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Mark Phillips: combined feelings and tight margins on the World Championships

  • Mark Phillips shares his thoughts on competing in mourning and where the Brits faltered in Italy

    I’ve been going through so many emotions these past weeks that it’s sometimes been difficult focusing on the job at hand.

    Last week at the World Eventing Championships in Pratoni, the Italian media asked me about competing at a time of mourning. I was lucky enough to be on the team that won gold in Munich in 1972 and we had the same question then after the Israelis suffered their horrible losses.

    As an athlete, you are there to compete no matter what your feelings are of sorrow or grief. That was the task of our boys and girls in Italy.

    Reigning Olympic, world and European champions, the Brits started understandable favourites, despite Toledo De Kerser being the only survivor of the world gold team four years ago.

    In the dressage, all went according to plan. A few small mistakes left Ros Canter very much in touch and it was the same for Tom McEwen, despite breaking in his medium trot. Laura Collett put her best foot forward with London 52 to be just half a mark behind Michael Jung, while Oliver Townend’s typically solid performance on Ballaghmor Class put him sixth.

    Yasmin Ingham, so youthful yet so mature, could not have ridden better for third. There is so much more to come here, which is the really exciting bit.

    Cross-country day was another story. Ros put in a super-impressive performance with the improving Lordships Graffalo. However, Laura came too quickly at the Slide and paid the price with a glance-off at the skinny at the bottom. Was that over-confidence after her Badminton success or worrying about how much running London 52 would have at the end? Happily, that ghost has been put to bed as London looked as good as any at the finish.

    Tom was under unbelievable pressure after Laura’s woes. He started slowly, being five or six seconds behind most at one minute. Tom has not had a good summer and sadly it showed as he lost more time the rest of the way round.

    Oliver proved that he is now the ultimate team player, inside the time despite losing a shoe.

    Yasmin, just three seconds over the time, moved into second with an extraordinarily cool and calculated performance, which was the undoubted high spot of a day that finished with the team in bronze. They were still well in touch, but with the stark reality of coming to terms with the fact that they are not invincible.

    Mixed emotions, indeed, for me seeing my children Peter Phillips and Zara Tindall standing vigil at The Queen’s coffin that evening.

    A new star is born

    THE highs and lows of the last day surpassed the lot. With three rails covering the top four teams, it was anyone’s championship. Sandra Auffarth opened the door to everyone with three down. Tom’s one rail put the Brits in the hunt, but Will Coleman’s clear landed the US on top. Ros’s magnificent clear put the Brits back in it.

    Tim and Jonelle Price both jumping clear sent New Zealand into the medals and Tim in front of Ros for eventual individual bronze by virtue of being closer to the optimum time across country.

    Rails from Tamie Smith and Boyd Martin meant Oliver Townend had to jump clear for team gold. Sadly, he could not keep Ballaghmor Class in the air, so Germany were back on top with Michael Jung to come.

    Unbelievably, Michael had the last fence down as well as an earlier one, which kept Germany in the team gold, with his team-mate Julia Krajewski in individual silver. However, even more incredibly, Yasmin Ingham was the individual world champion.

    Never has there been more tension as the US in silver, New Zealand in bronze and Britain in fourth all finished on team scores within 0.6 of a penalty of each other.

    It’s too painful to think about, but if Yasmin had been in the team, that gold would have come home, too. No question, a star is born as Yasmin is the new and thoroughly deserved world champion.

    What a week, what a woman, what a champion – the future is bright.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 22 September

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