Matthew Ryan, 28, in the lead on Kibah Tic Toc after Wednesday's cross-country, sealed his country's triumph in both departments by jumping a cool round under extreme pressure. Memories of his five fences down at Badminton this year had not unnerved him; this time his only error came at the last fence and it made not a jot of difference to the outcome.
Yesterday morning, when Ian Stark's challenge ended with the depressing sight of Murphy Himself failing the horse inspection, New Zealand had 32.8 penalties in hand from Australia and were odds-on favourite for the team gold. Until Murphy's sad departure, through an injury to his off- fore fetlock, Britain had been less than 10 penalties - the cost of two show jumping errors - behind the Kiwis, and a tense final battle was anticipated. But Britain then had to count the score of Richard Walker and Jacana, who had incurred 80 penalties for a refusal and fall on the cross-country. That dropped the British from second to sixth place and put the chance of a team medal beyond reach.
Mary Thomson, lying fourth individually on King William, was in a position to salve some British pride. But she went through the same painful experience Ryan had suffered at Badminton when the horse clobbered five fences, which dropped her to ninth place. Karen Dixon, who finished sixth, ended up with the best British placing.
'Show jumping has always been William's weakness, and mine,' Thomson said. 'He was very strong in the cross-country and it was the same in the show jumping. I suppose he enjoyed the Olympics too much.'
New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson, lying second overnight, had an even worse time than Thomson. His partner scattered poles around the arena when incurring 45 penalties for nine mistakes, which pushed his team back to second and dropped him to 16th.
Germany's Herbert Blocker moved up to fill Nicholson's place and received the individual silver medal on Feine Dame. Blyth Tait, New Zealand's world champion whose hopes of an individual medal seemed to have gone with Messiah's misbehaviour in the dressage on Tuesday, made a dramatic move to take the bronze medal. He had been 69th after the dressage before progressing to eighth in the cross- country and jumping clear yesterday to finish third.
Australia's last gold medals for three-day eventing were won in 1960, when they also triumphed in the team and individual. Laurie Morgan was their champion then; Ryan, who triumphed here, would not have qualified for the Olympics had he not been allowed a last-minute place at Badminton in May, where he needed to jump in order to qualify.