Great Britain secured the team silver medal at the Pony European championships in Poland in a breath-taking final round.
A dramatic finale unfolded in the team competition as the medals were fought for in a tense, nail-biting jump-off which went to the wire.
After three rounds where the best three scores count, Britain and Ireland stood at the top of the leaderboard on a score of four faults with two fences in hand over France and Germany on 12 faults. France and Germany were first to jump-off for bronze and it went to the final rider, France taking the medal and a place on the podium with a faster cumulative time.
The big showdown for the gold and silver medals were contended at the end and the tension mounted considerably as each rider took their turn. Ireland were drawn first with John McEntee and Little Smithe jumping a competitive clear.
But they were no match for Britain’s pathfinder Shaunie Greig. She set off at a tremendous pace with Casino Royale, brilliantly executing a tight, near-impossible angled turn over a vertical. But it was almost her downfall as, in a hair-raising, breath-taking moment, Casino Royale twisted over the fence and almost jumped Shaunie off. She miraculously recovered from losing her stirrup and almost falling out of the side door, managing to right herself without breaking stride to cross the finish line with more than two sec to spare, although she must have lost two sec recovering from the near fall.
Ireland’s Naimh McEvoy and Ardfry Skye also jumped clear but were more than six sec slower than Shaunie. And when Claudia Moore delivered a super clear on Elando Van De Roshoeve 1.62 sec up on Niamh’s time, Britain looked in a strong position.
And the British quartet edged further ahead as Ireland’s Tom Wachman with Ocean Des As came home on eight faults while Britain’s Lila Bremner – at her first European championships – belied any inexperience to post a super clear on the nine-year-old Lapislazuli.
It was high-octane pressure for the final two riders but Ireland’s Max Wachman dismissed any pressure to storm home clear, following Shaunie’s route and confidently riding the inside turn, to post a quick time on Cuffesgrange Cavalidam just 0.14 sec behind Shaunie’s fantastic time.
It was game on for Holly Truelove and the stallion Rexter D’Or. Ireland were in front by 1.72 sec and Holly had to complete the course clear in less than 43 sec. And she was in contention but the rail on the vertical two from home rolled off and it was all over, although she beat the time with almost a second in hand. Ireland took gold with Britain in silver and France claimed bronze.
“This was an extremely tough competition, one of the hardest I’ve seen, and each team member has been quite outstanding. The pressure they have ridden under has been intense and they have all ridden with talent and maturity that goes far beyond their years. I am so proud of them,” said chef d’Equipe Clare Whitaker.
The team had put in some great efforts over the three rounds to force a jump-off situation.
Pathfinder Shaunie, 16, and Casino Royale jumped clear on day one, came home on eight faults in the first round of the team competition but rose to the occasion in round two to post a clear.
Clear on day one and in the first round of the teams, Claudia, 14, and the 15-year-old Elando Van De Roshoeve made just one mistake in the second round of the teams to return on four faults. They go into the individual final in fifth place carrying four faults.
Lila, 16, made her championship debut a memorable one with the big-jumping Lapislazuli – a nine-year-old she has produced herself. They came home on four on day one, jumped clear in round one of the teams and returned eight in round two.
Holly, 16, and the 14-year-old Rexter D’Or proved faultless in all three rounds and go into the individual final with an impressive zero score and equal first place.
Hannah Barker, 14, represented Britain as an individual with Ammanvalley Santino, jumping for four faults on the first day and posting clear and eight in the two rounds on Friday.
Text © Jumping Around/Photos courtesy British Showjumping