Olympics: Silver lining for Dorset's Fox-Pitt

DELIGHTED: William Fox-Pitt

DELIGHTED: William Fox-Pitt

First published in Sport

WILLIAM Fox-Pitt claimed Great Britain’s eventers were “carried along on a wave of craziness” after securing an Olympic team silver medal at Greenwich Park.

The team of Fox-Pitt, Zara Phillips, Mary King, Tina Cook and Nicola Wilson finished 4.5 penalties behind gold medallists Germany, with New Zealand third.

Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, produced the most expensive showjumping round of Britain’s three counting scores, collecting seven faults on High Kingdom.

She had the second fence down, and then had another three time penalties for being over the allowed time of 83 seconds.

But it would be harsh in the extreme to point fingers at the 31-year-old, who was watched from the main arena stands by her mother the Princess Royal, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Fox-Pitt, himself, had problems during the cross-country round, collecting uncharacteristic time faults, in a sport that lasts for four days over three different equestrian disciplines – dressage, cross-country and showjumping.

The silver was Britain’s 18th post-war Olympic eventing medal.

Fox-Pitt, from Sturminster Newton, said: “We were all being carried along on this wave of craziness.

“It was something we have never experienced in our careers and never will again. It was just not normal.”

Fox-Pitt was watched by his wife Alice Plunkett, the Channel 4 racing presenter, and their five-year-old son Thomas.

Plunkett said: “Gold was there for the taking. Obviously it is really disappointing that they didn’t get it.

“It is not Zara’s fault, there were little mistakes. It’s a team, it isn’t about one person.

“William’s time faults on Monday were expensive. There are a whole host of reasons – it is never down to one person.”

After New Zealand’s Mark Todd had one fence down it meant Cook, a double Olympic bronze medallist four years ago, could afford to have one fence down and still secure silver for her country as the competition’s penultimate rider.

And she collected just one time fault, meaning she had one of three counting scores alongside King, who jumped clear, and Phillips.

Britain’s eventers had not won gold since Munich in 1972, when Phillips’ father Captain Mark Phillips was in the team, but they gave it everything against a crack German quintet of Michael Jung, Ingrid Klimke, Peter Thomsen, Dirk Schrade and Sandra Auffarth, while New Zealand were third.

King, who won Olympic team medals in 2004 and 2008, once again came up trumps when it mattered.

She punched the air in delight after jumping the last fence on Imperial Cavalier, with her performance following a blistering clear round in the demanding cross-country test.

“He felt quite different from usual,” King said.

“The tension meant he went with his head high and flat in his body. It probably did not look pretty, but at least we managed to go clear.

“I just tried to blank everything out and pretend I was in a training session at Addington (in Buckinghamshire) where we had our training camp.

“I said to myself ‘come on Mary, it’s up to you and it worked.”

Cook’s performance on Miners Frolic was a remarkable feat of composure and accuracy under the most suffocating pressure, even if she did collect a time fault.

She called on all her previous top-level experience to give Britain the round they required.

Just over a year ago, Miners Frolic was fighting for his life, having contracted colitis. His condition was so bad, the vets did not think he would pull through.

He subsequently missed all of last year’s Olympic qualifying competitions, and only secured the result he needed five months ago.

Cook said of her performance yesterday: “It was very much mind over matter.

“I was just focused about what I had been working on, focused on the course, desperately trying not to get a time fault.

“I did get my time fault, which I was really frustrated about, but to get a team silver was absolutely brilliant.”

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