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|British Drivers win Team and Individual Medals at World Championships|
25 September 2006
World Single Horse Championships 2006
What a fantastic weekend for British driving and a wonderful performance by all four of our single horse drivers!
The site at Pratoni del Vivaro, about 45 minutes south of Rome, was previously used for the 1998 World Equestrian Games and for numerous ridden championships, and provided a dramatic setting for the event, and a challenging marathon in the hilly parkland. After a wet start to the week, the competition was blessed with glorious sunshine.
Di Hayes?s uncharacteristic error of course in the Dressage left her down the order, but a good test by David Matthews left the British team in contention, while Paul Sidwell, competing as an individual, did a beautifully smooth and accurate test to take 6th place at the end of the two days. But the most memorable test for the Brits was that of Ian Bertram who has struggled with Hamewith Lonach in this phase in the past. A training session with Boyd Exell before he left early for Italy, followed by two weeks of solid circle work under the watchful eye of his wife, Catriona with telephone advice from Boyd, produced a new horse for Ian! He was rewarded with an impressive score of 48.6, and indeed his solid performance throughout the Championships meant that he was the only British driver whose scores in all three phases counted towards the team total.
Marathon course designer Christian Iseli had taken full advantage of the terrain with many of the obstacles sited on tricky slopes. With two water obstacles the course was inevitably going to be a test of fitness, but the Brits excelled themselves. In accordance with team orders, Di completed a good steady round to set up the team challenge while others nations were falling by the wayside. There were a number of turnovers, and obstacle number 6 proved particularly tricky as the ground began to deteriorate. But nothing stopped David Matthews and he completed a fantastic round - the second-best of the day - to leap to 2nd overall. Ian Bertram, showing no nerves despite his lack of experience at this level, finished only fractionally slower than David. The event was reaching a climax as Paul drove his round, and with ?John? still full of running, he recorded with 7th best marathon to move into 3rd place overall. Sweden?s Cecilia Qvarnstrom, the Dressage winner, retained her lead although with a reduced margin, with the Swedish team in first and Great Britain a couple of point away in second.
Unfortunately we heard no complimentary words about Sunday?s cones course! It contained two zig-zags and an ?L? as well as a group of four cones positioned on a 20m circle for which the shortest route was a series of 10m half-circles inside the larger circle. But the biggest challenge was a straight line of four pair of cones close to the ringside set 14m apart and all angled identically at about 35o; this was in effect another type of zig-zag, although it was numbered as individual obstacles. Competitor after competitor struggled to drive this combination tidily and no-one was anywhere near the time allowed. That was until Di came in! She and ?Mel? drove the most immaculate clear round that will be remembered by all who witnessed it - she never faltered pace or rhythm and finished some 13 seconds inside the time. The stadium erupted! This really put the pressure on the other teams. Di started to learn the course for the drive-off as the competition proceeded but no-one else did a double clear. The tension built as the cones fell. Ian had three cones down and time faults, but this was still a good score for the team. The experienced Swedish girls found the course as difficult as everyone else and the first two team members had cones down. Paul, driving in third place, had only one cone down but picked up 8.83 time penalties, then David had two down in a slightly slower time, so it looked as though Cecilia would repeat the Swedish victory of 2004. But it?s not over until the last cone is driven and to everyone?s surprise she had five cones down and was over the time. This gave individual victory to Paul by 0.22 penalty and a convincing win to the British team by 7 penalties. What a result!
And what an achievement for Brian Murray of the Hamewith Stud in Aberdeenshire to have two horses with his prefix in the same gold medal team !
It was a fantastic effort by the drivers and their back-up team. Chef d?Equipe Georgina Frith assisted by Paul Chambers, Team Trainer Boyd Exell - still on crutches and very ably helped by his wife Preetha - and Team Vet Viki Edmondson. Not to mention the lorry drivers, ?cooks and bottle washers? and all the others who worked tirelessly all week.
Well done everyone!
Report by Jill Holah
A thank-you message from the World Champion