RIO DE JANEIRO – The German delegation sighed a breath of relief on Tuesday after Michael Jung successfully defended his men’s individual eventing title to deliver his country’s first gold medal of the Rio Olympics.
Jung, widely considered the best eventing rider ever for being the only athlete to hold the Olympic, European championship and world championship titles at the same time, had started the final day in second place behind Australia’s Christopher Burton.
But the German, riding Sam – with whom he also won at the 2012 London Games – rose to the occasion by posting two clear rounds with no penalties in the final jumping phase at the Deodoro equestrian centre to claim the gold.
France’s Astier Nicolas took silver with one rail down, as Phillip Dutton of the United States completed the podium in third.
“He’s so strong in the cross country he can run every hill and he can jump every fence,” Jung said of Sam to reporters. “We have a very special partnership in the show jumping,” he added, explaining Sam can nervous and thus requires a confident ride.
German athletes at the Rio Olympics have been under intense domestic public pressure to end the medal draught after the team was left without a single medal following three full days of competition.
Divers Patrick Hausding and Sascha Klein had earlier came fourth in the men’s 10 metre synchronised platform, the closest athletes to finish on the podium, while world record holder Paul Biedermann managed only sixth in the men’s 200 metres freestyle.
The men’s all-round gymnastics team, led by former world horizontal bars champion Fabian Hambuechen, came seventh on Monday after Andreas Toba tore his cruciate ligament in a fall during a tumbling run in the qualifying round.
Then the German men’s volleyball pair Markus Boeckermann and Lars Flueggen’s lost their second group game, while Philipp Kohlschreiber was forced to withdraw from the men’s football tournament after sustaining a fracture in his foot.
Yet Jung’s triumph came on a remarkable day for the Germans, who in the space of a few hours, managed to claim additional silvers in the team eventing final and in the women’s 25 metre pistol event.
And this came on top of other positive news that several others had progressed further in the early rounds.
Germany’s world number two Angelique Kerber made it past the third round in the women’s tennis singles after defeating Australia’s Samantha Stosur in straight sets within 90 minutes.
Olympic champions at the 2012 London Games, the men’s hockey team also looked on-course to retain their title after they made easy work of Canada and India. They will next play on Thursday against Argentina, who failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“The German Olympic Team is a late bloomer at every Games, London was pretty much the same,” the DSOB’s deputy head of media and public affairs, Michael Schirp, told Euronews. “Nevertheless we cheer today‘s first three medals.”
“Eventing, because it is one thing to win medals in team and individual in London but another to repeat such a story four years later, and shooting, because we won none four years ago, this is pure joy and relief for the complete shooting team.”