Belgium make history while Britain grasps bronze in gripping showdown at showjumping Europeans

Belgian riders made history with their gold medal-winning performance in Rotterdam today to take the country’s first ever European team showjumping medal.

The top three sides remained unchanged over night, with Belgium adding just one time fault to their first day total to secure the win ahead of Germany in silver.

Consistently strong performances from Britain across the three days were rewarded with a team bronze medal Olympic qualification.

There were three team qualifying spots available for the 2020 Games at these championships and the other two places went to Belgium and fourth-placed France.

“This is an unbelievable day and I’m very proud of our team,” said Belgian chef d’equipe Peter Weinberg. “We have four top riders with brilliant horses and they did a fantastic job.”

The side of Pieter Devos (Claire Z), Jos Verlooy (Igor), Jerome Guery (Quel Homme De Hus) and Gregory Wathelet (MJT Nevados S) held their overnight lead to add just one time fault from the final round to their first day score of 11.07.

Just 0.15 penalties separated Belgium and Germany with the final two riders left to jump. Daniel Deusseur and Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z tipped the blue and white rail at 10b to a collective sigh from the crowd. This meant Belgian team anchor Gregory had a fence in hand — but no more — as he rode into the arena.

The experience rider kept a cool head to jump a fantastic clear with the 11-year-old grey and clinch the gold for Belgium.

Britain showed their class with a third consecutive clear for Ben Maher and Explosion W, who are in the individual lead ahead of Sunday’s contest.

Holly Smith and Hearts Destiny were next to go and jumped out of order due to the 10-year-old Heart Throb gelding springing a shoe in the warm-up. But the combination did not let that rattle them and they put in a strong performance, just knocking the final part of the candy-coloured treble at five, to strengthen Britain’s position and take themselves into Sunday’s final.

Amanda Derbyshire and Luibanta BH had an early pole at fence three, before jumping cleanly across the rest of the course.

“She is a little horse with a big heart and she always goes in there and tries her best,” said Amanda. “I know I had an unlucky rail, but I’m just so happy with her.”

The strength of the British side meant the team was guaranteed a medal before Scott Brash and Hello M’Lady jumped. The pair finished their round on eight faults, lowering the Longines upright at four and the triple rail.

“I think we are all delighted to be going back with a medal,” he said. “The main thing was Olympic qualification, so to secure that and to also go home with a medal, I think we are all absolutely delighted and chuffed.”

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Luck was lacking for defending European Champions Ireland’s luck in the team competition, finishing seventh and out of reach of the Olympic qualification places.

However Rodrigo Pessoa’s side has two riders through to the individual final. These are championship first-timer Peter Moloney (Chianti’s Champion) in provisional 13th and Darragh Kenny (Balou Du Reventon) who is lying in 17th.

Horses and riders have a day off tomorrow (Saturday) and the individual medals will be decided on Sunday afternoon (25 August).

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