Great Britain’s eventers have bagged their place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after a stunning performance at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which saw the team of Tina Cook, William Fox-Pitt, Harry Meade and Zara Phillips, clinch the silver medal after a tense showjumping finale – as well as an individual bronze for William.
Lying in the silver medal position heading into the final phase, it was all to play for as Zara headed into the arena with the Gleadhill House Stud Ltd’s High Kingdom. With the crowd on top form, the London 2012 medallist produced a stunning clear round aboard the thirteen year old gelding to stop the clock inside the time, for a final score of 68.9 penalties, and 11th place.
“I was so excited getting back on the team after not riding for a bit,” commented Zara after her round, “being able to put a double clear in and go into a big atmosphere, it was great to prove that he can do it. I’m chuffed to bits with the horse and for the owner Trevor Hemmings, we couldn’t do it without our owners.
“Yesterday was a very difficult day for us all, this was for Harry, I’m just glad we could get some good performances in for him.”
Next to go was team stalwart Tina Cook. With her home bred De Novo News, owned by Tina and Jim Chromiak, the duo were unfortunate to have two rails down in an otherwise super round, for 75.6 penalties and 16th place.
After her ride, Tina said; “I brought here a young horse and he has gone very well; to have just two showjumps down is unlike him but the atmosphere in that arena was unbelievable – to have twenty-thousand people all screaming and shouting. We were always going to struggle to catch the Germans, but we’re thrilled as a team to have achieved Olympic qualification and a silver medal; I’m really happy.”
After a superb cross-country yesterday, GBR’s Individual Nicola Wilson was unlucky to pick up 16 faults and seven time penalties with her WEG debutant Annie Clover, owned by her parents Mr and Mrs Tweddle. Finishing to much applause, a score of 92 penalties saw the talented pair into twenty-fifth place.
Nicola commented; “She’s been superb to do two out of three at this level at the standard she has done it, I couldn’t be prouder. She is a super show jumper and hasn’t had many fences down in her career but I think the atmosphere and occasion just affected her and she just got a little nervous and jumped a little lower than she might sometimes. I think the world of her as I do all my horses, I just gave her a pat and got her to relax while they rebuilt the fence then she jumped nicely to finish.
“She can hopefully learn from today, it is by far the biggest occasion and all the cheering and clapping was superb but just a lot for her to take on. She’s got a good sensible head on her and we will use this experience and turn it into a positive one, I don’t think today will be a reflection of her career.”
With only a pole separating the top five placed riders at the beginning of the afternoon’s competition it was overnight leader, GBR’s William Fox-Pitt who was the last rider in. With the crowd buoyed after a clear from Germany’s Sandra Auffarth, the noise was sensational. William with Christopher Stone’s Chilli Morning produced a lovely round but just a touch of the pole at fence three was enough to see it fall, relegating them the bronze medal position.
“I’m delighted with Chilli, he was fantastic yesterday; today a little bit heavy legged, a little bit less reactive than he normally is and just flicked that pole. I’m lucky that he then jumped round the rest of the course clear and still got a bronze medal.
“Certainly the atmosphere in Caen has been crazy, very akin with the London Olympics in fact and the horses are very lifted by that. It was fantastic to have such a turnout here and such support, brilliant for the sport, I think it’s been a terrific day. We weren’t coming here to necessarily medal; we certainly were outsiders and came here with an inexperienced team so it’s really nice to have pulled it off and for those horses to have gone so well. It’s just wonderful to have done this today for Harry and his connections and will hopefully spur him on for the future. We’ve come through in good fettle and on the forward foot, onwards to Rio.”
With the scores in, Britain could celebrate, having achieved their aim of securing Rio Olympic qualification and securing a team silver medal; and a fitting tribute for Charlotte Opperman’s Wild Lone.
Chef d’Equipe Yogi Breisner commented on his squads performance; “The number one target of the World Equestrian Games was Olympic Qualification, which we’ve done. We’re delighted to win the team silver medal and an individual bronze, and I think the selectors have done a great job. I would like to thank UK Sport and the lottery funding for their tremendous support, without which we wouldn’t be able to achieve these aims.
“I feel very privileged and proud to work with this group of six riders, who have demonstrated their professionalism, talent and natural horsemanship during these Championships, and particularly during yesterday’s cross-country test. We are naturally saddened not to be able to bring Wild Lone with us home, and my condolences go out to his owners, Harry and his groom Jess. The result from this competition gives us a wonderful platform to go forward to the European Championships at Blair next year and on to Rio.”
Germany took the team gold title, with The Netherlands clinching the bronze. In the individual competition it was a German one-two, with Sandra Auffarth securing gold, ahead of current Olympic and European champion Michael Jung.
Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme; the British teams are very grateful to the support they receive from official Team GBR suppliers Dodson and Horrell, Land Rover, Mears Country Jackets, NAF, NuuMed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.