It was Jeroen Dubbeldam for the Netherlands with SFN Zenith that took Individual Gold a few moments ago at the FEI European Championships in Aachen. In 3rd place overnight his clear in the first round and just a time fault in the second in today’s final competition saw them finish on 3.68 penalties which was enough for them climb into the Gold medal position.
Silver went to Gregory Wathelet for Belgium with Conrad de Hus who climbed up from 9th place overnight having put in a double clear to finish on his accrued score of 5.04 from the first three days of competition. Simon Delestre for France took Bronze with Ryan des Hayettes having picked up just one time penalty in the second round to finish on 6.67 penalties.
For Great Britain, the key objective had been to qualify for the Olympics, which was delivered on Friday with their 4th place finish when the Team competition came to an end. Having narrowly missed out by less than one penalty on the Team medal, the Brits then found themselves with two riders in contention for the Individual Final.
At the start of competition today, Joe Clee and Ludwig Criel’s bay stallion Utamaro d’Ecaussines were in 7th position on 5 penalties whilst Ben Maher with Tatiana Korsokova’s chestnut mare were just behind them in 9th place on 5.55 penalties.
The troublesome combinations
Frank Rothenberger had once again built a course that tested both horse and rider with the combination in the first round causing most of the problems. Coming away from the Open Water at the top of the arena riders were then very quickly met with a combination of two verticals and an oxer coming out. It was here where most picked up faults, including both Ben and Joe. For Ben and Diva it was the middle element of the combination with an oxer shortly afterwards whilst Joe was caught at the first vertical going in.
The second round had seen fortunes changing for many. For Diva who was competing at her first championships in what has been her first year of top level international competition, Ben took the conscientious and sensible decision not to jump her again and give her a well-earned rest.
Talking afterwards, Ben said “I’m happy, very happy. We came here to do what we needed to do and I’m pleased I’m not jumping this round if I’m honest. It was a close call as to whether I even started or not, but under the rules unless we have an excuse we need to jump.
“Diva felt fantastic, she jumped very good today. It was a little bit of inexperience going into the combination, but then half the field had trouble there also. She lost a stud which caused her to slip a little and I just felt that we weren’t in contention for a medal, she has proved herself as a championship horse and I’d rather keep her for another day.
“It was important that we came here to qualify for the Olympics. We have a medal to defend from London and now we have the opportunity to go back and contest it. You can win all the Grand Prix’s in the world, which may make your bank balance look better, but there is nothing that can compare to the experience and winning of an Olympic Gold medal so I’m just so pleased we have come out and delivered what we set out to do.”
The course having been re-designed for the second round saw the combination move to the other side of the arena alongside a water complex and once again, it became the obstacle to be wary of. For Joe Clee who came forward at this stage in 9th place it was gut-wrenching to watch when they stalled at the final element of the combination to pick up 4 penalties and to finish in 15th place.
A reflective Joe said “I think that the first round was a little bit unlucky – it just didn’t go my way. The second round was difficult anyway and he was spooking at the water a little and he tried so hard to come out for me and couldn’t make it. I’m so pleased with his performance, he has really jumped his heart out.
“We came here with one goal, the plan was always to qualify for the Olympics. We got this done. But you know, when you come this close and your horse is jumping this well then it’s always disappointing to get so close and then miss out. We narrowly missed out on Friday as a team and it was literally one mistake in each round that cost a medal today. I’m competitive, it’s the way I am but I’m also aware that there are so many positives that we will take away from this and we can now focus on getting to Rio next year.”
Di Lampard, World Class Performance Manager for Showjumping, reflected on the Championships after the Individual Final saying “This has been a fantastic Championships for us. We came here solely to qualify for the Olympics and we have done that and more. We were a fraction of a point away from a Team Bronze medal on Friday and today we came forward with both Ben and Joe high up on the table for the Individuals.
“Ben made the decision to keep Diva back rather than ask her to jump another round and this was absolutely the right thing to do. She has put in some brilliant performances for GB during the Championships, which are her first, and she is tired. It would have been wrong to ask her to jump again. With regards to Joe, it is just so unfortunate. Utamaro is absolutely jumping out of his skin and it was just the water catching his attention as he jumped into the combination that saw him jump to the left and then lose impulsion to come out. It really was an absolute shame.
“I can’t give enough respect to the riders and all they have done in addition to Guy Williams who came here as reserve and has supported everyone fantastically. Team spirit has been second to none and it has been a real team effort from the riders, horses and support crew through to the owners whom I can’t praise enough for making them available for us.”
Individual Final Results:
GOLD – Jeroen Dubbeldam & SFN Zenith N.O.P. (NED) – 3.68
SILVER – Gregory Wathelet & Conrad de Hus (BEL) – 5.04
BRONZE – Simon Delestre & Ryan des Hayettes (FRA) – 7.67
15th – Joe Clee & Utamaro d’Ecaussines (GBR)
23rd – Ben Maher & Diva II (GBR)
For full results and information on the Championships please visit www.aachen2015.de.