Cian O’Connor came within a single fence of claiming a second gold medal for Ireland at the FEI European Show Jumping Championships in Sweden today, but in the end settled for a Bronze – only the third individual European medal ever won by an Irish rider.
After Friday’s team championship, which was won by the Irish side, horses were tiring as they faced into today’s fourth and fifth round of jumping at Gothenburg, and many upsets occurred as fences fell and rankings changed.
However, as the top 12 combinations approached the final round, Ireland had three riders in contention – O’Connor with Good Luck, Shane Sweetnam with Chaqui Z and Denis Lynch on All Star.
Lynch had the first fence on the course down, and finished in 10th place overall, while Sweetnam clipped a plank and finished in eighth.
Second-last to go, O’Connor had to jump clear to be in with a chance of a gold medal, but Good Luck dropped one vital pole and O’Connor found himself in third place, behind Harrie Smolders from the Netherlands on Don VHP Z, who went clear, and individual leader, Sweden’s own Peter Fredricson with H&M All In.
In a nail-biting finish, the popular home rider knew he could concede only a maximum of five faults if he was to hold on to the gold medal position, and that’s exactly what he did, with one fence down and one time fault eating up his margin, but enough to stay in first place.
O’Connor said afterwards: “I’m over the moon, it’s been an excellent week to win team gold and to finish with three riders in the top 10 individually. As our assistant manager Michael Blake said, the famine is over. It could have been even better, the lightest of rubs cost us individual gold, but that’s the sport – with small margins at this top level.
“Good Luck has been incredible. He has learned now to go fast against the clock which he showed on the opening day. I am very lucky to have a huge support team around me at Karlswood and I want to thank them all for their effort and support. In particular I want to thank Good Luck’s groom Alan O’Brien, along with Ross Mullholland and Michael Kelly who do so much work behind the scenes riding our horses and with our training.”
Ireland’s winning gold medal team at Gothenburg this week was Cian O’Connor (Good Luck), Shane Sweetnam (Chaqui Z), Denis Lynch (All Star), and Bertram Allen (Hector van d’Abdijhoeve).
O’Connor adds his European Bronze to his Olympic Bronze medal, won at London in 2012.