Great Britain are facing the prospect of a first Olympics without an eventing team medal since 1996 after a miserable cross-country day in Rio.
All four team riders — William Fox-Pitt, Gemma Tattersall, Pippa Funnell and Kitty King — had run-outs and time faults and Britain dropped to seventh place going into Tuesday’s showjumping finale.
Fox-Pitt also saw his individual hopes dashed. Leader after dressage, he dropped 21 places on Chilli Morning. Altogether, Pierre Michelet’s course saw 16 combinations eliminated and two more retire.
Australia are on course for possible double gold, leading the team competition narrowly ahead of New Zealand, with France third and reigning Olympic champions Germany fourth, while Chris Burton tops the individual rakings ahead of Germany’s London-2012 gold medallist Michael Jung, with France’s Astier Nicolas third and 60-year-old twice-Olympic champion Mark Todd fourth.
There now looks no way back into medal territory for Britain, as they are a massive 91 penalties behind third-placed France.
Reflecting on his performance, Fox-Pitt said: “I had a very good round, it’s just annoying that I went past that third element. It was really unfortunate.
“It was my fault entirely. I went too quickly for him, and there was no way I could turn him, so he didn’t do anything wrong.
“He is great. He is a lovely horse, and to be riding him around the course is a luxury, so I’m sad I have wasted it a bit.
“It wasn’t a pleasurable course to ride, but this wasn’t a pleasurable day, it was a hard work day.
“Watching those first few horses, you could see it was asking tough questions all the way along and you could see most of them didn’t come up with the answers.”
Funnell added: “He (Billy The Biz) really battled hard. This course has worried me, right from the first walk, how big a track it was.
“It is probably out of character to the last Olympic courses we have seen, but he really took up my challenge.
“All I would say is there was nearly just one question too many on the course. It hasn’t gone our way today, and we feel really disappointed.”
the day was perhaps even harder for Tattersall and Quicklook V, who never really recovered from two early run-outs. “Unfortunately today, for whatever reason, she went very green,” Tattersall said.
“She jumped fence three absolutely enormously, and I think it frightened her a little bit. She then ran with her head up into fence four, and I had literally no steering — I completely lost my ability to steer.
“It was a very big, testing course and full of very tricky questions, I told my team-mates to be ready for anything.”
King, who was last to go for Team GB, had only compliments for Ceylor LAN: “He jumped brilliantly everywhere, he jumped up the step (fence 11) and I tried to get there on the three strides, but I didn’t quite make it.
“There are a lot of positives to take out of it, and he still did a great job. He jumped really well in the warm-up and felt fantastic and he felt brilliant over the first few fences. As soon as he jumped the first two, I thought we’re going to have a good ride, and we did.”
Christopher Burton and Santano II lead after the cross-country phase at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, by Arnd Bronkhorst, courtesy of the FEI