Cian O’Connor has added individual bronze to his team gold medal at the Longines FEI European Championships.
After five gruelling rounds of jumping, Cian and Good Luck had just one pole down in the final to take third place on the podium, behind Harrie Smolders in silver and Peder Fredricson in gold.
Team mates Shane Sweetnam and Denis Lynch finished eighth and tenth, respectively.
“Good Luck has been incredible,” said Cian. “He has learned now to go fast against the clock, which he showed on the opening day. I am very lucky to have a huge support team around me at Karlswood and I want to thank them all for their effort and support.
“In particular I want to thank Good Luck’s groom Alan O’Brien, along with Ross Mullholland and Michael Kelly who do so much work behind the scenes riding our horses and with our training.”
Gasp of horror
Peder Fredricson, who was riding on home turf, led the championship from the opening event on Wednesday (23 August). Cian was his biggest threat going into the final round, but the Irish rider had one unfortunate fence.
This meant Peder, who was last to go, had a fence in hand. There was a gasp of horror from the crowd when All In hit the middle element of the triple combination, but he only added one further time penalty to take gold.
Dutch riders Harrie Smolders rocketed up from ninth to second place after Don VHP Z jumped a double clear, which put Cian in bronze medal position. There was just 1.25pen between the top three.
“Like any athlete you are not enjoying the pressure, but you just have to be comfortable with it and try to not let it get to you,” said Peder. “Focus on what you should do and focus on your horse and your team, and try to make all the preparations right and deliver on the day and not start thinking about other things. I’m really happy I could give my horse this gold medal!”
Cian is the third Irish rider in history to win a European Championship individual medal. Previous winners are Peter Charles, who won gold at St Gallen, Switzerland in 1995 riding La Ina, and Eddie Macken who won silver in Austria in 1977 riding Kerrygold.
‘Over the moon’
“I’m over the moon, it’s been an excellent week to win team gold and to finish with three riders in the top 10 individually,” said Cian. “As our assistant manager Michael Blake said, the famine is over.
“It could have been even better, the lightest of rubs cost us gold, but that’s the sport with small margins at this top level.”
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