Four days after the London Olympics began, Germany have won their first gold medals. They captured victory in thrilling fashion in the equestrian sport of team eventing, and added an individual gold as well.
The Germans held off a determined British team and a surprisingly strong challenge from Sweden and New Zealand on Tuesday to secure the win in front of a packed crowd at Greenwich Park. Germany came into the final show-jumping phase of the three-day competition with a sizeable lead, meaning only a monumental collapse - or some spectacular riding by the rest of the field - would have cost them gold. But they nearly fell apart, after an uncharacteristically poor ride by Peter Thomsen.
An hour later, in individual eventing, Michael Jung secured Germany's second gold medal atop his horse Sam. Fellow German Sandra Auffarth took home bronze. Men and women compete against each other in equestrian events. With the win, Jung became the first person ever to hold the European, World, and Olympic titles at the same time.
Early on in team eventing, Auffarth, riding Opgun Louvo, put the Germans - who also won gold in 2008 - in command with a ride put her in fifth place individually to qualify her for the individual finals.
"My horse and I were both the same," Auffarth said later. "I did not worry because we have such a good relationship."
Jung put in a nearly perfect round, earning second overall. Later, Dirk Schrade had an almost equally flawless ride.
But the Germans looked like they could be in trouble after Thomsen's ride left him tied for 30th in the 53-rider field.
Britain soon took the lead after Zara Phillips - a relative of Queen Elizabeth and fourteenth in line to the British throne - and her horse High Kingdom produced a strong showing. Royals cheering her on included Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Anne and the newest royal, Kate Middleton. Phillips did have one fault, although her performance still qualified her for the individual eventing finals later Tuesday, where she placed eighth.
"I messed up and had to get on with it," Phillips told reporters and paparazzi who swarmed her. "[High Kingdom] is a good jumper and he couldn't get out of where I put him."
Ingrid Klimke, daughter of German riding legend Reiner Klimke, was the last rider of the competition. By earning eighth place individually, Klimke secured Germany's gold. She later withdrew from the individual eventing competition. Overall, Germany's won with 133.70 points to Britain's 138.20. Similar to golf, the lowest score in eventing wins. New Zealand was third, and Sweden fourth.
Germanywould also have won gold in team eventing at the 2004 Athens Games, but were disqualified after Bettina Hoy began her show-jumping round before the judges' starting bell.
Like team eventing, individual eventing offered a thrilling finish. After Jung and Auffarth's brilliant rides, the duo were atop the medal standings. But the last rider was Swede Sara Algotsson Ostholt, who recorded the highest score during the team competition which determines seeding in the individual final. Riding horse Wega, it looked like she would steal gold, until a fault on the final of 28 jumps. She took home silver.
Algotsson Ostholt's fault left Germans jumping for joy, having won two gold medals after a difficult start to the Olympics.
Jung told the AFP news agency he had not been aware of the significance of his performance before competing.
"I am really proud and there will be a party later," he added.
As if two gold medals weren't enough, Jung had another reason to celebrate Tuesday: it was his 30th birthday.
Author: Benjamin Mack
Editor: Matt Zuvela