Elation and exciting times ahead: ‘I’ve never witnessed a championship like it’

  • “I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a championship like it.”

    British Showjumping performance manager Di Lampard, home after a wonderful week in which team bronze, and qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympics was achieved at the first opportunity, spoke to H&H about the dramas of the Agria FEI World Showjumping Championships last week.

    Di was on the British team that last won a medal, and Olympic qualification, at a World Championships, on her superstar Abbervail Dream in 1998.

    Asked what she would have said if someone had told her then the next time this was achieved, she would be the chef d’equipe, she said: “I’d have said no chance! It’s just amazing to think it’s been 24 years.

    “It was a week of highs and lows but I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a championship like it. Top competition as always, but with the excitement and drama of the last team round; it was amazing.”

    The live scoring system was down during the team final on Friday night (12 August) and with so many teams in contention for medals, other than clear winners Sweden, and with faults coming everywhere, it was very hard to keep track of who was where.

    “When you look at the last lines of riders; the Swedes were clear and then [Peder Fredricson] had 12, the Dutch did best to get two and clear, we had a clear, which was brilliant, but then Scott came out with eight,” Di said.

    “It just went crazy. The Irish had five and then a retirement, Germany an elimination and and four, France eight and 12, Brazil nine and a withdrawal, and these are the best riders; it was drama right to the finish.

    “I was trying to keep score, which isn’t easy, and I had our worst scenario down if all the final riders had gone clear – at one point, I said ‘We’re going to struggle to qualify for Paris’ to Ben Maher, and he said ‘What?’. Then I looked at what the other teams had done and we were in bronze position, and it was just elation.”

    Di said the goal had always been that top-five position to secure an Olympic place, as well as a medal, and that achieving this takes away the pressure of having to qualify at the last minute, as was the case at the 2019 Europeans where Britain also won bronze.

    “[In that case], throughout the year you’re sparing horses, and your heart’s in your mouth when you ride the top horses,” she said. “Now we can make proper plans into the next year, and give everyone equal opportunities. We’ve given plenty this year and can do even more next year, and hopefully give someone the chance to make their championship debut at the Europeans.”

    Di said she is always trying to build more depth into the British squad, and to do so, riders and horses need to be in those top environments, adding: “With the talented riders we have, hopefully we can get some more owners to get behind them. We’ve got so many young, talented riders who we haven’t even talked about – Rob Murphy, Joe Fernyhough, Jodie Hall McAteer; super talents, Lily Atwood; this is how strong we are with the youth, and we just need to give them experience.

    “We’ve no excuses now; there’s enough time to plan towards Paris.”

    Di said she believes there is now more detail going into planning for championships, citing the example set by Nick Skelton, who planned Big Star’s campaign for Rio to perfection.

    “When you get a top horse, you really have to look after it as they’re few and far between,” she said. “You have to compete them sparingly, make a plan and be bold enough to say ‘That’s my goal, and these are my SMART goals en route to it’, and not over-jump them.”

    Di gave full credit to Ben Maher, who finished a pole off the podium in fourth, on Faltic HB who was subbed in for Explosion W at the last minute, and whom he has been riding less than a year.

    “He’s been the spearhead of my teams since I’ve been in place, and when that man’s on the team it gives such a lift to everyone else,” she said. “He’s an absolutely fantastic rider; he’s Olympic champion and that’s not through luck, and Faltic was a fantastic partner. I can’t thank his owners enough for allowing him to go at such short notice.”

    Di paid tribute to all the support from the British Equestrian World Class programme, as well as the support teams, at home and at the championships.

    “These are exciting times for British showjumping,” she said.

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