Britain’s show jumping selectors have opted for a mix of old and new in a bid to win a first senior medal at the European Championships this weekend since collecting a world team bronze back in 1998.
Michael Whitaker, riding Portofino (pictured), and Nick Skelton (Arko), mainstays of the British team in its glory days of the 1980s, are joined by the experienced William Funnell (Cortaflex Mondriaan) for whom this is, remarkably, a first team appearance at the age of 39, plus Michael’s 19-year-old niece Ellen Whitaker (AK Locarno), the youngest rider in a British team since an 18-year-old Marion Coakes won Olympic silver in 1964.
The quartet have all performed a double clear in a Super League Nations Cup this season but will have their work cut out to quash the all-conquering Germans, defending champions and team gold medallists on three of the last four occasions.
Favourites to win, the Germans have an enviable strong six combinations from which to choose a team of four, including the quartet which swept team gold and all three individual medals at the 2003 European Championships in Donaueschingen: Christian Ahlmann, individual gold medallist, Ludger Beerbaum (silver), Marcus Ehning (bronze) and Otto Becker. Ahlmann and Becker have the same horses, Coster and Dobel’s Cento.
Fourteen teams and 21 nations line up for tomorrow’s (Thursday) first speed leg of the European Championships at San Patrignano, one of the world’s largest centres for drug rehabilitation and the first such centre to host an equestrian championships.
More information on www.sanpatrignano2005.org
Watch the action on TV
Supporters who have been unable to follow the British team to Italy, can enjoy all the action by tuning into BBC Grandstand and BBC Interactive from Friday to Sunday this weekend, as well as enjoying Horse & Hound Online’s daily reports.
BBC Interactive will provide live action from the final round of the team competition on Friday from 3.25pm and both rounds of the individual event on Sunday from 2.55pm and 4.55pm, when the new European Champion will ultimately be decided. BBC Grandstand will feature highlights of the team action on Saturday (from 1.35pm on BBC1) and the individual finale on Sunday afternoon (from 5.45pm on BBC2).