Michael Jung on way to make Europeans history

 

 

Michael Jung is on course to make history with a record fourth European title and the German team has a clear advantage over Great Britain after a thrilling day’s cross country action.

The German team is on course for another rich medal haul on home turf at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championship at Luhmühlen (GER).

 

      Michael Jung and fischerChipmunk FST          Photo: Oliver Hardt/Getty Images for FEI

 

Brilliant cross country performances by Michael Jung (GER) on new ride fischerChipmunk FST and defending champion Ingrid Klimke (GER) with the evergreen SAP Hale Bob OLD, who are in individual gold and silver medal positions, ensured the hosts retained their lead over defending champions Great Britain. They now have a three-rail advantage over their rivals going into tomorrow’s final Jumping phase.

“fischerChipmunk is a fantastic horse,” said Jung (37), who was visibly thrilled, but refusing to get ahead of himself by envisaging a record fourth individual European title. “Today was a great feeling. We went a bit fast at the beginning so I slowed down but he was always ahead of the time and it was a great feeling around the course everywhere. It was so nice to see so many people here supporting our sport.”

Klimke, 51, described her round as “pure fun – I felt like a passenger”

 

      Ingrid Klimke on SAP Hale Bob              Photo: Oliver Hardt/Getty Images for FEI

 

“For sure there was pressure. Hans Melzer [team manager] said to me ‘Don’t pat your horse until you get to the finish line’ because sometimes when I am so thrilled, I pat him all the time. I say, ‘Bobby you are my hero’, so I wanted to really focus. He really loves cross country. It’s his job and he loves it”

A cluster of early riders, notably British and Irish pathfinders Pippa Funnell (Majas Hope, 21st) and Ciaran Glynn (November Night, 23rd), made Mike Etherington-Smith’s beautifully presented, flowing course look easy, but there was plenty of drama. There were 44 clear rounds, 22 horses came home inside the optimum time of 10 minutes 10 seconds, and a total of 20 of the 71 Cross Country starters remain on their dressage score - but all nations had their difficult moments and this made for a thrilling day’s sport.

“Majas Hope is an absolute machine. I have to thank his owner Marek Sebestak" said Pippa Funnell afterwards " I knew the importance of being the first out, but once you get out there that goes because you’re so focused on doing your job – watching the clock and making sure you don’t make silly errors.”

 

       Kai Ruder and Colani Sunrise                        Photo: Oliver Hardt/Getty Images for FEI

 

Kai Ruder, second out for Germany, stayed admirably calm when Colani Sunrise inexplicably refused to go into the start box, which cost the pair 16 time penalties, and Britain’s third starter, Kristina Cook, had an expensive run-out with Billy The Red at the skinny brush fence exiting the second water (12c).

“I was having a super ride,” said Cook sadly, “but he’s an experienced horse and I can’t make excuses. At the moment I am just very disappointed, for me and for the whole team.”

Ireland’s Sam Watson will also be kicking himself after crossing his tracks at the bird fence in the final water (20b) with Tullaberg Flamenco. Italy’s anchorwoman Vittoria Panizzon (Super Cilious) incurred 11 penalties for hitting the frangible gate at 10a and Belgian pathfinder Laura Loge on Absolut Allegro fell at the Rathaus fence (17) in the main arena.

Laura Collett (GBR), third after Dressage, was “gutted” to part company with London 52 after a mis-stride before the influential carved bird at the final water. Four others fell here and Dutch pathfinder Merel Bloom (Chiccolino) retired.

“He just got a bit confused with so many twists and turns at that point and he didn’t stand a chance,” Laura said “I know he’s a superstar – he’s never seen a track like this and he’s got a great future ahead of him.”

Jung, who has never been out of the individual medals in five European Championships, does not have a fence in hand over his compatriot Klimke. In turn, she has no margin for error over Lühmuhlen first-timer Lt Col Thibaut Vallette (FRA), who rode superbly on the 15-year-old Qing de Briot – coincidentally this is the same final rider line-up as at Blair Castle (GBR) in 2015.

“My horse was wonderful, I am so happy. I could ride all direct lines of this very challenging course which was perfect for my horse” said Thibaut

 

       Thibaut De Vallette and Qing de Briot                            Photo: Oliver Hardt/Getty Images for FEI

 

The cost of one Jumping rail covers the next seven: Tim Lips (NED), currently fourth on Bayro, Oliver Townend, who restored Britain’s fortunes with a perfectly judged round on Cooley Masterclass SRS, in fifth, Ireland’s Cathal Daniels, sixth on his super mare Rioghan Rua, French individual Christopher Six (Totem de Brecy, seventh), Italian team member Pietro Roman (Barraduff, eighth), British team member Piggy French (Quarrycrest Echo, ninth) and British individual Kitty King, 10th on Vendredi Biats.

“When you’re riding for your country, you want to do the best you can" said Piggy "I feel so lucky to be on a team with Pippa [Funnell] and Tina [Cook]. I joke with them that they were my heroes growing up, but they’re such great friends now. I have so much respect for them and it’s such an honour to be with these sporting legends.”

Kitty was delighted with the young horse Vendredi Biats “He felt great, a bit hairy in places but that’s to be expected. He kept jumping and looking for the flags. I watched the first few go and wasn’t feeling overly confident – but then I watched the rest of the team go round and they gave me a good boost.”

The team’s anchor rider Oliver Townend was under pressure to perform – only a clear round inside the 10 minutes and 10 seconds time allowance would be enough to keep the team in silver medal position. However, he and Angela Hislop’s Cooley Master Class kept their cool to add another faultless round to the Team GBR scorecard. He blew the crowd a kiss as he crossed the finishing line, and said afterwards: “You gallop round the course, and you see the people waving the Union flags. You don’t know them from Adam and yet they make the effort to come out here and support us. You hear your name being shouted and that’s a special feeling.”

The team medals are equally close: Britain has nothing in hand over the French team, which only has a one-fence advantage over Italy. The Italians, currently in bronze medal position, have no margin over Sweden – both nations are seeking Olympic qualification – and Ireland is a mere 2.2 penalties behind the Swedes in sixth place.

 

      Piggy French and Quarrycrest Echo                     Photo: Oliver Hardt/Getty Images for FEI

 

“I think it was a really great day for the sport and for us in Luhmühlen,” said Event Director Julia Otto. “I would like to thank my whole team - they are just amazing the way they work.”

"We have seen some spectacular riding and some great decisions by people who may be riding at this level for the first time today," Course Designer Mike Etherington-Smith (GBR) commented.

"I didn’t expect quite so many to get the time, but when you have great weather like this with excellent footing, it happens, but it could have been pouring with rain and, in my view, you have to prepare a course for all weather. It's all about achieving a standard, so full marks to everyone. For me, it's been a fascinating day. There’s always something new to learn, and if you think you know it all you might as well give up."

Current results HERE

 

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