“A TOUGH day at the office,” was how Irish show jumping team manager Rodrigo Pessoa explained the first round of the team final at today’s (Thursday) FEI European Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
The Irish team have slipped to eighth place and fifth of those teams seeking one of three Olympic qualifying places after adding 20 points to their score over Louis Konickx's big and techincal course.
Cian O’Connor and PSG Final finished with an uncharacteristic 16 faults to be the discard score, before Shane Sweetnam had three fences down for 12 faults with Alejandro.
Youngster Peter Moloney got a fraction too close to the second fence and it fell to leave him on four faults with Chianti’s Champion. Anchor rider Darragh Kenny also finished with four faults, which came at the oxer at fence six, aboard Balou du Reventon.
That leaves Ireland on a team total of 30.36 in eighth place, and through to tomorrow’s final round when medals and qualifying places will be decided. In terms of Olympic qualification, they are less than a fence from sixth-placed Italy (26.74) and just over three fences from France (17.39) who lie in fourth and currently occupy the final qualifying place.
“We have to debrief more in debth about the things that happened. We are extremely disappointed with how two of the horses performed today. The two other were good, [they had] cheap rails, but can always be better. But at the half way stage it looked like we were not even going to make the cut [for tomorrow],” Pessoa said afterwards.
“So at least we still have a foot in the game tomorrow. Anything can happen, we could go really well, teams that are ahead of us could fall away. We have to stick together really hard and try to do something very special tomorrow.”
On O’Connor’s discard round, Pessoa added: “Everything came in consideration when we chose the horses. He [PSG Final] is only a nine-year-old horse but Cian has 120 caps for his country and in these championships you rely on the rider. The horse yesterday was good. We made some minor changes and today it didn’t correspond. We are not going to look for excuses but we will look at what happened.”
Sweetnam was also very disappointed with his performance. “I’ve never had 12 faults with him before. He was jumping well, I just kind of lost him a little bit coming around the last corner, he just kind of switched off – I don’t know if it was a bit of inexperience and he thought he was finished. Then we had two rails we would never have had. We have to keep fighting tomorrow,” he said.
Belgium rocket up
An extraordinary performance from Belgium saw them rocket up from eighth place after yesterday’s speed competition to pole position going into the team medal-decider. They are also seeking Olympic qualification.
Clear rounds from Pieter Devos (Claire Z), Jos Verlooy (Igor) and anchorman Gregory Wathelet (MJT Nevados S) meant they didn’t have to count the eight faults collected by Jerome Guery (Quel Homme de Hus), so they stayed on their first-day total of 11.07 penalty points.
The leaders from Germany however slipped to silver medal position with a total of 12.22 while Great Britain improved from overnight fourth place into bronze medal spot with 13.41 points on the board.
Kenny 12th individually
Darragh Kenny lies in 12th place individually on 5.78 penalties. Britain’s Ben Maher (Explosion W) has taken over at the top of the individual rankings on a score of 0.62, ahead of Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (Albfuehren’s Bianca) in second (1.31) , while Frenchman Alexis Deroubaix (Timon d’Aure) has moved into third (1.40).