After months of anticipation, Di Lampard — herself a former top international showjumper — is about to lead the British team through a significant FEI European Championships starting today (Wednesday, 19 August) — her first major championship as chef d’equipe.
It may not have been the smoothest of roads to Aachen — with high-profile disappointments in competitions, as well as top horses Hello Sanctos, Argento and Cella all unavailable. However, Di has kept morale high in the British camp and is confident in her quartet of Ben Maher (Diva II), Michael Whitaker (Cassionato), Joe Clee (Utamaro D’Ecaussines) and Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T).
So how does a lady with the weight of a nation on her shoulders currently feel?
“I am fairly relaxed because I have confidence in my team,” she said. “We’re well-prepared, the partnerships have had their own tailor-made preparations since the beginning of the year.
“We’ve been looking forward to this all season, we had a good start to the year and now we’re here — we are ready and waiting.”
Di opted for the four riders from the winning Nations Cup team in Rotterdam, and preparation has been key.
It will undoubtedly be a tense competition — the Brits must finish in the top three countries not yet qualified for the Olympics next year to guarantee their road to Rio.
“Qualification [for Rio] has been at the forefront of our minds throughout the year. For all of these riders, their plan this year has been about Aachen and the Nations Cups have been preparation en route to the championships,” added Di.
There is a 36-year age gap between the team’s youngest and oldest members — 19-year-old championship debutant Jessica Mendoza and team stalwart Michael Whitaker, 55.
“Jessica’s an out-an-out winner and the spirit within this team is second to none. We have a cross-section of ages but that is what has made the spirit all season,” she said. “Michael has been on every winning Nations Cup team since La Baule — our first win this season. He is so motivated it is unbelievable. You think Jess is exciting but Michael is really exciting, he’s going to be dangerous this week.
“This arena at Aachen is second-to-none, it’s fantastic and the atmosphere will be outstanding.”
Hold onto the edges of your seats — this has potential to be a thrilling competition.
Don’t miss our full report from the FEI European Showjumping Championships in next week’s issue (27 August).