William Fox-Pitt couldn’t afford a single rail to claim his first World Championship with Chilli Morning, and the final outcome was ultimately decided in a split second when they took a rail at the very first fence, leading to a shocked and elated gasp from the large German contingent in the crowd. Sandra Auffarth, who jumped a clear round just before William with her London individual bronze medallist Opgun Louvo, ultimately triumphed, giving us a fresh, new face at the top of the sport — and some girl power to boot!
After yesterday’s grueling cross-country track, we expected a number of rails to fall, and that proved to be true, with pairs who managed a clear round — or even just one rail — shooting up the leaderboard. Michael Jung nearly won another WEG gold medal on his reserve horse thanks to a clear round with the 9-year-old mare fischerRocana FST, and the clear round put them in silver medal position by just .3 penalty points. How’s that for a close finish?
But the Germans have every reason to be smiling tonight, having clinched team gold for the second major championship in a row. And they accomplished that feat by a 20.9-penalty margin — a good number considering Ingrid Klimke’s controversial trip through the first water complex yesterday is still a hot topic. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that the officials flip-flopped more times than we can count on whether Ingrid ultimately was clean through the water. Even if she had been given those 20 penalties, Germany would have won gold by .9 points.
Indeed, the British team struggled a bit at d’Ornano stadium, pulling a total of three rails between their remaining team riders after the tragic loss of Wild Lone yesterday. But after what the team has faced in the past 24 hours, a team silver medal must taste incredibly sweet tonight, and watching Harry Meade accept his medal on foot — without his beloved partner “Alf” — was enough to make even the stern security guards at the stadium shed a tear.
It’s also an emotional night in the Team USA camp, though for a different reason. Boyd Martin and Shamwari 4 pulled one rail to finish eighth individually — click here for his comments on the round — which is something we can smile about. Kim Severson also jumped a wonderful clear round with Fernhill Fearless. But the fact that Team USA didn’t secure a top-six finish to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is the elephant in the room.
For the Canadians, Peter Barry’s beautiful clear round with Kilrodan Abbott — one of just five all day — will serve as a highlight that will hopefully help them keep their chins up tonight. Selena O’Hanlon and Jessica Pavarotti both pulled four rails, dashing their hopes of finishing sixth and qualifying for Rio, which sets the stage for a battle at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, where the victor will punch a ticket to Brazil.
In contrast, the Dutch team rose to the occasion in the final hour, with the team dropping just two rails between their three riders to ultimately clinch bronze medal position. Elaine Pen cried bittersweet tears in the awards ceremony, as her father, who is sadly no longer with us, could not be there to watch her accomplish what she had dreamed of achieving for so long.
And that sentiment sums up the type of week it’s been in Normandy — the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. But isn’t that what eventing is all about? We have so much more to bring you from WEG — Chinch broke the internet and we were offline for about an hour, but that’s just par for the course at #ArmageddonWEG — so stay tuned. Thank you so much for following along with us this week. Go Eventing.