The cream of Britain’s young riders battled it out at the Junior and Young Rider European Show Jumping Championships in Portugal last weekend, proving their out and out superiority as they came away with a double gold medal.
The victory was historic – no other nation has ever achieved such a feat, and the fashion in which it was accomplished was dazzling.
The junior team completed the team event on just four faults. James Billington, Martha Beaumont and Tim Gredley all produced double clears, and Gemma Plumley’s minor mistake in the second round was not enough to allow any of the other teams a foot in the door.
Tim Gredley added to Britain’s success with an individual silver medal. He missed out on the top spot by just over 1.5 seconds, although the three-way jump off had produced some devilish competition from both him and the eventual gold-medal winner, Germany’s Felix Hassman.
The Young Rider team’s performance was not quite as immaculate as their younger counterparts, but nevertheless, they easily outclassed their European rivals.
Robert Whitaker set off as pathfinder with Karina, scoring a fast clear which was emulated by both Lee Williams and Emma Shaw, making Ben Maher‘s single mistake in the first round unimportant.
The second round saw Britain’s luck fade somewhat, as both Emma Shaw and Ben Maher notched up 8 faults apiece. Robert Whitaker couldn’t keep his round quite clean, but a second clear from Lee Williams and Lacanda ensured that the team finished five faults ahead of Belgium on 17, earning themselves a well-deserved team gold medal.
Britain’s prospects for an individual medal had also looked promising, but Robert Whitaker was unable to haul himself back up into a top spot, and Lee Williams, who had seemed a strong contender, couldn’t hold it together following his double clear in the Nations Cup. Robert finished in fourth, with Lee in seventh. Andrew Herholdt of Italy eventually took gold with an astonishing total of just 1.43 faults.
The show jumping community was somewhat demoralised when Britain failed to qualify a team for the Olympics, managing eventually to secure just two places in the individual competition in Athens, but the success in Portugal points to a rosy future with a wealth of talent which can give their international rivals a run for their money.