Equestrianism: Home hopes denied by Norway's rising star

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The Independent Online

Geir Gulliksen continued the Norwegian ascent up the equestrian ladder with an opening day victory here at the British Open Show Jumping Championships.

His mount was 15-year-old Lord Z, with whom he was runner-up at the inaugural British Open which was held at Sheffield in 2003. He sold the horse for big money before buying him back last autumn. Gulliksen's 16-year-old daughter, Victoria, will take over the ride later this month.

Nick Skelton had opened yesterday's jump-off with a swift clear round on the grey stallion Russel, but hopes that this might be good enough for victory were soon obliterated when Gulliksen was 1.1sec faster. Mark Armstrong slotted into second place on Laveletto pushing Skelton back to third.

The Norwegians have been buying expensive horses (among them Pilgrim II, formerly ridden for Britain by David McPherson) and they are now fully focused on this year's Olympic Games for which they qualified last summer. Gulliksen's has an Olympic possible in Lespoir who will be in action here today.

Another overseas visitor, Germany's Heinrich Engemann, won the earlier Birmingham City Shield on Late Night. Home riders had also filled second and third places through Robert Whitaker and Paul Barker.