Sunday’s individual final at the showjumping European Championships was a double-edged sword for Ben Maher. All week I’d been convinced that this was his year and that he would come home with a gold medal round his neck; we were all rooting for him. So to win silver instead was so unlucky. But that’s showjumping. It was just so disappointing for him.
But it was really special to see how much the medals meant to both Martin Fuchs and Jos Verlooy. Jos is only 23 but he and Igor put in a fantastic performance all week; they did a brilliant job.
I came away from Rotterdam having also been really impressed with two outsiders — António Matos Almeida of Portugal and Luka Zaloznik of Macedonia, who finished 11th and 20th individually. They were really consistent and will have taken so much away from these championships.
An important result
The Belgian team pulling together as they did to win gold was amazing. But the result for the Brits meant a lot. Going into the championships, the whole team was confident we could win a medal. As Olympic qualification came part and parcel with that, we put thoughts of Tokyo to one side and focused instead on trying to win — or at least do as best we could.
I’m sure that Ben’s horse, Explosion W, is one that everyone would want to have on their team and for Ben to go out first of the four riders certainly took the pressure off everyone else — it meant they could concentrate on their own plans and not worry too much, because Ben had already set the bar, giving the whole team such a good start.
I knew shortly before I travelled to Rotterdam that I would be the team’s fifth rider. It was a bit of a hard pill to swallow, but I was thrilled to be there as part of the team and obviously anything could have happened between getting to the venue and starting the competition, so there was still a chance I could have jumped.
Throughout the three days of team jumping, I wanted to support and help the other four riders as much as I could — just to be another set of eyes and be part of it all. It was a very good experience, but any fifth rider will tell you they’d rather be riding! So if I could change anything about the championships, it would be to scrap the supporting CSI2* classes, which weren’t much to write home about, and I’d let all the fifth riders jump as individuals.
But without a doubt the experience has spurred me on towards making Tokyo a serious goal. There’s a lot to look forward to.
Ref Horse & Hound; 29 August 2019