Caen, France—Aug. 31
World, meet Sandra Auffarth. Soft spoken and shy, she’s stood in the shadow of reigning world and Olympic champion Michael Jung for years. Sure she won individual silver at the 2011 European Championships and individual bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games for Germany, in addition to team gold at both events, but despite all that, she’s flown under the radar due to her wunderkind teammate.
But that’s all about to change now that she’s stolen the individual world championship crown from her compatriot. This time it was Auffarth who led the German juggernaut to another team gold with her flawless performance aboard Opgun Louvo, although Jung certainly helped by taking the individual silver with Fischerrocana FST.
Show jumping day dawned sunny for what felt like the first time in weeks. The event horses jogged up at Haras du Pin at 7:30 a.m. and then vanned the 1½ hour drive to the d’Ornano Stadium in Caen. There they rested briefly in bedded stalls before show jumping in front of a stadium filled with upwards of 20,000 fans.
The Germans took the lead after dressage and kept it throughout cross-country, although that was briefly in doubt as the ground jury argued about whether Ingrid Klimke had or had not incurred a runout at fence 7, Le Hamel, when FRH Escada JS bobbled jumping into the water. Klimke cleverly managed to stay in the tack and wend her way back to the option without crossing her track. They ultimately ruled in her favor, leaving Germany 8.9 points ahead of Britain going into show jumping.
And the Germans never gave the British a chance. Auffarth, Jung and Klimke all jumped clear rounds.
While Jung endured some good-natured ribbing about only finishing second, since he’s more accustomed to the top stand on the podium, he warmly congratulated his teammate.
“She was the last rider [on cross-country], and the ground was really not good, but she and the horse are a very good team,” he said. “They know each other. They have a big partnership. The show jumping today was perfect. So she’s world champion.
“It would be a really special and very fantastic thing to do the World Championships four years later with the same horse,” he said. “It’s a shame that I couldn’t do it with La Biosthetique Sam, but I’m really lucky that I have a really good second horse. Sandra was always under the top places, and she did a fantastic job this weekend.”
Auffarth herself was thrilled but modest. “I knew that he was good enough,” she said about Opgun Louvo, a 12-year-old Selle Francais she’s ridden since he was 5. “Every year in every competition he did an amazing job. But I didn’t think I could go to this World Games and be double world champion. It’s really amazing!”
Only Zara Phillips was able to leave all the poles in the cups over Didier Courreges’ challenging course for Great Britain, but they still retained their silver medal standing.
The real heartbreaker for Team GB came when top-ranked William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning had the second fence down, dropping from gold to bronze in an instant. “I am very pleased with Chilli Morning,” said Fox-Pitt of the 14-year-old Brandenburg stallion. “He’s gone really, really well. It’s frustrating that he had a fence down, of course it is, but I’m very lucky that he didn’t have two!”
The team silver became particularly meaningful due to the death of teammate Harry Meade’s Wild Lone after completing cross-country. “Obviously yesterday was a very difficult day, but I couldn’t have been with more supportive and better friends to get through such a difficult time,” said Meade. “The focus today was to go and do the best job we could as a team. What more fitting way to remember [Wild Lone] than with medals around our neck, and that’s what these guys managed to do.”
The surprise finish of the eventing competition was the Dutch bronze team medal, the first ever in eventing at a World Equestrian Games.
“I speak on behalf of all of us that it means more than we can imagine,” said an ebullient Andrew Heffernan. “We had one goal: to qualify for Rio. We’ve done that and an awful lot more. These three [Elaine Pen, Tim Lips and Merel Blom] have carried me to my first medal. I want to thank them.”
As the American team had been eliminated on cross-country, show jumping was more about individual redemption. Lynn Symansky had one rail down with Donner to finish 47th, Sinead Halpin took two on Manoir de Carneville for 38th, and Kim Severson put in a lovely clear with Fernhill Fearless to finish 23rd.
“I’m thrilled,” said Severson. “I know the horse can jump, it’s just a matter of me staying out of his way and putting him in the right direction. I got in his way once or twice, but he’s just amazing. He wants to do a good job, and he doesn’t want to touch the rails. He’s pretty cool.”
Boyd Martin was the best-placed American. Shamwari 4 just touched the rail behind in the first part of the triple to finish in eighth.
“He was a bit tired. I thought he jumped well,” said Martin. “He really put in a huge effort yesterday, so I’m still happy with one down. He’s probably the best thing I’ve ever ridden. He’s world class in every aspect and put in a fantastic result this weekend. I have a bit of time to get to know Shamwari before the next Olympics. I’ll go home and regroup and get back to work.
“The team result wasn’t that good obviously, but we have a good group of riders and wonderful new administration, so we can only go up from here,” he continued.
“It’s a learning curve,” added Severson. “That’s the thing everybody has to remember. We have had a tough time. We are in a severe learning curve. It will get better. We just have to build it from the ground up again. It will happen. We just have to be patient.”
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