Equestrianism: King delivers team title to Britain

Genevieve murphy reports from Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy
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The Independent Online
Britain won the team contest at the European Open Three-Day Event Championships here yesterday, with Lucy Thompson taking the individual gold medal for Ireland after a fraught show jumping phase.

Like Peter Charles, who won the European title for show jumping a week earlier, Thompson was born in England and now rides for Ireland. She had produced wonderful dressage and cross-country performances with Ginny Elliott's former mount, Welton Romance, before the mare made her only error when scattering poles off the fifth of 12 show jumps.

Thompson, riding on her first senior team, kept her cool. Another mistake would have cost her the gold medal but she went clear the rest of the way to win with 3.75pts in hand from France's Marie-Christine Duroy on Ut du Placineau and Britain's Mary King on King William. This was the first time that any of the three women had won an individual medal at a senior championship - and the first time that Ireland had won the title since Eddie Boylan triumphed in 1967.

As in The Hague where Britain won the world team title last year, victory for the Britons depended on the bay gelding, King William. The horse jumped his usual splendid cross-country round on Saturday, but his reputation for clobbering coloured poles left everyone's nerves jangling - with the exception of Mary King who rode him.

King has learnt to be philosophical about the horse's show jumping. After a clear round from William Fox-Pitt on Cosmopolitan II and a single error from Kristina Gifford on Midnight Blue, King could afford three mistakes without the team being defeated. William dislodged only two rails, dropping King down one place in the individual standings but regaining the team title, which Britain has now won for the 14th time since the contest began in 1953.

The New Zealanders, debarred from these championships until they became "open" this year, were not eligible for European medals. France therefore took the team silver and Ireland collected the bronze. It was a complicated formula, which needs to be reviewed, but the presence of non-European countries added zest to the competition.

The Australian team had been lying third after the cross-country until dropping out of contention when two of their horses failed yesterday morning's inspection. The United States went out when David O'Connor's Custom Made was eliminated in the show jumping.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 24