France and Germany shared the eventing spoils on 9 August to deliver their nations’ first gold medals of Rio 2016. Reigning champion Michael Jung produced a successful defence of his individual crown, but he and his German team-mates were nudged into silver place by a formidable French collective in the team event.
Nicolas Astier of France took the individual silver, while Phillip Dutton (USA) clinched the bronze, exactly 20 years after he won his first Olympic medal – a gold in the team event, when competing for Australia.
For the 34-year old Jung and his horse Sam, it was the third Olympic gold that they have won together, and their second medal in Rio, following Germany’s team silver. Four years earlier Jung and Sam won both the individual and team titles, which means the German becomes only the third rider in history to win multiple gold medals in the individual eventing, after Charles Pahud de Mortanges (NED), who did so in 1924 and 1928, and Mark Todd (NZL), who managed the feat in 1984 and 1988.
Jung, who is now widely considered the best eventing rider ever, only turned to Sam, the 16-year-old he rode to gold in London, a week before the animals were due to fly to Rio after his first choice mount, Takinou, suffered an infection.
“To do this twice with the same horse is very special. It’s unbelievable,” said Jung, who was keen to pay tribute to his trusty mount. “It’s an amazing feeling when you come in and your horse jumps so powerfully. In London it felt the same. Sam is just amazing. A brilliant horse. You have to control yourself and make the horse not feel any pressure. And then you just do your thing.”
Jung’s gold meant that Germany is only the second NOC to win the individual event at three consecutive Olympic Games, matching the achievement of the Netherlands almost a century ago (1924-1932).
France clinched the team eventing title – their first since Athens 2004 – after a dramatic show jumping finale, which saw them rise two places after riders from Australia and New Zealand knocked rails down.
Reigning champions Germany were bidding for a hat-trick of titles, but had to settle for silver, despite a clear round from individual gold medallist Michael Jung. Australia took bronze while New Zealand, who were in the running for silver after the cross country, slipped to fourth after seven-time Olympian Mark Todd knocked three rails down.
“I had always hoped we could get the gold, but I also knew that was very ambitious,” said Nicolas Astier, who following his silver in the individual eventing, became the first French equestrian to win two medals in eventing at one Olympic Games. “But we gave ourselves every chance of achieving our goal – everyone on the team performed brilliantly.”The 27-year-old Astier, who had been third after the cross country, posted a clear round in the jumping with no penalties to help catapult the French into the gold medal position.