Wilson wows for Britain's first medal in Rotterdam
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Today was the first day for the paras to take to the arena, set in the woods in the shadow of the main Rotterdam Arena with their FEI European Championship Individual tests for Grades I, II and III. As well as individual medals at stake, the test acts as a qualifier for the championship finale, the Freestyle with the top eight riders qualifying in each grade. It was a historic day for Team GBR as two riders made their debut on a Championship team, and neither disappointed.
The Grade II contingent was first under the judging panel as the morning sun shone brightly. Georgia Wilson (23) was the first Brit in action with her own and her parent’s Midnight, a ten year old by Hilkens Black Delight. Georgia is under the charge of Sophie Wells and she’s really brought the duo along in the last 12 months, culminating in this first team call up.
Their test started brightly with some strong work – excellent immobility in the halt, good crossing in the leg yield, an accurate three loop serpentine all flowed with the exceptional regularity required for good marks in para dressage. The final halt was a good one and as Georgia turned back towards A to exit, that familiar smile beamed bright, she was pleased with the performance and as a final score of 73.47% was announced, it was justified.
That was enough to give her silver behind multi-Paralympian Pepo Puch from Austria with his new ride, Sailor’s Blue who scored 75.23% and in bronze was another ‘veteran’ para duo, Nicole den Dulk and Wallace NOP for the home side on 73.35% so quite the company to be in for the rider from Conwy.
After her test she told us; “It was completely nerve racking but I’m glad that first test is out of the way! I had a dilemma if to carry two whips or not but Sophie [Wells] told me to stick with the plan. She’s amazing and doesn’t spook really. When she’s listens, she loves to flick her toes!”
Georgia’s trainer Sophie Wells, also competing in Rotterdam in the Grade V with Charlotte Hogg’s C Fatal Attraction added; “Once I’d let her go, I was nervous as I was out of control but I’m so pleased - it was pretty mistake free.”
Next up under the British flag was Buckinghamshire 25 year old Mari Duward-Akhurst riding Glensi Owen’s 20 year old Sky O’Hara (below). Proudly wearing her British team Flying Changes jacket for the first time, Mari, who trains with Rob Waine, started with great purpose and determination with some accurate riding being rewarded with sevens and more. The elegant, leggy duo impressed but as the test went on, ‘Sky’ became unsettled by a horse misbehaving out of the arena and let out several whinnies. Mari knows him so well and kept her cool…and his focus to finish well for 70.10% which at the end of the 17 starters left her seventh so securing a spot in Sunday’s Freestyle.
It was a tough battle for gold in the Grade I with a tie on 75.036% but a countback of the collectives gave gold to Jens-Lasse Dokkan for Norway with new ride Aladdin over multi-medallist Italy’s Sara Morganti riding Royal Delight. Bronze is headed to Latvia for Rihard Snikus and his ride King of the Dance – a perfect name for a horse whose rider is a part time DJ!
Mari said after her ride; “It was quite good to have him so ‘up’ – I’m really happy! I was nervous before but not once I got on – we’re a team and once we went down the centerline together, it was all good. He’s chilled but always rises to the occasion. I’m hoping it’ll be a bit easier the next time but today I’m very pleased with most of my test.”
It’s the turn of Grades IV and V tomorrow in the shape of Nicky Greenhill and King Edward (GIV) at 11:15 and Sophie Wells and C Fatal Attraction (GV) at 13.59.Georgia will have to wait until tomorrow evening for her time on the podium as all five grades will be presented together.
The dressage trio are in Grand Prix Special action for individual medals and first up is Lottie Fry with her own and Van Olst Horses’ Dark Legend at 17.40, then it’s Carl Hester with Ann Cory, Lady Anne Evans and his own Hawtins Delicato at 19:20 while Gareth Hughes completes the British medal bid with Classic Briolinca who he co-owns with wife Rebecca and Julia Hornig, owner and proprietor of Classic Dressage at 20:00 – all times are BST.
A busy day for the fourth day with five riders in action – keep up to date with times and results on this link. The para tests are available on free to view FEI You Tube while the GP Special is on air on FEI TV which requires a subscription to watch.