London 2012 gold medallist Michael Jung successfully defended his title at the Rio Olympics. The German rider and his trusty partner, Sam FBW put in a faultless performance: they first jumped a clear in the team competition that earned Germany the silver medal, then had another superb round in the individual final to claim gold ahead of France’s Astier Nicolas — who had won team gold a couple of hours earlier — and the USA’s Phillip Dutton.
Sam, with whom Jung had campaigned in London, was a last-minute replacement for his original Rio ride, FischerTakinou, who came down with an infection in July. But this didn’t remotely faze the German rider. Despite a shaky start in the dressage, which saw him end the phase in fifth place, he kept his eyes firmly trained on the gold medal—until he got it.
When last-to-go Jung entered the arena for the individual final today, he knew he had more than 7 penalties in hand because runner-up Nicolas had incurred six in his own round. But the German champion didn’t need to tap into this advantage, thanks to a superb round that saw him finish on his dressage score of 40.9.
Jung was one of only five riders that jumped a double clear today, alongside Australia’s Sam Griffiths, Ireland’s Jonty Evans, Germany’s Sandra Auffarth and William Fox-Pitt. The British rider performed beautifully and climbed ten places to finish in 12th position — just 10 months after he suffered a horrific head injury following a fall at Le Lion d’Angers.
Australia’s Christopher Burton, who had started the morning at the top of the leaderboard, continued to be plagued by bad luck: after picking up eight penalties in the team final, which cost Australia both gold and silver team medals and pushed him down to third place, he dropped two poles — and another two places — in the individual competition, ending in fifth place.
This neatly delivered the bronze medal into the hands of Dutton, who had added only one penalty in the morning and four in the afternoon to his cross-country score of 46.8. It was enough for him to beat not only Burton but also a very in-form Griffiths, who, despite today’s double clear, paid the price for doing marginally worse than Dutton in both his dressage and cross-country performances in the previous days.
Michael Jung and Sam FBW compete in Monday’s cross-country phase at the Rio 2016 Olympic games, by Arnd Bronkhorst, courtesy of the FEI