‘All you want to do is please your home crowd and we didn’t’: Team GB reflections after Nations Cup ‘disappointment’

  • Great Britain finished sixth of the seven teams in Friday’s Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Great Britain at the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead.

    But that final placing in no way reflects the closeness of the competition, with just one fence separating the top six teams.

    With three nations tied at the top on eight faults, a jump-off decided the podium placings with France beating Germany and Brazil in a thriller against the clock, while the following three teams tied on 12 faults were split by their cumulative times, placing Belgium ahead of Ireland and Great Britain just one second adrift for sixth.

    The Hickstead Nations Cup is one all the home riders particularly want to win, so the formidable British quartet of Ben Maher (Faltic HB), John Whitaker (Equine America Unick Du Francport), Hickstead team debutante Jodie Hall McAteer (Salt’n Peppa) and Harry Charles (Casquo Blue) were understandably left feeling deflated after they rallied brilliantly as a team in round two but failed to climb the leader board.

    Great Britain’s performance manager Di Lampard said afterwards: “I’m a bit shell-shocked.

    “We had a really good feeling about the team and thought we’d finish better than sixth. It was very close, but that’s how the sport is today; very fine margins.”

    John Whitaker, who came home with eight faults in round one but returned with a clean sheet second time around, said: “We came back strong, but it was just too late.

    “There’s a lot of ifs and buts in this sport and I think my first round was a bit uncharacteristic – it could have easily been a clear. Ben’s 12 faults was totally uncharacteristic, too. OK, we saved our faces by coming back with a clean sheet but it’s really disappointing.

    “We weren’t cocky coming into this, but we were confident for sure, we had a good team,” added John, pictured below in Friday’s Nations Cup at Hickstead. “On paper we were really good.

    John Whitaker and Equine America Unick Du Francport in action in the Nations Cup at Hickstead

    “Jodie’s two rounds were very good and again just unlucky – she could have been double clear. Harry has been very, very good these past two years.

    “It’s not easy to say what went wrong – the only thing that went wrong was that it didn’t go right! Things just didn’t go our way,” summed up the 66-year-old.

    “It’s a difficult sport, because if you over-analyse things and start changing things, it can get worse – you just have to buckle down and keep going,” he said. “But in the end we were just one fence away from a jump-off – but that’s the sport. In front of your home crowd, all you want to do is please them and we didn’t. So it’s really disappointing for us, the public, everyone – but we have to live with it and we just have to keep going.”

    John revealed that Equine America Unick Du Francport “hadn’t felt as sharp as he normally is” in the opening round.

    “I wondered, ‘Is he tired, did I warm him up wrong, what did I do wrong?’ I didn’t do much different for the second round.”

    Hickstead Nations Cup: ‘We thought we had a really good chance’

    Harry Charles was “thrilled” with the “amazing” double clear from the Stall Zet-owned Casquo Blue.

    “His owners came over especially today so it was nice in front of them to give them a double clear,” reflected Harry, 23. “He felt as though he jumped it fairly easily in the first round and obviously even easier again the second time – he’s my direct replacement for the world championships so I know I have an incredible second option.”

    Harry, too, was left feeling “disappointed” with the final team standing, however.

    “We thought we had a really good chance to win but that’s our sport and of course there are going to be days when things don’t go as well as you want,” he said. “We came out in the second round and jumped three fantastic clears so it was a shame not to have moved up after that actually, and what was really annoying was that we were only one fence off being in the jump-off. So it’s all down to really small margins and we ended up sixth because of the time, which is a small detail, but you live and learn.

    “But you can’t do better than a double clear in a Nations Cup, especially here at home.”

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