The British quartet produced some stunning rounds on day two of the team competition to stay in the hunt for a medal, and with it Olympic qualification, at the Jumping FEI European Championships in Aachen, Germany, today (20 August 2015).
Getting the team off to a good start was Britain’s Ben Maher with Tatiana Korsakova’s 10 year old mare Diva II. In what was a thrilling round right to the end, the pair approached the final fence – a two stride double – only to take off a stride early and bring the final poles with them, after an otherwise faultless round.
Commenting after his round Ben said; “I don't really know what happened to be honest, she should have fit two strides in and she picked up on one. That oxer looked pretty wide there on one stride! It felt perfect the whole round, the whole round felt pretty easy, I purposefully took a bit longer to the last double just so I could create a bit of pressure for her and I put pressure on her jumping the first oxer just to make sure and she just picked up on that one stride, there's nothing else to really say. That's just the way it goes."
Next up was Jessica Mendoza aboard Sarah Mendoza’s Spirit T. With a good start in a fast time, the duo were unfortunate to take three poles on Frank Rotherberger’s course, to end her round with twelve faults.
Joe Clee, who began today sitting in third place individually after his super clear yesterday, produced yet another stunning clear round with Ludwig Criel’s Utamaro d’Ecaussines, to stop the clock at 88.07 seconds.
“It’s been fantastic, my horse has been jumping great – even a bit too good, he settled down about after fence 4,” Joe commented. “It was a real shame for Ben, he didn’t deserve that, he jumped a fantastic round, these things happen in the sport sometimes. [Just taking] Each day as it comes; with success here comes the Olympic qualification, so just one job at a time, I’ll start to enjoy it after Sunday’s been and gone.”
Last to go was team stalwart Michael Whitaker, with Mrs Beverley Widdowson’s talented grey stallion Cassionato. Rising to the occasion – and the pressure – the duo produced a foot perfect round to come home clear in 88.98 seconds.
An emotional Michael commented afterwards; “I got a lot of confidence from my horse; he’s never been in this ring and he’s never been under this kind of pressure; I didn’t know how he’d react, but he actually rose to the occasion. I said when I came out; I’ve never felt pressure like it. There’s extra pressure to qualify for the Olympics, if I’d gone in and not had a good round that would have been it – now we’re still fighting for tomorrow, even for a medal. You couldn’t get it [the course] wrong, you had to ride every fence and think about all the lines and even the last fence.”
“Joe were brilliant, and Ben were brilliant – what the mare did was out of his hands, she just took it in her own hands to take off and Ben did unbelievably to stay on.”
All four team members compete tomorrow in the final round of the Team competition, which is also the third Individual qualifying round. Individually Joe is the highest placed Brit, currently lying in third place in the individual rankings, with the top two unchanged from yesterday – France’s Penelope Leprevost sits in pole position, with Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum second.
Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the World Class Programme; the Programme is indebted to the support received from UK Sport and the National Lottery. The British teams are also very grateful to the support they receive from official Team GBR suppliers Dodson & Horrell, Equiline, Equi-Trek, Land Rover, NAF, NuuMed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.
Full results from today’s competition can be found at: http://www.aachen2015.de/en/programm-sport#41126