Equestrianism: European title for Beerbaum

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The Independent Online
Ludger Beerbaum captured the individual European title for Germany amid scenes of jubilation here yesterday after the two rounds of the third and final leg of the European Show Jumping Championships were completed in front of packed stands.

The German rider won from Hugo Simon, but the Austrian may lose his silver medal after the startling disclosure that an injection was administered to his mount, E.T., between the two rounds yesterday. The used syringe was confiscated and will be sent to the laboratory for analysis before any penalty is imposed. Should Simon forfeit his silver medal, it will go to Switzerland's Willi Melliger and his Olympic silver medallist, Calvaro.

There were no slurs over Beerbaum and the wonderfully agile little mare, Sprehe Ratina, who became the only pair to be clear in all five rounds of this demanding contest, in which they held the lead after last Thursday's opening leg and never reliquished it.

Beerbaum rates Ratina as the best horse he has ever ridden - "and maybe the best in the world today". The mare has a formidable record, having won team gold and individual silver medals for the Netherlands in the 1992 Olympics when ridden by Piet Raymakers, before Beerbaum took her over. Since then she has won team gold at the 1994 World Games and the 1996 Olympics, plus the 1993 World Cup final and her two European golds here.

British hopes of adding to the team bronze medals they won on Friday had always looked remote. In the end Geoff Billington was the best of them when finishing 10th on Virtual Village It's Otto, who was clear in yesterday's first round and had just one mistake in the second.

Robert Smith slipped back to 12th with Senator Tees Hanauer, who hit the planks in the first round before lowering two fences over the second course. He did better than John and Michael Whitaker, for so long the stalwarts of the team, who both withdrew when out of contention.

Next year's World Equestrian Games have been allocated to Italy. They will be split between two established venues - the Piazza di Siena, home of the annual Rome Horse Show, and Pratoni del Vivaro, about 25 miles south, where at least one three-day event is held each year. The World Games were to take place in Ireland next August, but organisers ackowledged that the finincial problems were insoluble. They will now change to different dates, from late September to 11 October, to avoid the Rome summer.

It is hard to see the British being much of a force to be reckoned with there unless they can find some top-class horses. Far from acquiring any potential stars so far, they have lost one with the sale of Nick Skelton's Tinka's Boy to Switzerland. The eight-year-old stallion, with whom Skelton won a big class at Windsor this year and jumped a double clear round in the Spanish Nations Cup at Gijon, is due to be ridden by the Swiss Olympic rider, Markus Fuchs.

Results, Digest, page 23

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