OLYMPIC GAMES: Equestrianism: Kirchhoff is the individual champion

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Germany's Ulrich Kirchhoff won the individual gold showjumping medal at Georgia's International Horse Park yesterday after a dramatic contest in which seven riders - including Britain's Geoff Billington - had to jump off for the silver and bronze medal positions.

Kirchhoff, 28, who was riding the Belgian-bred stallion Jus de Pommes, won the competition outright in the second round by being the only rider of the 10 who had gone clear in the first round to jump another clear. Although he collected one time fault it made no difference to the result.

Willi Melliger of Switzerland took the silver and France's Alexandra Ledermann with Rochet M the bronze after a jump-off against the clock for the seven riders who had finished the two rounds on four faults. With the temperature by now in the nineties and the humidity high, Melliger and Ledermann were the only two competitors to go clear, and the Swiss won the silver by virtue of his faster time on the big-striding grey gelding Calvaro.

Billington, who had reached the jump-off after a clear in the second round (he had four faults in the first) missed his chance of a medal when It's Otto hit an upright over a ditch - exactly the same fence that he had knocked down in the first round.

There was disappointment too for Britain's Nick Skelton and John Whitaker, who had both been unlucky to collect four faults in the first round. Like Billington, Whitaker produced a brilliant clear in the second round but, as he came over the last fence, he realised he was close to the time allowed and had to gallop for the finish. His horse Welham crossed the line just seventh-hundredths of a second over the time which meant that Whitaker narrowly missed an opportunity to jump off for the silver and bronze medals.

Skelton, who had faulted at the water for the third successive time, also failed to reach the jump-off when Show Time had three fences down in the second round.

Germany's victory, its fourth equestrian gold medal at these Games, came despite Ludger Beerbaum (the 1992 individual gold medallist) having to withdraw his talented mare Ratina before the start of the individual competition because of a pulled ligament.