The Irish showjumping team has won gold at the Longines FEI European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Held their nerve
Despite being one man down, after Bertram Allen withdrew from the competition, the three remaining riders held their nerve under extreme pressure to snatch gold from the Swedish hosts.
The Swedes lost their grip on the lead when Malin Baryard-Johnson retired and Douglas Lindelow incurred nine faults. Olympic individual silver medallist Peder Fredricson jumped another fabulous clear from H&M All In, which put them in silver medal position. Switzerland was just behind them to take bronze.
‘Kind of a blur’
Shane Sweetnam got his team off to the perfect start with his third clear round of the competition on Chaqui Z. Denis Lynch was next in for Ireland, who also jumped clear with All Star.
Last to go was Cian O’Connor who had one fence in hand. He didn’t need it however, as the appropriately named Good Luck jumped clear for the third time in three days, and Ireland were crowned European Champions.
“We spoke with Rodrigo about it last night, we thought the lights might work to our advantage, be a bit spooky and might catch out some horses,” said Cian. “Our three stallions are all very brave and scopey, and the lights nearly helped them.
“We were quietly confident that we could do the business, and obviously Shane had a really tough job going first. I was outside warming up when Denis jumped clear and I thought – I have to match that now! I don’t even remember the round, it was all kind of a blur. But I do remember going through the finish!”
This is only the second time in the 60-year history of the European Championships that Ireland has won gold. Their previous success was at Arnhem in the Netherlands in 2001.
“I am really proud of all our riders – this win is really special,” said Irish team manager Rodrigo Pessoa. “This was the goal at the start of the season. The road has been bumpy, but we stuck together and showed a lot of character.”
The Irish riders are also in a strong position heading into Sunday’s individual final (27 August). Shane Sweetam is in bronze medal position, just one place ahead of team mate Cian O’Connor, while Denis Lynch is in 14th place.
Brits are out
William Whitaker, who was the only rider for Britain, missed out on qualifying for the final by just one place. William had a pole down at fence three and the final part of the combination at four. He then added two time penalties to finish in 26th place.
“I’m pleased with him,” said William. “It’s a tough course, and it’s the first time we’ve jumped under the lights here. He jumped really good again – I’m not sure if he spooked a bit at fence three, but when we knocked it, it just broke my stride a bit. After that he jumped everything really well. You have to take some risks to try to get the time.
“It’s just a bit frustrating, the way he’s jumping it feels like we should be a bit higher up the leaderboard than we are.”
If you missed all the action, you can watch it on H&C as we are showing highlights of the team showjumping competition.
FEI Europeans 2017: Team Jumping is on 29 August at 9pm on Sky 253, or you can watch online via H&C Play or Amazon Video.
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