British showjumpers in provisional gold and bronze after stellar performances

Britain has edged up the leaderboard into provisional gold and bronze position following cracking rounds by the team at the Longines FEI European Championships.

The British team has moved up from fourth to third, behind Belgium and Germany, keeping them in contention for both medals and Olympic qualification.

“I’m absolutely pleased with where we’ve finished, we’ve moved up a little bit an I think we are in a really strong position for tomorrow,” said British chef d’equipe Di Lampard. “It nice to be where we are and still going up that ladder. It is amazing how all the teams have shuffled places; some surprising shuffles with the Germans moving down [from first to second]. At this stage we are really focusing on ourselves, on our own performances.

“The horses came out of the ring very well and fresh and the riders are in a fantastic place and the four of them are working brilliantly together.”

Ben Maher and Explosion W, third overnight, were the first Brits to jump and made short work of the testing course to move into first place individually. The 10-year-old gelding (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet Du Rouet) looked fresh and focused, clearing the 1.60m fences with room to spare and adding nothing to yesterday’s score of 0.62.

Ben said the round gave him “great confidence”.

“He feels in great form and I was happy to go first today to get it done and out the way,” said Ben, who jumped last for Britain yesterday. “I’m probably more use after [I’ve jumped] in terms of helping the other guys. He was quieter today and I didn’t have to work him too much this morning, he settled into the rhythm.”

Holly Smith and Hearts Destiny, who is also only a 10-year-old, were next into Rotterdam’s main arena for the Brits and strengthened the team’s position with a masterful clear. This leaves them in 11th place individually and well within touch of the top placings.

“My horse is absolutely unbelievable — I believe he is one of the best horses in the world and he just showed it today,” said Holly. “Massive thanks to owners Sue and Gordon Hall for keeping the horse with me and having every faith in me, but also to my husband Graham for his support. It isn’t easy for women in sport and he encourages me all the way.”

Holly added she was “super calm” until the water.

“I had a foot in the water yesterday, everybody is going in it today and I really, really wanted to make sure I didn’t,”she laughed. “got over it and said to myself ‘Holly, you’ve got to calm down a bit!’ There was a nice shortish distance on eight to the planks, which helped me settle everything down a bit and I took Ben’s advice to jump every jump as it come in the combination.”

Amanda Derbyshire and Luibanta BH had an unlucky foot in the water — which caused widespread problems through the class — and rolled the first part of the Longines treble at 13a. Amanda was quick to blame herself for the faults at the water and the pair are now on a score of 12.11 penalties, leaving them in 35th place individually.

“It was definitely my fault, I was about 2ft too far off it, she tried and I think the other fence was unlucky as she jumped a brilliant round,” said Amanda.

The water was also the scene of a frustrating four faults for Scott Brash and Hello M’Lady, who jumped superbly around the rest of the course.

“I thought she jumped fantastic, even better than yesterday, so I’m delighted with the mare and hope we have another good round tomorrow,” said Scott.

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Three clear rounds from the Belgian side have propelled the team seven places up the scoreboard into provisional first.

“The boys did a fantastic job and the horses jumped brilliantly,” said Belgian chef d’equipe Peter Weinberg. “After yesterday when we were in eighth place, we know we had to fight. The team rode very well and the horses jumped good, that’s why we are two steps closer, but there is still another day to come.”

Eight faults from both Marcus Ehning (Comme Il Faut) and Christian Ahlmann (Clintrexo Z) have dropped overnight leaders Germany into provisional silver, while France has slid behind Britain into fourth.

There are three Olympic qualification spots available at these championships. At the start of the week, 10 nations here were in the mix for these.

As only the top 10 countries go forward to tomorrow’s team jumping final, that list has been narrowed to six: Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, Ireland and Denmark.

The final team jumping session, which will decide the team medals, starts at 3pm (2pm BST) tomorrow (Friday, 23 August) and is scheduled to be broadcast live on the BBC red button.

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