Emotions ran high in Rotterdam as Britain bagged the bronze medal at the European Championships and secured a team place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The primary aim was always to pick up one of the three Olympic tickets on offer and an incredible clear from pathfinder Ben Maher on Explosion W put them on the road to a podium place and Tokyo.
The Brits in the bronze position overnight after moving up one place from fourth on day one – added eight faults to their score. And it was edge-of-your seats stuff. Ben had jumped two immaculate clears on Poden Farm’s Chacco-Blue/Baloubet Du Rouet 10-year-old Explosion and they repeated their incredible performance to deliver yet another foot-perfect round. And it kept him at the top of the individual leaderboard in gold position.
Holly Smith and the British-bred Heart Throb 10-year-old Hearts Destiny just tapped out the top rail of a vertical and were considered unlucky to come home on four. Amanda Derbyshire also returned on four, rubbing a rail on an early oxer.
Anchor Scott Brash and the 13-year-old Hello M’Lady crossed the finish line on eight as the discard score but Britain had already secured bronze and that all-important Olympic team place.
“It has been a fantastic result and this incredible team have pulled together with everyone putting in a counting score across the three rounds. Winning the Dublin Nations Cup was a great trampoline in terms of getting in the momentum,” said world class performance manager di Lampard.
“We came here to qualify for Tokyo and we’ve come away with a lot more than that with a bronze medal and now we have Ben in pole position for Sunday’s individual medals,” she added.
Ben had led the individual leaderboard overnight.
“My priority today has been about the team and Tokyo qualification. On a personal level, I have high expectations coming into a championship, especially with a horse like Explosion. It’s one day at a time – he’ll enjoy his rest day on Saturday then its all down to the final day.” said Ben.
Belgium held on to their overnight lead to take the gold medal and bag a Tokyo 2020 place with 12.07 penalties but it went to the wire.
Victory was hanging in the balance as their anchor rider Gregory Wathelet rode into the history books for their first medal in the 62-history of the European Championships with an amazing clear on MJT Nevados S.
“I like pressure,” he said.
Germany claimed the silver medal just over a fence away on 16.22. Britain finished on a total of 21.41. And France took the third Tokyo Olympic team place on offer in fourth place.
The Individual final is scheduled to start on 1pm local time on Sunday 25 August.
Text © Jumping Around/Photos courtesy British Showjmuping & Lewis Harding