It was another exciting day of sport at the European Championships in Aachen, that saw Wednesday’s top three stick to their lead individually - and France fighting their way to the top on the team standings ahead of tomorrow’s final. The competition was divided into two groups, with the eleven teams with most faults from Wednesday’s round going first - which surprisingly included Switzerland - and then the best ten going last.
In the first group Switzerland - that also is battling for Olympic qualification - did exceptionally well, with three of their four riders going clear. First Romain Duguet on Quorida de Treho (Kannan x Tolbiac Des Forets), and then their third and fourth riders Janika Sprunger on Bonne Chance CW (Baloubet du Rouet x Cambridge) and Paul Estermann on Castlefield Eclipse (Obos Quality x Furisto) followed up making it possible to discharge Martin Fuchs’ four faults. The team kept on their score from Wednesday; 14.23 - and it looked like they would have a chance to move upwards. “I was quite electric today. I really wanted to ride clear and really exerted myself to do so. I wanted to help my mare as much as possible. She is a fantastic horse, but she doesn’t have a lot of experience. It was tight at the water today, although she normally jumps water very well. I just managed to pull it off today. At the end of the course, she slipped slightly and I noticed that she was tiring, but then I helped her as much as I could and it all went well. I am very, very happy,” Sprunger said following her opening clear for the Swiss team.
And the Swiss moved upwards - together with Denmark - as the group of the ten highest ranked teams proved to be full of surprises. Italy and Belgium, that also needed Olympic qualification here in Aachen, had no luck on their side today. With four faults from their three first riders, Gregory Wathelet’s final clear on Conrad de Hus (Con Air x Locato) could not save the day and eight faults added to yesterday’s score meant a total of 19.50 penalties for the Belgians. It was even worse for Italy, that was ahead of Belgium before today’s round - with two team members on eight and one on four it was not much to do even with a beautiful clear from Daniele Augusto Da Rios on For Passion (For Pleasure x Rio Branco). The total team score ended on 21.23 and a team final was not to be for neither.
Sweden managed to claim a spot in the final by fractions, finishing on 19.30 after Douglas Lindelöw and Henrik von Eckermann saved the day with clear rounds. It was tight for Ireland too, who only saw one rider going clear - Cian O’Connor on Good Luck (Cantor x Furioso) while Bertram Allen had one down, Greg Broderick two and Denis Lynch the final fence. Still, they sit 9th ahead of tomorrow and have a chance to qualify for Rio together with Denmark, Spain, Switzerland and Great Britain - with three spots available for these five teams.
Another surprise today was team Ukraine, that is 5th ahead of tomorrow’s final with 13.03 penalties. Their first rider Cassio Rivetti produced a fantastic clear on the 17 year old veteran Vivant (Fuego du Prelet x Landino), while Rene Tebbel only had a time fault on Cooper (Colman x Limbus) and Ference Szentirmai kept it at four faults on Chaccland (Chaco-Blue x Carthago) to make it possible to discharge Katharina Offel’s score of eight faults that like for many other came towards the very end around the very long thirteen fence track that counted a triple combination, an open water and a demanding oxer-oxer combination at the end as it's challenges.
A small shake-up took place among the top three teams following Thursday’s round. A tremendous performance from Penelope Leprevost on Flora de Mariposa (For Pleasure x Powerlight) - the individual leader ahead of today’s round - gave the team the best possible build-up as the 35 year old rider kept on to her pole position. “That was a dream today. I am very satisfied! I believe the biggest difficulty today is the pressure that all of the riders are under. Otherwise the wide jumps were indeed very wide, but not too high. And in the last combination, a lot of riders gave too much leg over the first fence, because they wanted to jump the second fence clear too with the result that quite a lot of faults happened at the first jump,” the French rider said after.
And when Leprevost was joined by Simon Delestre on the tiny Ryan des Hayettes (Hugo Gesmeray x Ryon d’Ansex) as the team’s second rider as well as fourth rider Kevin Staut - who bounced back after yesterday’s two down - they could discharge the five faults from Jerome Hurel to take over the lead with their score of 5.70.
The Netherlands also moved upwards, with clear rounds from pathfinder Jeroen Dubbeldam on Zenith SFN N.O.P. (Rash R x Fuego du Prelet), third rider Jur Vrieling on VDL Zirocco Blue N.O.P. (Mr. Blue x Voltaire) and anchor man Gerco Schröder on Glock’s Cognac Champblanc (Clearway). This made it possible to discharge Maikel van der Vleuten’s surprise-one-down on the vertical at twelve to put them in runner-up position on a score of 7.820. “Nothing really went wrong in the ring. It was exciting and the double oxer at the end is also a real challenge,” said reigning World Champion Dubbeldam.
Host nation Germany did not get the best start when their first rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum opened with a tiny foot in the water on Fibonacci 17 (For Feeling x Corland) and then Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z (Galoubet A x Polydor) followed with having a rail at fence six. But, Ludger Beerbaum kept his cool on Chiara 222 (Contender x Coronado) as did Daniel Deusser on Corndet D’Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Damiani) - keeping them in the top three, trailing close behind Netherlands on a score of 8.40.
Great Britain also had a rocky start, with Ben Maher’s Diva II (Kannan x Berlioz) leaving one stride out in the final combination jumping through the final element and their youngest squad member Jessica Mendoza ending with twelve faults. Luckily, Joe Clee on Utamaro d’Ecaussines (Diamond de Semilly x Quidam de Revel) and Michael Whitaker on Cassionato (Cassini I x Quidam de Revel) kept it together to produce two stunning clear rounds putting their team fourth on a score of 10.99 and in contest for Olympic qualification.
Beerbaum and Clee’s clear rounds also kept them in the top three individually, with similar scores of yesterday - close behind Leprevost on 0.75 and 1.00 respectively. Gregory Wathelet is still rank four, while Sergio Alvarez Moya’s clear round on Carlo 273 (Contender x Cascavelle) made him move into the top five in addition to his team making it to the final tomorrow ranking 7th.
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