Germany’s Mathias Westendarp claimed the Individual Young Rider title, Great Britain’s Ava Vernon topped the Juniors and Hungary’s Gyula Szuhal Jr. was crowned Children’s champion at the FEI European Championships 2021 for Young Riders, Juniors and Children which drew to a close at Herdade da Comporta in Vilamoura (POR) yesterday.
But in the battle for the Team medals, Belgium secured an incredible hat-trick of wins in all three categories.
The Junior Team title was the first to be confirmed when “the fantastic five” led by Rik Deraedt, who has been Chef d’Equipe for more than 10 years, claimed the honours for Belgium. Bart Jay Jr. Vandecasteele (Mac Jack Courtier), Aurelia Guisson (No Limit), Anthony Philippaerts (J’Adore ven het Schaeck), Tristan Guisson (Naturelle) and Evelyne Putters (Uith de Rotes) completed on a final score of 9.83.
Silver medal spot went to Switzerland’s Linus Hanselman (Walk for Me), Noah Keller (Julia’s Diamond Princess), Geraldine Strauman (Silver Surfer), Thibault Keller (Badaboum One) and Gaetan Joliat (Verone de Hus Z) who finished with 14.98 on the board. And team bronze went to Great Britain’s Ava Vernon (Jolie Fleur), Amelie Gachoud (The Precious One), Claudia Moore (Hardesther), Oliver Fletcher (Hello William) and Lila Bremner (Memphis VD Vaart) whose final scoreline showed 16.56.
Ireland’s Tom Wachman and Fireball were leading the Individual rankings ahead of Britain’s Vernon and Alice Laine from France going into Saturday’s finale. But a fence down in the third round of competition proved costly for Wachman who had to settle for fifth place in the final analysis, behind Laine in fourth.
It was a close-fought battle for the podium placings, with Vernon clinching gold on a score of 4.39 while Belgian siblings, Tristan and Aurelia Guisson, took silver and bronze on 4.4 and 4.6 respectively.
And then the Belgians won the Young Riders Team title. Thibeau Spits (Classic Touch), Emilie Conter (Balento CS), Maartje Verberckmoes (Guidam’s Willow the Second), Alexander Housen (Casillas van de Helle) and Thibeau Philippaerts (Khan vd Kattevennen Z) racked up a total of 21.35 for gold while Ireland’s Jack Ryan (BBS McGregor), Sean Monaghan (Dalvaro), Harry Allen (Guinness), Jason Foley (Clyde VA) and Kayleigh Soden (Ard Leaderman) took silver on 23.56.
Jodie Hall McAteer (Kimosa), Lily Attwood (Karibou Horta), Siena Charles (Ornellaia), Jack Whitaker (Scenletha) and Robert Murphy (Highcross Violet) clinched bronze for Great Britain on 28.72. Whitaker, son of British Jumping legend Michael Whitaker, was lying second in the Individual rankings going into the final day behind Germany’s Mathias Westendarp with his gelding Stalido in pole position while in bronze at this stage was Russia’s Igor Schibrik who produced some great jumping with his 10-year-old gelding Cornet’s Spirit.
However in Sunday’s Individual Final Schibrik slipped to fifth, and it was team gold medallist Emilie Conter from Belgium who stood on the third step of the podium while Whitaker held on to silver medal spot and Westendarp stood firm for the gold.
The French side of Dan Eschmann (Valdiva Frivole), Margaux Chereau (Vidocq de Paline), Timothee Goffinet (Valserine du Bois), Lana Messina (Quactus du Leon) and Cassandre Roquain (Balzane des Roches) were top of the Children’s leaderboard after Friday’s second competition. However they dropped to equal-fourth with Ireland the following day which allowed the second-placed Belgians to rise to the top.
Estee Bomere (History van’t Ameldonk Z), Yari van den Branden (Gerard), Nikita van der Meerschen (Impressario), Seppe Wouters (Porthos Maestro) and Brent de Schrijver (LIV Good vd Kattevennen Z) won through on their total of four faults. Silver went to Italy’s Vittoria Callabro (Abete), Giovanni Vincoli (Qitana VDV), Angelica Francesca Pellicari (Vasco vd Jukschot Z), Nicolo Paolo Monari (Touch d Arrogance) and Maria Ilaria Grilli (Saetta del Terricio) who finished with eight.
And Great Britain took the bronze when Tabitha Kyle (Desterly), Emily Fisher (Heedestar), Madison Seedhouse (Emara Giguellerie Z), Noora von Bulow (Lucky Lisa) and Eve McCoy (Non Stop) posted a final tally of 11.
The Children’s Individual Final was the most exciting finish of the week when coming down to a five-way jump-off to decide the medals. Finland’s Hugo Kogelnig riding Vermont 2 galloped home in a fast time of 30.72 seconds, but Hungary’s Gyula Szuhai Jr. riding Perthy Jackson snatched away the gold when crossing the line in 30.43. Switzerland’s Lou Puch and Vitalhorse Un Amour La Goula collected eight faults to slot into fifth place and there was the closest contest for bronze between Belgium’s Seppe Wouters and Czech Republic’s Anna Marie Vitek (Chacco’s Amke) who both had a single fence down and were separated by just over half a second on the clock, Vitek getting the medal-winning edge.
Jean Jacques Mathis, Belgian Chef D ́Equipe for the Pony and Children categories, was “happy and amazed by the rare, if not unique, result achieved” by his athletes. And he could be proud that many of the competitors on the Young Riders team were also coached by him earlier in their careers.
Rik Deraedt, Belgian Chef d ́Equipe for Juniors and Young Riders, talked about the great team spirit in the Belgian camp and the level of talent that shows so much promise for the future.