Equestrianism: Germans leave victory to the last

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The Independent Online
ANKY VAN GRUNSVEN produced a record-breaking score of 1,819 points for the Netherlands during yesterday's second day of Grand Prix dressage at the World Equestrian Games here.

Her wonderful test on the chestnut stallion Olympic Bonfire gave the Germans an unusual cause for concern in the main stadium of the Zuiderpark. They faced the possibility of defeat for the first time in more than 20 years.

But Isabell Werth, the final German rider and last of all into the arena, soon reassured her compatriots. She needed a high score of at least 1,738pts for her country to retain the team title; she achieved 1,810pts.

The German team's only defeat in a world championship was back in 1970, when the Soviet Union were the winners. The Dutch will now be the threat to future German supremacy.

Despite high hopes - the result of winning silver medals in last year's European Championships - Britain could manage only seventh place yesterday. This was despite Emile Faurie's record British score of 1,635pts on Virtu, and an excellent debut for Jane Bredin, the newcomer to the team, on the rapidly improving Cupido.

The two remaining team members - Laura Fry on Quarryman and Ferdi Eilberg on Arun Tor - scored miserably low marks. Quarryman had been upset by a television camera on Thursday.

Yesterday, Arun Tor took exception to the same piece of equipment, which was positioned between two of the judges' boxes and much closer to the arena than appeared necessary.

At one point in Eilberg's test the cameraman walked towards the offending object, whereupon Arun Tor stopped and reared. He spooked virtually every time he went near the camera, which was a thoroughly dispiriting sight for British supporters.

Virtu took no notice of it at all. Faurie had ridden to the arena behind Bredin on Cupido, who gave him a lead in order to keep Virtu calm and relaxed. The bay gelding made a couple of minor mistakes (one of them when he trod in a hole and stumbled) but he retained his good rhythm and cadence to finish 10th in the individual standings, thus gaining a place in tomorrow's Grand Prix Special.

One judge, Nick Williams, had Virtu ahead of the defending champion Nicole Uphoff-Becker, who finished in overall third place. Her wonderful mount Rembrandt broke a leg last year when kicked by another horse and, not surprisingly, was never expected to compete again.

There will be two sets of individual medals this time - one in tonight's Freestyle To Music and the other in tomorrow's Special. Riders had a choice as to which of these two they would prefer to contest: Van Grunsven opted for the Freestyle, Werth and Uphoff- Becker for the set test of the Special.

Each contest involves 12 finalists. Bredin, who finished 12th on the list of riders who were aiming for the Freestyle, therefore gets another chance to prove the potential of her 10-year-old horse, who had not competed in a Grand Prix event until January this year.

WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES (The Hague): Dressage Grand Prix: Team championship: 1 Germany 5,269pts; 2 The Netherlands 5,196; 3 USA 4,787; 4 France 4,633; 5 Italy 4,616; 6 Sweden 4,614; 7 Great Britain 4,578; 8 Switzerland 4,556. Individual placings: 1 Olympic Bonfire (A van Grunsven, Neth) 1,819pts; 2 Gigolo (I Werth, Ger) 1,810; 3 Rembrandt (N Uphoff-Becker, Ger) 1,742. British: 10 Virtu (E Faurie) 1,635; 27 Cupido (J Bredin) 1,534; 54 Quarryman (L Fry) 1,409; 58 Arun Tor (F Eilberg) 1,350.

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