Germany withdraw over `risky' ground

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The Independent Online
Equestrianism

GENEVIEVE MURPHY

reports from St Gallen

Germany, the holders of both team and individual world titles, have pulled out of the European Show Jumping Championships which are still waiting to get under way here on the rain sodden ground. The cancellation of Thursday's opening speed contest was followed by the postponement of yesterday's two-round competition, now scheduled to take place today.

The Germans, however, did not wait to see whether yesterday's warm sunshine would dry out the ground that has been made soggy by several weeks of heavy rain. "For two years we have geared ourselves towards the Olympic Games in Atlanta," Herbert Meyer, the German team trainer, said. "We do not share the organisers' confidence in the ground and consider the risk to the horses too great in view of Atlanta."

Meyer insisted that his decision was not influenced by memories of 1987 when the last European Championships were held here, also on wet ground.

But neither had he forgotten that Deister, with whom Paul Schockemohle was bidding for his fourth consecutive European title, sustained a serious tendon injury on that occasion. Ronnie Massarella, the British team manager, will wait to see what the state of the ground is this morning before deciding whether his riders will compete. He felt that he owed it to the organisers to leave his decision until then.

Hopes were rising in yesterday's sunshine. Nick Skelton, who had been ready to pack up and go home on Thursday, thought that two legs of the competition (today's team championship and tomorrow's individual final) would take place. "The ground won't be perfect, but if it keeps drying it should be all right," he said.

Two insignificant contests were held yesterday and, though riders said that the soft going made the fences feel 10 centimetres higher than they were, the ground did not cut up badly. William Funnell, the only British rider to jump, hit the first fence on Stop the Music and pulled out after the second. The ground had not felt too bad.

The Irish riders, who are hoping to qualify for the Olympics in today's team contest, will be under more pressure than most to compete. The Spaniards, now trained by David Broome, also came here with the intention of gaining an Olympic place and they, too, will be reluctant to pull out.

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