Monday, 29 August 2011

The Germans Are Back

Michael Jung | European Champion
It was perhaps inevitable mid way through yesterday's cross country phase that preventing a clean sweep by the Germans of the HSBC European Eventing Championship medals, was going to take a little more luck, and you'd have to conclude the Germans really deserved the spoils. All the medal winners were so focused, and Michael Jung & Ingrid Klimke were so impressive throughout the competition.

Whilst Ingrid is as experienced as any senior British squad member, Michael Jung made his 4 star debut only two years ago,  and is now the current holder of both European & World championship titles. Now that is some achievement for someone so young!

Taking all the medals on home turf is a fairytale ending for Germany, and a well deserved win all round, something I hope Team GBR will be looking to emulate next year. Ingrid was pushing for home right from the start, making one or two fences look a little rushed, and the rest of the German team took their fair share of risks out on the cross country course, which in the end paid off, but have they peaked too early?

Luhmuhlen | On A Par With Kentucky
Luhmühlen in my mind now clearly stands on an even footing with Rolex as a 4 star venue, the multi-million euro investment seems to have been wisely spent, and there are now plenty of permanent features that will improve the eventing experience for all concerned. The permanent grandstand, enormous all weather arena, and ancillary buildings will pay real dividends in the long run. The layout and terrain for the cross country course I think really works well, it's varied, interesting, and provides plenty of opportunity for both course designer and spectator, whilst may not ideally suit the TV companies, due to trees and distribution of fences. As a summer venue I thought it was superb, and I'll be interested to see how the 4 star next June gets used in the run up to the Olympics. I'm already thinking of a return trip next year possibly with the family for the full week.

The organisers pulled out all the stops from what I could make out. HSBC's hospitality looked well subscribed, and over all I thought the event was well branded, reminiscent of Rolex Kentucky. I was overwhelmed to see the size and extent of the facilities in the Media Tent, bigger and better than the last two Europeans I attended (Punchestown & Blenheim).

Support Team
When I arrived the place was relatively empty, just the usual stalwarts from the British media huddled around the TV screen, but judging by the number of coats on the backs of chairs, it was clearly going to get busy, and when I came back in after cross country the place was packed. I had to perch on a table with Team GBR bloggers and a few photographers, whilst I rushed to get my photos of William Fox-Pitt's amazing save at fence 14 online, which shot up thanks to the superfast broadband.

Luhmühlen village was so empty when I arrived I thought perhaps we'd taken a wrong turn, but in spite of the weather, there was a decent crowd - happy, engaged, and not just hailing from the host nation. People had clearly gone to great lengths in support of their home team, with banners, painted faces, and plenty of flags waving, particularly as the TV cameras panned around.

Britain is talked about so often as the best country for eventing, that you sometimes forget other countries can run a close second, in terms of depth and breath of an eventing circuit. Germany and France are testament to this, so it's little wonder they can produce teams capable of challenging Britain, and attract resident foreign riders. Team GBR will need to put this set back behind them, stay calm and carry on grafting, as the Germans are back, and the French are hot on their heels!

What a prospect for London 2012.

The Final Scores

A few of my photos from the event

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