The Irish share the bronze medal position overnight with Belgium at the European Showjumping Championships following the first leg of the team competition today (Thursday, 24 August), but it wasn’t without drama.
Shane Sweetnam was the Irish trailblazer and showed just how it should be done, producing a brilliant clear aboard Chaqui Z — over a substantial track where the time proved influential.
“It was the start we needed for the team, but it’s still a long way until tomorrow night [the team final],” said Shane.
“The time allowed was tight, especially for scopey horses. I felt like I was going for it and I was just inside — we saw a lot of time faults.
“Chaqui is a very adjustable horse, he turns quickly and is a dream — probably the easiest horse I’ve ridden.”
Bertram Allen was hoping to put a refusal yesterday with Hector Van D’Abdijhoeve behind him, however, the 22-year-old was left tasting the arena surface when his mount took a disliking to the oxer at fence 10.
The 10-year-old stallion put down going over the fence — at their second attempt — ousting Bertram from the plate. It resulted in elimination from today’s competition but he can ride tomorrow, as the format follows that of Nations Cups.
Third rider Denis Lynch was understandably disappointed after having the final fence down with All Star 5 — an expensive four faults that would have otherwise left the team in gold heading into tomorrow.
The pressure was therefore on Cian O’Connor to produce a clear round and rescue his team — he did that in immaculate fashion with Good Luck.
“He jumped unbelievably again — it was a good course and if you’d done your homework as a rider there were no problems,” said Cian.
“It’s a very good feeling going into tomorrow. Bertram obviously had a mishap today and yesterday, but I have been in that position at his age too and that’s what we’re here for — your team-mates pull you through. I’m sure there will be times when Bertram will bail us out, that’s just the way it goes.”
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Britain's solo rider pulled a brilliant clear round from the bag during today's team competition
Delight on day one for the Irish team at the European Showjumping Championships, while the Brits are reduced to one
William Whitaker, riding as an individual, went early on in the 80-strong field and was the first rider to produce a clear round, partnering the talented Utamaro D’Ecaussines.
“It was a tough course today — from the first fence to the last — the jumps were coming thick and fast at you and they were big, so I’m delighted with him,” he said.
Meanwhile, the top of the team standings saw a reshuffle, with the home nation Sweden leaping up to the gold medal spot from their overnight bronze, thanks to three jumping clear rounds.
The Swiss quartet dropped from overnight gold position to silver after their final rider Steve Guerdat knocked a pole and picked up one time-penalty.
There was disappointment for the French, who surrendered silver medal position when three of their riders — Mathieu Billot, Roger Yves Bost and Pénélope Leprevost — picked up a costly nine penalties each. Kevin Staut’s clear round was not enough to keep them any higher than eighth going into tomorrow.
Check out all the results from the 2017 European Championships here.
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