE British team regained the World Equestrian Games three-day event title after yesterday's final show jumping phase in the sticky heat of the Zuiderpark's main stadium. But there was a long, tense wait before the gold medals, which they last won in 1986, were in safe keeping.

The individual title went to New Zealand's Vaughn Jefferis on Bounce, who won by just 1.2 penalty points from Dorothy Trapp, of the United States, on Molokai. Britain's Karen Dixon moved up from overnight fourth to take the bronze medal on her wonderfully consistent 14-year-old, Get Smart. Dixon would have been the silver medallist but for a late-falling pole on the final fence.

But it was the team victory that mattered most to the four women riders, who had sown the seeds of victory when they all went clear on Saturday's cross-country. Astonishingly, three of the New Zealand team - Blyth Tait, Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson - did not. All three had a fall and Tait, the defending champion, retired at the sixth fence.

The United States had been lying second overnight, but two of their horses were withdrawn yesterday morning. Their departure gave the British team some extra leeway, but there was still concern as to whether it would be enough. The show jumping reputation of King William, then lying second and the best of the British, did not inspire great confidence.

The French were now the only serious threat. They started with two clear rounds, from the glamourous Marie-Christine Duroy and Jean Teulere. Both Britain's first two riders, Kristina Gifford on General Jock and Charlotte Bathe on The Cool Customer, made a single error - so did the French European champion, Jean-Lou Bigot. Had that last pole not fallen for Dixon, the team victory would have been secure no matter how many fences King William clouted.

Thomson had six errors with the horse at the 1992 Olympics and another six at Badminton last year. Yesterday she could afford to have four down. 'When the second one fell, I was saying, 'Come on William, please God let him do it',' Thomson said. There were no further errors. She had missed an individual medal to finish fourth, but the team had won and her ecstatic arm-waving proved that the British triumph was what mattered most to her.

Jefferis moved up from third - overtaking Thomson and the overnight leader, Prue Cribb from Australia, whose Navarone lowered three jumps - to win the individual gold medal. A Kiwi victory had been anticipated, but Todd and Tait were the names associated with that forecast.

Jefferis was, however, third at Badminton this year so he had already proved his own ability and that of his 10-year-old New Zealand thoroughbred, Bounce. Trapp, the silver medallist, believes that her much-loved Molokai is the greatest horse in all the world, and she frequently said so.

There had been rumours that Jefferis was due to sell Bounce immediately after the competition - possibly to an American owner. According to Jefferis, now based in England, no decision has yet been made. 'I'd love to keep the horse, but it all depends on finance,' he said. 'I have to make up my mind before I go home to New Zealand in September.'

Emile Faurie just missed winning a dressage medal for Britain when he finished fourth in yesterday's Grand Prix Special on Virtu. He was, however, well behind the two leading contenders from Germany - Isabell Werth on Gigolo and Nicole Uphoff-Becker on Rembrandt. Two judges had both horses equal, another two put Rembrandt in front. The fifth judge, Nick Williams, awarded Gigolo 17 points more than the Olympic champion, which decided the issue in Werth's favour.

WORLD GAMES (The Hague) Speed and endurance phase: 1 GB 178.80pts; 2 US 193.80; 3 France 208.20. Individual: 1 Navarone (P Cribb, Aus) 53.80; 2 King William (M Thomson, GB) 54.80; 3 Bounce (V Jefferis, NZ) 55.60; 4 Get Smart (K Dixon, GB) 55.80; 5 Molokai (D Trapp, US) 56.80; 6 Cyna (P Pantsu, Fin) 60.80.

Three-Day Event (final standings) individual: 1 Bounce (V Jefferis, NZ) 55.6 penalties; 2 Molokai (D Trapp, US) 56.8; 3 Get Smart (K Dixon, GB) 60.8; 4 King William (M Thomson, GB) 64.8; 5 Cyna (P Pantsu, Fin) 65.8; 6 Twist la Beige (J-L Bigot, Fr) 67.2. Other British: 12 The Cool Customer (C Bathe) 73.2; 17 General Jock (K Gifford) 81.8; 22 Troubleshooter (H Bell, individual) 93.4. Teams: 1 Great Britain 198.8; 2 France 213.2; 3 Germany 279.6; 4 Australia 289.8; 5 Ireland 305.6; 6 New Zealand 391.8. Dressage (Grand Prix Special): 1 Gigolo (I Werth, Ger) 1605pts; 2 Rembrandt (N Uphoff-Becker, Ger) 1592; 3 Dondolo (S Rothenberger, Neth) 1495. Best Briton: 4 Virtu (E Faurie) 1469. Dressage (Freestyle to music): 1 Olympic Bonfire (A van Grunsven, Neth) 83.08pts; 2 Goldstern (K Balkenhol, Ger) 82.4; 3 Donnerhall (K Rehbein, Ger) 77.07. Best Briton: 11 Cupido (J Bredin) 67.72.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments