In a hot, tense, electrifying competition which went to the wire, Jack Whitaker claimed the individual gold medal at the Pony European Championships in Denmark.
It was amazingly close – too close for comfort – just three faults separated the top three with Jack taking gold by just one fault on the 12-year-old Elando Van De Roshoeve.
Jack was in equal fourth on four faults – picked up in round one of the team competition and Elando’s only mistake all show – with seven other riders. Two riders were at the top on a zero score with another on just one time fault.Jack jumped a super, copy-book clear in round one to keep the pressure on the leaders.
And when Germany’s Antonia Ercken came home on five faults with Crazy Hardbreaker, added to her time fault from day one, Jack was on his way up the leader-board.
But The Netherlands’ Rowen van de Mheen – on a zero score with Quaprice D’Astree – remained at the top, adding just one time fault in round one. It was crucial Jack jumped another clear in round two.
“I could feel how well Elando was going all week and somehow he felt different to usual. He’s usually very good, but throughout the week he was feeling exceptional, it was as if he knew hit was a championships,” said Jack. “I cannot tell you how nervous I was, but I was having stomach pains with it, knowing I had a chance of getting a medal and I was putting so much pressure on myself.”
The tension didn’t get any easier, but Jack, 14, certainly has the breeding and makings of a champion, and he dismissed the mounting pressure to guide Elando into another foot-perfect clear round.
And it intensified the pressure on the other riders.
“He rode immaculately and couldn’t have ridden any better. It was a tough course and he was brilliant. I’m so proud, I can’t describe how proud I feel,” said Jack’s emotional father Michael Whitaker – more nervous than he’s ever been in any championship himself.
Jack’s double clear earned gold.
The pressure proved too much for the final riders. Rowen and Quaprice jumped for four faults in round two, and added to their one time fault, their total of five was just one fault behind Jack for silver for The Netherlands. Germany’s Antonia already on six faults with Crazy Hardbreaker, added another time fault to finish on seven – sufficient for bronze.
It had been an agonising, nail-biting, nerve-wracking wait for Jack.
"I couldn’t watch the last to go. I stood with my Dad and didn’t we’d won until he burst out crying and them all I remember is jumping as high as I could and everyone running at me. It has been unbelievable. I’m so happy and can’t thank my mum [Melissa] and dad enough, my sponsors and everyone who supports us at home. A big Thank You!”
Robert Murphy, 15, finished in 14th on Hans Christian Jacobsen’s Rainbows Mocha with 17 faults, and Allana Clutterbuck was in 24th with Sue Evans’ Sultan Du Bary.
Photo © Helen Revington courtesy British Showjumping