Britain and Denmark dominated a compelling final day of Para-Equestrian dressage in Gothenburg, Sweden at the Longines FEI European Championships.
The British edged ahead of the Scandinavians at the finish, with a bold ride from Sophie Wells on C Fatal Attraction giving them a third freestyle gold of the day, one clear of Denmark’s haul.
It was another very successful championships for the British, who, despite three newcomers in the team, took home six of the 11 golds on offer.
“Coming to my first Championships is enough, winning three gold medals is insane,” said Grade III Freestyle champion Suzanna Hext (GBR), who rode Abira in the competition.
However, the Danes will be proud of how far they pushed their rivals, especially on days two and three. Teenager Tobias Joergensen (DEN) on Bruunhiolms Caribian opened up Denmark’s account for the final day with bronze. The 17-year-old hails from a fine line of Para Dressage athletes, as his mother Line Joergensen (DEN) competed at the London 2012 Paralympics.
Great Britain’s Julie Payne produced a huge score and grabbed another gold in Grade I. The 55-year-old, who is battling a life-threatening, progressive neurological disease, and her wonderful mare Athene Lindebjerg, showed the virtues of doing the simple things to perfection and scored 80.393%, the highest mark of the week.
Three rides, three golds and the three highest scores of the Championship: “I’ve certainly had more than my 15 minutes of fame,” said the ever-modest Julie.
Rihards Snikus (LAT) on King of the Dance and Elke Philipp (GER) on Regaliz swapped places from Monday’s individual test, taking silver and bronze in the Freestyle respectively.
In the Grade IV freestyle, Denmark hit back, with Susanne Sunesen and CSK’s Que Faire levelling the tally at two gold medals each. The Dane broke the home crowd’s heart as she did so, snatching gold from Swede Louise Jakobsson and Zernard.
“Before I got my injury (a farm accident in 2006 left her with incomplete paraplegia) I was riding her, until she was six years old, then she had a foal, then I got my injury and I rode her a little bit after,” says Susanne of her lovely mare. “Then I had a foal (her daughter Sara was in the Heden Arena crowd) and she had another foal and I started riding her again.”
Sanne Voets (NED), riding Demantur, took Grade IV bronze.
Two-time Paralympic gold medallist Sophie Wells (GBR) shone in the final test of the Championships, beating Frank Hosmar (NED) and Alphaville N.O.P.’s impressive 76.955%.
Sophie’s horse, C Fatal Attraction, is notoriously spooky, and she says, “I had no idea what I was going to get out there, but he pulled it out of the bag when it mattered.”
The duo stormed to gold with 78.350%. Switzerland’s Nicole Geiger picked up her second bronze of the week with Phal de Lafayette.
|Germany wins again
They may have been thrown off course a few times in recent years, but Team Germany showed that they have the bit between their teeth again by following up their Rio 2016 Olympic team victory to claim their 23rd team title at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“This is the latest press conference I’ve ever been at in my life, and the driest, so I hope we can go to the bar and have a little party soon!” said world no. 1 ranked dressage rider, Isabell Werth. “We really couldn’t expect at the beginning of the year that, with two horses out of the team that went to Rio, we really would dominate the Europeans here in the team competition. All of us are really happy.”
The Germans were already ahead after their first two team-members completed their Grand Prix tests. Third rider Sönke Rothenberger on Cosmo then posted 78.343 and took the lead, despite a spooky moment and a mistake in the tempi changes.
Sönke’s score put the German total at a safe 227.915, with Isabell Werth still to ride. Meanwhile, a fierce battle raged between neighbours Denmark and Sweden for silver and bronze, with the result sealed by a very special performance from Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour. Riding the 14-year-old Atterupgaards Cassidy, a gorgeous chestnut who she has partnered since her Junior years, the 25-year-old scored 78.300 which put the team result beyond doubt.
Last into the ring, Isabell Werth and her fabulous mare Weihegold produced their usual lovely test and demoted Sönke to runner-up in the individual rankings. Cathrine Dufour finished third and Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and Dorothee Schneider were fourth and six respectively. The top 30 riders now go through to Friday’s GP Special.
Denmark had not been on a European medal podium since 2001 so there was plenty for Cathrine to celebrate with team-mates Anna Kasprzak, Anna Zibrandtsen and Agnete Kirk Thinggaard.
For Sweden, it was team bronze. Rose Mathisen, Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven, Therese Nilshagen and Patrik Kittel were all riding horses who still have something to learn, and chef d’equipe, Bo Jena was “really proud” of them.
Carl Hester (Nip Tuck) made a valiant effort for the British, who are down to three riders after Gareth Hughes’ Don Carissimo’s withdrawal. Carl’s 74.900 placed him individually fifth but the British team finished two percentage places behind the Swedes. The defending champions from The Netherlands were fifth.