In the end, Piet Raymakers won the silver medal for the Netherlands and Norman Dello Joio took the bronze for the United States, leaving Britain without a single equestrian medal as the Games drew to a close.
The first drama of the day came from the weather. Gale force winds blew fences down before the contest started; torrential rain then left the sand arena under pools of water. The start was twice delayed and a further postponement would have been order since early contenders had to cope with heavy rain, thunder and lightning.
Jos Lansink, whom Beerbaum had tipped as the likely winner, was a victim of the atrocious conditions. The Dutchman's horse, Egano, may have been blinded by the rain when he refused at the eighth fence and then threw in the towel, stopping twice more for elimination.
The early competitors had slapped through large puddles as though riding on the seashore, but the surface water had virtually disappeared by the time the three British finalists jumped in sunshine.
Michael Whitaker, the first of the trio, had two fences down on Monsanta before his brother, John, went clear on Milton to a tumult of applause.
Tim Grubb, the last of the British finalists, retired after a dramatic mishap in which Denizen hit the sixth fence, landed on his knees and took five strides with his nose on the ground before keeling over.
Only four horses finished without faults over the first round: Milton and the three eventual medal winners - Beerbaum's Classic Touch, Raymakers' Ratina and Dello Joio's Irish. Whitaker felt that Milton was on top form and there was a quiet air of confidence about him.
Michael Whitaker had incurred twelve faults in the second round before his brother, John, reappeared. Milton fluted over the first three fences, but he stumbled as he landed over the first part of the double at fence four and had no chance of jumping the second element. Whitaker had to turn him to the left, thus incurring three faults for a run-out.
'I think Milton frightened himself when he stumbled, he'd lost his confidence a bit,' Whitaker said, after the horse had lowered three subsequent fences to finish a disappointing 14th.
Dello Joio then made sure of a medal with 4.75 faults on Irish before Raymakers jumped a clear round on the mare, Ratina, only to finish with a quarter fault for exceeding the tight time by a split second.
Beerbaum and the eight-year-old Classic Touch (another mare and the German's mount when winning the Grand Prix at the Horse of the Year Show last October) was left to win the gold medal with a clear round that was well within the time allowed.
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