The British team kept it together in the team final at the European Championships in Herning, maintaining their lead throughout the competition and taking home their first European gold medal in 24 years. Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker, William Funnell and Scott Brash – all contributed to the gold medal, underlining that Britain is back on the map as one of the top showjumping nations in the world after also winning the Olympic gold last year. Germany rode their way up to silver, and after three of four riders went clear for Sweden they claimed the bronze medal.
Ahead of today’s final, Great Britain was in the lead on a score of 8.18, Switzerland was second on 8.45 and France third on 11.14. Germany – dangerous as always – were breathing the top three nations down the neck though, lying fourth on a score of 12.77. It was wide open, and the competition was exciting to the bitter end – and while some riders lived up to the expectations others failed, sending their teams out of the medals.
Four of the first ten riders managed to complete the thirteen fence track without faults. Jens Fredricson really redeemed himself after yesterday’s 20 penalties-round, and fought his way around the course on Lunatic (Landlord x Utrillo) to cross the finish line on a clean sheet for Sweden. It also looked good for Germany when Daniel Deusser yet again delivered a clear on the amazing Cornet D’Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Daimiani), who jumped out of this world today. France also looked strong, as Patrice Delaveau was faultless on Orient Express HDC (Quick Star x Le Tot de Semilly). Switzerland did not have the best start though, as Pius Schwizer had one down. Great Britain on the other hand kept it all together as Ben Maher and Cella (Cento x Chin Chin) delivered again, looking untouchable as they cleared the track – maintaining Britain’s lead and also their own individual zero score.
When Angelica Augustsson and Mic Mac du Tillard (Cruising x Galoubet A) went all in for Sweden as their second rider to go, things really heated up in Herning. Mic Mac is definitely not the easiest horse to ride, but she is super careful – knowing exactly where her legs are. Today Angelica did an amazing job with the hot chestnut mare, riding Sweden’s second clear of the day. It was a hairy moment when she came flying into the triple combination though, but Mic Mac did light work of it and twisted out. Surprisingly Corradina (Corrado I x Sandro) had one down and a time penalty for Germany with Carsten-Otto Nagel in the saddle, looking like her usual championship form has not been completely found this time. When France had another four faults following Aymeric de Ponnat’s round and Great Britain’s Michael Whitaker had the plank at fence five down on Viking (Jacomar x Almox Prints), things on top looked like they could change.
It did not help either Italy or Holland that their riders Emanuele Gaudiano and Maikel van der Vleuten rode clear rounds as their team’s third riders, the rest of the team riders all had faults – and Italy’s Piergiorgio Bucci even got eliminated on Casallo Z (Casall x Carthago Z) after two stops in the triple combination. The same went for Spain, with their third rider Julio Arias producing their sole clear. With only three riders – as Cameron Hanley had been withdrawn – Ireland lost any chance of a top result, and luck was simply not on Belgium’s side – none of their riders managed to ride clear rounds.
In the third part of the final Germany proved how strong they are, as world’s number one Christian Ahlmann flexed his muscles to go clear on Codex One (Contendro I x Glueckspilz). As did Bosty – who did a superb clear round on Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois (Dollar du Murier x Grand Veneur), impressing everybody and slotting into second on the individual scoreboard behind Ben and lightning up for France’s medal chances again. Janika Sprunger continued to impress for Switzerland, and ended only with a time penalty after a fantastic round on Palloubet d’Halong (Baloubet du Rouet x Muguet du Manoir) – she is now seventh on the individual standings. William Funnell did not have the best round yesterday, ending with three down – but today he was back in business riding a tremendous clear on Billy Congo (Vectha x Animo) boosting the British team spirits! Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann had the last element in the triple combination down though, and things were set to be very exciting as the anchor riders were to enter the ring – Britain was in the lead at 8.81, France followed on 11.14, Germany on 12.77, Switzerland on 13.45 and Sweden on 13.44.
When Rolf-Göran Bengtsson set the first clear of the anchor riders, after really working his way around the course on Casall Ask (Caretino x Lavall I) – Sweden could discharge Henrik’s four faults and ended on the score of 13.44 that they brought into the final. Rolf’s fantastic round also brought him up on the individual score board as he is now rank three ahead of the final on Saturday with a score of 1.63.
He is often called the maestro, and today he showed why; as Germany’s last rider Ludger Beerbaum rode a beautiful and tidy round on Chiara (Contender x Coronado) – who jumped fantastic. The Germans could thus discharge Nagel’s score, and ended on 12.77 – which was loudly celebrated as Ludger left the ring having secured a medal and pushing himself fifth individually. Kevin Staut on the other hand had another disappointing round on Silvana HDC (Corland X Widor) as the b-element in the triple combination fell to the ground as did the back pole of the final oxer – sending France out of the medals and Sweden into bronze position. Whatever Steve Guerdat did it would not help his team much, but a clear would make his individual medal chances look very good. But, although Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II) jumped amazing he had a foot in the water – and Steve went down the score board from rank two to six.
Last to go Scott Brash must have felt the pressure on his relatively young shoulders. He could have one down – but no more, as the gold would be lost for Great Britain. And when Hello Sanctos (Quasimodo vd Molendreef x Nabab de Reve) pushed the a-element of the triple combination out of the cups, the heat was on – there was no more room for error. But Scott kept it together, riding as tidy and neat as always – and when he cleared the final FEI oxer the British team could start their celebrations on their second team gold medal in a little over one year!
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