Equestrianism: Ahlmann benefits from Phillipaerts' late fault

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The Independent Online

A phenomenally expensive time-fault from Belgium's Ludo Phillipaerts in yesterday's final round of the European Show Jumping Championships left German riders, who had participated in their team's success two days earlier, in receipt of all three individual medals. Christian Ahlmann, at 28 the youngest of the trio, won the gold, with Ludger Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning taking silver and bronze respectively.

It had seemed an unlikely scenario after the first of yesterday's two rounds in which Ehning dropped from first to ninth with two mistakes on For Pleasure. Ahlmann and Beerbaum were not far ahead of him in sixth and seventh on Coster and Goldfever. But all three then put pressure on those above them by jumping clear in the decisive round. To the astonishment of those watching in the sweltering heat of the stands, the home riders moved relentlessly nearer their goal as others faltered.

Philippaerts, having taken the lead in the first round, nevertheless looked like halting the German advance - even when Parco dislodged a pole from the final fence - since he had four faults in hand. But he could not afford the single time-fault, which became a serious source of Belgian frustration by dropping him from first to fourth.

Beerbaum, who won the European title in 1997 and 2001, was "very surprised" by the German clean sweep. "But, with five riders to go, anything is possible," he said. Far from being disappointed at missing out on a third victory by a mere 0.04 faults, he expressed his delight in the success of Ahlmann, whom he trains.

Ahlmann was competing in his first senior championship, but had already been pinpointed as a future star by winning five successive team gold medals between 1990 and 1994 - the first three in Junior European Championships and the other two in the Young Riders' equivalent. He wore a slightly bemused smile as he emerged dripping from the water jump after his team mates had dunked him into it following the medal ceremony.

Irish hopes of a medal were extinguished when Kevin Babington, lying fourth after the first two legs, incurred a total of 13 faults in yesterday's two rounds to finish eleventh on Carling King. Britain's chances were already non-existent. Nick Skelton, lying 24th and the only Briton qualified to take part in yesterday's finale, withdrew Arko III before the start.

EUROPEAN SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS (Donaueschingen, Ger): Individual Championship: 1 Coster (C Ahlmann, Ger) 11.55 faults; 2 Goldfever (L Beerbaum, Ger) 11.59; 3 For Pleasure (M Ehning, Ger) 12.01; 4 Parco (L Philippaerts, Bel) 12.21; 5 H&M Butterfly Flip (M Baryard, Swe) 12.49; 6 Tepic La Silla (S Guerdat, Swit) 12.54; 7 Tlaloc (R Angot, Fr) 13.20; 8 Quilano de Kalverie (M Hecart, Fr) 15.44; 9 Dobel's Cento (O Becker, Ger) 15.73; 10 Pozitano (B Mandli, Swit) 18.48.

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