THE Irish show jumping team have qualified for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after a fourth place finish at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark.
Michael Blake’s team of Denis Lynch, Bertram Allen, Cian O’Connor and Daniel Coyle finished less than one fault away from a medal in tonight’s (Friday) final. The Tokyo Olympic champions Sweden backed up that form by winning the gold medal comfortably on 7.69, ahead of The Netherlands in silver on 19.31 and Britain came from behind to win the team bronze on 22.66.
Ireland started the day in ninth place and set out with the big goal of securing that qualification for Paris. Denis Lynch got the team off to a great start with Molly Ohrstrom’s 13-year-old gelding Brooklyn Heights, jumping a perfect clear and just picking up a single time fault when one second over the 83 seconds time allowed.
Next to go, Bertram Allen bounced back from eight faults on Thursday to produce a classy clear round with Aiden McGrory’s 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Pacino Amiro to put the team firmly in the hunt for team qualification and even a podium place.
Bertram Allen and Pacino Amiro at the FEI World Championships in Herning \ Tomas Holcbecher
Cian O’Connor was heading for home with a clear until the final part of the tricky combination – 13abc – on the last line when Susan Magnier’s 14-year-old gelding C Vier 2 just clipped the oxer behind. They also picked up a time fault to finish on five faults.
Ireland were in contention for a bronze medal if anchorman Daniel Coyle could jump a clear when last to go for the team, however Ariel Grange’s Legacy knocked the triple bar, then the next vertical and another fence before Coyle opted to retire as the discard score, meaning Ireland counted six faults from the night and finished on 23.15.
Michael Blake commented: “Obviously we are delighted to take an Olympic qualification place at the very first opportunity as it now gives us two full years to prepare for the Games. It is slightly bittersweet as we came so close to winning a medal.
"It certainly was an exciting competition and all our guys fought hard to climb from ninth overall and finish in the top four. Congratulations to Sweden, The Netherlands and Britain on their medal wins and to Germany for also qualifying for Paris. None of this would be possible without the incredible owners we have, the grooms, and all those that put so much work into a successful result and I want to thank each and every one of them.”
It was a night of high drama and the final two podium placings came down to the last line of riders when France and Germany slipped out of medal contention and Britain, bolstered by a brilliant clear from Harry Charles (Romeo 88) climbed from sixth place to win the bronze.
The gold medal was wrapped up for Sweden by third-line rider Jens Fredricson when he posted yet another clear with Markan Cosmopolit which meant the pressure was off his brother, Peder, who ended up with an uncharacteristic 12 faults. World number one Henrik von Eckermann was earlier clear with King Edward and the pair now head the individual standings, while Malin Baryard-Johnsson H&M Indiana finished with four faults.
The Dutch team of Sanne Thijssen (Con Quidam RB), Maikel van der Vleuten (Beauville Z N.O.P), Jur Vrieling (Long John Silver) and Harrie Smolders (Monaco N.O.P) rose from fourth overnight. Anchorman Smolders secured the bronze with a perfect clear.
Charles was joined on the team by Ben Maher (Faltic HB), Joseph Stockdale (Equine America Cacharel) and Scott Brash (Hello Jefferson).
Despite drama for the German team after the current European champion Andre Thieme parted ways with DSP Chakaria, they finished in fifth place and secured their Paris qualification, while France finished sixth.
It was all change too in the individual rankings as Frenchman Julien Epaillard slipped from first place to 12th when picking up eight faults with the feisty Caracole de la Roque. Sweden’s von Eckermann now holds the individual lead ahead of Sunday’s final on 0.58.
He is chased in second place by teammate Jens Fredricson on 2.71 while Belgium’s Jérôme Guery sits in bronze on 3.35. Denis Lynch, Cian O’Connor and Bertram Allen all made it through to the individual final in 19th, 20th and 21st place, respectively.
Sunday’s final for the top 25 starts at 1pm (Irish time) on Sunday.