A stunning performance from the GAIN Irish U16 (Pony) Show Jumping team last Friday saw them take the Gold medal at the 2019 European Championships at Strzegom in Poland, following a dramatic jump-off against Britain.
Ireland started the morning in fourth place – carrying forward just four faults picked up in Thursday’s opening competition. All four Irish riders jumped clear in the first round of the team final on Friday morning and that moved Ireland into bronze medal position with one round remaining. Ireland finished the second round of the team final again with a zero score, meaning they would finish on just four faults. France, who had been in a share of the lead with Britain, picked up 12 faults in the final round to finish level with Germany in equal third, while one fence down for Britain meant they would have to jump-off against Ireland for the gold.
All four members of each team went forward to the deciding jump-offs and the third place decider saw France take the bronze, leaving Germany just outside the medal places in fourth. The tension mounted as the gold medal decider produced one of the most exciting jump-offs in recent memory. At the finish, both teams finished on a zero score, meaning the combined times would decide the winner. Ireland dramatically claimed the gold when their time was just under two seconds faster than Britain who took silver.
A delighted Irish team manager, Gary Marshall, pointed out that the incredible Irish team spirit was key to his team’s success: “It’s unbelievable, I’m just so proud of them all. I said to them at the start of the day that we just needed to keep jumping clear rounds. I have to say the team spirit we had here was just incredible, everybody was rooting for each other and you don’t win medals without that. I want to thank everyone involved that made this happen. There is so much work that goes on behind the scenes from parents, coaches and everyone working at Horse Sport Ireland. Everyone played their part and it was a real team effort and a special mention for the supporters we had out here and all the messages of support from people back home.”
Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy added: “Huge congratulations to the Irish team, their parents and team manager Gary Marshall on an exceptional result to take home another medal for Ireland at a major championships. They showed incredible composure to jump clear in all three rounds on the final day and to come out on top after a thrilling jump-off. This comes on the back of a European team bronze and individual gold for Ireland at U18 (Junior) level earlier this year and shows the level of talent and coaching we have in Ireland is exceptional. I wish all our Show Jumping, Eventing and Dressage riders the best of luck in the remaining competitions at the U16 European Championships over the rest of the weekend.”
Max Wachman crowned European U16 Show Jumping Champion
Tipperary’s Max Wachman is the new European U16 Show Jumping champion after, on Sunday, he added the individual gold medal to the team gold medal he won on Friday at the FEI European Pony Championships in Strzegom.
Riding the Coolmore Show Jumping-owned ‘Cuffesgrange Cavalidam’ (ISH), 15-year-old Max finished as the only rider to complete all five rounds of the championship competition on a zero score. Sunday’s result comes 12 months after the Tipperary teenager won individual silver at the 2018 European Championships at Bishop Burton in the UK.
Britain’s Holly Truelove took the silver medal after a jump-off against Ilona Mezzadri (FRA), who collected the bronze. A superb performance saw five Irish riders finish inside the top 13. John McEntee finished in eighth place with ‘Little Smithe’, just ahead of Niamh McEvoy in ninth with ‘Ardfry Skye’. Francis Derwin and ‘Cul Ban Mistress’ (CP) finished 11th, while Max Wachman’s younger brother Tom finished 13th with ‘Ocean Des As’.
All five Irish riders were part of the GAIN Irish U16 team managed by Gary Marshall that won team gold at the European Championships on Friday.
Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy said: “This performance from Max was simply outstanding. To finish five rounds of Championship jumping and a jump-off round in the team competition on a zero score is an incredible achievement. Congratulations to Max, to the winning owners Coolmore and to Ronan Sheehan – breeder of the winning pony. This is a superb finish to the 2019 U16 European Championships, with Ireland winning three medals in total – Show Jumping team gold, Show Jumping individual gold and Eventing team bronze and we also had excellent performances from our two dressage individual riders. I want to thank all those working behind the scenes, who helped to make this happen and to all our loyal sponsors for their support.
“I also want to take this opportunity to wish our senior Dressage, Para Dressage and Show Jumping riders the very best of luck in the hugely important Longines FEI European Championships which get underway on Monday in Rotterdam.”