Olympic Games: Equestrianism: Faulty start by British riders

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The Independent Online
Britain's prospects of an individual show jumping medal faded yesterday when all three riders had four faults in the first round of the individual competition at the Georgian International Horse Park.

Although they have all qualified for the second round they have little hope of a medal because no fewer than 10 competitors went clear in the first round, and there will almost certainly be a jump-off for the top placings.

Nick Skelton's four faults came at the water where Show Time just missed clearing the tape - her third successive fault at the water at these games.

John Whitaker also repeated his Nations Cup performance on Welham by knocking down, for the third time in succession, the last fence on the course, and Geoff Billington, last of the British riders to go, brought down fence eight, an upright with a ditch, when It's Otto caught it with his stifle.

"It was just bad luck," Billington said afterwards. "If I had to ride it again I wouldn't do anything different."

Billington, who would have preferred a bigger track for his horse, said the going was fine despite the heavy rain overnight which had made the arena resemble a beach just after the tide had gone out.

The time allowed had been increased because of the terrible wet going and not one competitor collected time faults. Clear rounds had come from both the German contenders Ulrich Kirchhoff and Lars Nieberg, although the favourite for the gold medal, Ludger Beerbaum, who won the individual title in Barcelona had to withdraw before the start of the competition because his brilliant mare Ratina had pulled a ligament.

Switzerland were the only other nation to have two riders clear in the first round - Willi Melliger and Urs Fah. The Netherlands' Jan Tops, the 1991 European champion and a member of the Dutch gold medal team in Barcelona, was also clear on Top Gun.

Ireland's hopes of success rested with Peter Charles, who was clear on Beneton. Alvaro Miranda Neto (Brazil), Martin Bauer (Austria), Fernando Sarasola (Spain) and Herve Godignon (France) made up the 10 clear rounds, and there 15 competitors on four faults all of whom qualified for the second round.

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