RIO DE JANEIRO — William Fox-Pitt’s medal hopes took a hit Monday on a tricky cross-country course in the evening competition at the Olympics.
Fox-Pitt led after the dressage phase and seemed set to challenge for a first individual Olympic medal only 10 months after being put into an induced coma following a fall in cross-country.
The 47-year-old Fox-Pitt, who returned to competitive action in early April, got off to a strong start on Chilli Morning but made a mistake on a jump, picking up 20 penalty points.
Fox-Pitt also finished outside the time, picking up a further 10.9 time penalties and fell to 22nd position ahead of Tuesday’s final showjumping phase of the competition.
“I hope (Chilli) jumps well tomorrow but it’s not quite so important anymore,” Fox-Pitt said. “We’ll be clutching at any chances we’ve got. So we’re not going to be in that enviable position defending a gold medal, we’re just going to be doing our best.”
Fox-Pitt, who helped Britain to two silvers and a bronze in the past three Olympics, was clearly disappointed after a run-out.
“I had a very good round. It’s just annoying that I went past that third element,” he said. “It’s just really unfortunate, it’s my fault entirely. I went too quickly I think for him. He didn’t do anything wrong.”
Christopher Burton of Australia moved up to first on Santano II after finishing clear and inside the time.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Burton said. “For a horse with no blood in his breeding he is a rocket.
“He started out like the three-star horse that he is but he finished a four-star horse so we’re over the moon.”
Defending champion Michael Jung of Germany and Sam FBW were second, 3.3 penalties behind Burton and 1.2 ahead of Nicolas Astier of France on Piaf de b’Neville.
“My horse feels good after the cross-country so I’m looking forward to the jumping,” Jung said. “Normally he jumps really well.”
Those were the only three pairings who were clear and inside the time on what proved to be the toughest cross-country in modern era eventing, with only 40.6 percent completing Pierre Michelet’s course without any jumping penalties.
Germany, which is bidding for a third straight Olympic title, slipped from the gold medal position to fourth in the team competition, with Australia, New Zealand and France occupying the podium positions.
The United States is out of the team competition after two of its riders were eliminated, but its other two riders — Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin — are fifth and sixth, respectively, just behind New Zealand veteran Mark Todd.