William Whitaker is best Brit on day one at WEG and Britain lie in 16th place


Great Britain is in 16th place following the first competition as the showjumping team and individual medals – and qualifying places for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – got underway at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon.

Anchor William Whitaker was the best Brit with Utamaro D Ecaussines in the table C speed class conducted over a 1.55m track with 124 competitors representing 49 nations and 25 teams. The pair had an unlucky pole down in the double at the latter end of the course adding a four sec penalty to their time, dropping them from ninth to 28th individually.

“It was a real shame but I was delighted with my horse, he jumped brilliant out there,” William commented afterwards. “I think I maybe could have just helped him a bit more up that line to the fence, but from my point of view I’m very, very happy with him. I don’t think he could have jumped any better.”

Championship debutant and third Brit in the ring Amanda Derbyshire flew round the course on Luibanta BH until an uncharacteristic mistake at the water led to antother mistake at the next fence, adding eight sec to the time. Nevertheless, they were so quick they were the second highest-placed Brit in 46th spot.

“I was going for a fast clear and up until the water [jump] that was all going to plan. Unfortunately, she just picked up a stride early, which is very unusual, she’s never done that before, and it left us a little unorganised for the next fence,” said Amanda. “She finished the course well and in a fast time, so that still puts us in pretty good stead for tomorrow.”

Another pair making their championship debut, Holly Smith and Hearts Destiny fell foul of the same double as William and Utamaro, clipping the vertical coming out.

“Very proud,” said Holly “He felt absolutely amazing in there; there was just one small mistake, which started with him being a bit green at the wall. I’m delighted with him, coping with that atmosphere having just done a year of international competition. I think tomorrow will be more to his strengths, with the bigger jumps; I hope we can do everybody proud.”

Pathfinder William Funnell had got the Brits off to a good start with a clear on Billy Buckingham but finished in 60th place individually, just one behind Holly.

“He’s not the fastest horse, so I wasn’t expecting to come out in the lead, but I was really pleased with the way he jumped in there,” said William. “It’s a good start, and hopefully he jumps as the next two days and I can do a good job for the team.”

Scores were converted into penalties – the best three scores counting toward the team places – with Britain lying 16th on 13.04. Ireland lie in 10th on 10.12 with Switzerland leading the way on 2.64 thanks to anchor Steve Guerdat’s scorching winning round on Bianca in the penultimate draw.

“It’s an advantage going at the end, I rode nine hours after walking the course, it was a long day,” said Steve. “I was confident, the course walked well and there were fast clears but not crazy fast. I knew if I stuck to my plan I’d have a good chance of being in the top three.”

British-based Australian Rowan Willis landed an impressive third with Blue Movie behind Brazil’s Pedro Veniss on Quabri De L’Isle. Australia stand fifth on a total of 7.32.

“He flew into third place – a great day for Australia and a brilliant result,” said Rowan.

Photos © Sportfot & courtesy British Showjumping

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