Young Dutch athletes proved the dominant force at the Longines FEI European Championships 2018 for Children, Juniors and Young Riders which drew to a close at Le Grand Parquet in Fontainebleau, France yesterday. However the host nation claimed all the top honors in Eventing while Germany, Ireland, Great Britain and Belgium also grabbed gold.
The Dutch gold-rush began with victory in Children's Team Dressage where Lilli van den Hoogen (Woodstock), Lara van Nek (Fariska), Sanne van der Pols (Excellentie) and Sanne Buijs (Happy Feet) pinned their German rivals into silver medal spot by a two-point margin while France claimed the bronze. Dutch Chef d'Equipe, Monique Peutz said she felt 20 years older after the team competition, but there was plenty more to come. Underpinning the supremacy of The Netherlands side, the 13-year-olds Buijs and van Nek went on to clinch individual gold and silver, and it was the second year in a row for Buijs to take double-gold. Germany's Kenya Schwierking (Dinos Boy) lined up third for bronze.
In Children's Team Jumping it was Germany's Charlotte Hoing (Bajala), Mikka Roth (Caboto), Mick Haunhorst (Conquest) and Chiara Reyer (Cederic) who reigned supreme, finishing on a four-fault total ahead of Ireland in silver medal spot with eight, and Belgium in bronze on 13 faults. And there were plenty of happy Irish faces when 14-year-old Rhys Williams literally cruised to gold medal spot in the individual classification with a foot-perfect run through three tough competitions with CES Cruson.
"Rhys showed nerves of steel. It was an exceptional performance from him all week" said Irish team manager James Kernan. Germany's Chiara Reyer and Henry Munsberg took silver and bronze following a jump-off for the remaining medals between all five athletes tied on a four-fault tally.
The Dutch also had it all their way in Junior Dressage, with Milou Dees (Francesco), Kimberly Pap (Vloet Victory), Thalia Rockx (Golden Dancer) and Daphne van Paperstraten (Greenpointâ€™s Cupido) finishing with a three-point advantage over Germany in silver while Denmark clinched bronze. Taking the lead in the individual standings, van Peperstraten paid tribute to her country's Eventing coach who passed away suddenly at the weekend.
"We started this championship with a lot of sadness after the death of Jan van Beek, but it brought the team together and made us strong, and we did our best to honour him today" said the rider who will turn 18 later this week. And she went on to pin two of the German team members, Valentina Pistner (Flamboyant) and Romy Allard (Summer Rose) into Individual silver and bronze.
In Junior Jumping it was the Belgians who came out on top ahead of Great Britain in silver and Ireland in bronze. Thibault Philippaerts (Cataleya), Thibeau Spits (Jericho Dwerse), Alexander Housen (Galoubet Fravanca) and Simon Morssinkof (Vivolta de Gree) finished on the winning score of 14.55 points. Last to go, Morssinkhof was under pressure after Spits posted a 12-fault result. But even though he left a fence on the floor there was still an eight-fault margin between the new champions and the British silver medallists who were just over two points clear of the Irish.
And the Irish once again clinched the individual title thanks to a brilliant performance from Jason Foley who turns 17 next week. Silver went to Britain's Oliver Fletcher (Disckoboy) and Belgium's Morssinkof took the bronze.
It was in Eventing that the French really shone. Led by 17-year-old Anouk Canteloup (Daniel del Impermeable) who added nothing to her dressage score of 25.90 to also take the individual title, Julie Simonet (Sursumcord'or), Chiara Autin (Urban Legend Blues) and Zazie Gardeau (Udine Jolimon Beam) stormed to Junior Team success while Great Britain claimed silver medal spot and Germany stood third on the podium.
Britain's Heidi Coy (Royal Fury) and Germany's Brandon Schafer-Gehrau (Fraelein Frieda) also finished on their first-phase totals to take the silver and bronze Individual medals.
The Germans at last got the better of their Dutch rivals when lifting the Young Riders Dressage Team trophy, but only by another narrow margin. Lisa Weischof (Don Windsor), Alexa Westendarp (Four Seasons), Paulina Holzknecht (Wells Fargo) and Semmieke Rothenberger (Geisha) posted a final scoreline of 222.529 and the Dutch were close for silver medal spot on 221.410. Bronze went to Sweden on 212.792.
But The Netherlands Esmee Donkers set a new record in the Individual test with her lovely 11-year-old KWPN mare Chaina when scoring 77.294, her team-mate Febe van Zwambagt (FS Las Vegas) taking silver and Germany's Welschof claiming the bronze. And Donkers then went on to post 80.500 to add the Freestyle title ahead of German team gold medallist Holzknecht in silver and Zwambagt in bronze.
It was double-gold in Young Riders Jumping for Britain's Harry Charles who joined Graham Babes (Boucheron), William Fletcher (Persimmon) and Amy Inglis (Wishes) to finish well clear of Team Germany in silver and Denmark in bronze. "It's awesome to win two years in a row!" said Chef d'Equipe Tony Newbery after his team's success, but the good times were not over yet.
Because Charles got the perfect gift on his 19th birthday last Sunday when clinching the individual title ahead of Germany's Cedric Wold (Cho Chang J) in silver and Austria's Felix Koller (Captain Future) in bronze.
"I knew I had a chance but my horse was really amazing! This is his third European Championships and he won his sixth medal today!
"When it came to Eventing the formidable French recorded another double-gold thanks to a phenomenal performance from 20-year-old Victor Levecque (Phunambule des Auges) who was joined by Romain Sans (Unetoile de la Serre), Thais Meheust (Quamilha) and Victor Burtin (Early van ter Nieuwbeke). When their nearest challengers from Germany disappeared from the reckoning it was Italy that lined up in Team silver medal spot while Sweden took bronze.
Levecque, double-gold medallist at the European Pony Championships four years ago, was in a league of his own when finishing on his dressage score of 26.00 to take the Individual Young Riders Eventing title ahead of Germany's Emma Brussau in silver and Britain's Alex Kennedy (Lissangle Cavaletto B) in bronze.
"Victor is a machine! He is our Kylian Mbappé!" said team-mate Burtin, comparing him to the young French soccer star who was such a sensation throughout the recent FIFA World Cup.