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Culture

Happy Ending for German Equestrians

Germany won gold in the team equestrian three-day event -- then they were stripped of the medal and demoted to fourth position, before being reinstated as Olympic champions.

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It's been an interesting ride for the German equestrian team

Going into the final day of the three-day equestrian competition, the German quintet was trailing the first-ranked French team. But after a strong performance by Bettina Hoy on Ringwood Cockatoo, the German riders managed to pull ahead with just 133.80 penalty points to France's 140.40.

But before the German team of Hoy, Hinrich Romeike, Frank Ostholt, Andreas Dibowski and Ingrid Klimke could take to the podium, the silver medallists had protested the results. France claimed, Hoy had violated the regulations during her first jump on Wednesday by crossing the starting line twice. The jury responded and penalized Hoy 12 points, forcing the German team to drop in its overall standing to fourth place, behind the new second-place Britain and third-place US team.
An organizer's statement said at the time, The change of the result is due to a wrong start procedure, which has been confirmed by the jury."

Victory at the judge's table

But in a competition that is largely determined on the judge's table, the German team quickly appealed the decision. Less than an hour later, the technical staff re-instated the German gold saying, the time clock should have clicked on when Hoy first crossed the starting line for a final warm-up before circling again across the start in full steam when the clock did eventually turn on.

A second statement by the organizers clarified the situation: "The appeal committee concluded that the countdown (at the start) had been re-started resulting in a clear injustice to the rider concerned. The committee therefore removed the time penalties."

German officials applauded the decision as fair. If the clock had initially turned on when she crossed the starting line in warm-up, she would have continued much faster, they said.

Two-time gold

Bettina Hoy

Germany's Bettina Hoy won the individual event

For the 41-year-old German rider, who trains in England, the unusual circumstances and the rollercoaster of emotions surrounding the team event had little effect on her individual outcome.

After coming out third in dressage on Monday and putting in a near flawless cross-country ride on Tuesday to rise to second position, Hoy brushed aside the hiccup from the team event and went on to turn out a solid show jumping performance Wednesday night. With just 41.6 penalty points, Hoy came out ahead of the British rider Leslie Law with 44.4 and the American Kimberly Severson with 45.2 points.

Hoy is the first German since Ludwig Stubbendorff in 1936 to win double gold in the three-day riding event, often called the "equestrian triathlon."

"I couldn't have imagined this in my wildest dreams," Hoy said after she heard she won gold in the individual competition and the German gold in the team event was re-instated.

The Australian connection

Bettina Hoy mit Goldmedaillen

Will Bettina Hoy be able to keep any of her medals?

Bettina Hoy was not the only one delighted with Wednesday's outcome. Her Australian husband and three-time Olympic gold medallist Andrew Hoy celebrated with her. After falling off his horse during Tuesday's cross-country leg of the three-day event, Mr. Hoy stood on the sidelines and cheered his wife on.

And the horse, a 13-year-old Australian-bred gelding. Ringwood Cockatoo had been Mr. Hoy's horse before he handed it over to his wife last year, because he didn't get along with the powerful gray.

When asked if she felt guilty about winning on her husbands horse, Bettina Hoy -- whose name was Bettina Overesch when she won a bronze in 1984 for West Germany -- said she felt no need to apologize. "He had the horse before and they didn't like each other," she responded, saying that Ringwood Cockatoo had a particularly sensitive nature and needed the nurture she provided him.

As to the rivalry with her husband, who had hoped to bring home a gold for Australia in the same event his wife won, Bettina Hoy simply said, "I was very, very pleased. It worked out perfectly today."