Team GB Showjumping Trio Fly Through Individual Qualifier at Tokyo 2020

Ben Maher and Explosion W at Tokyo 2020's Individual Qualifier (FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst)

Team GB Showjumping Trio Fly Through Individual Qualifier at Tokyo 2020

The Team GB Showjumping trio fly through the individual qualifier at Tokyo 2020 and into the Olympic showjumping individual final.

With a change to the usual Olympic showjumping format, it meant that today (3 August) saw competition get underway with the individual qualifier. Taking place at the Equestrian Park in Tokyo, 75 riders tackled the course, with just 30 going through to the final and medal contention.

The Team GB trio consisted of Ben Maher, Scott Brash, and surprise substitute, Harry Charles. With a pre-compeition change to the showjumping team coming in just the hours before, Harry Charles took the place of Holly Smith and ride, Denver, on the squad.

Harry Charles and Romeo 88

First into the ring for Team GB was Harry Charles and the Belgian-bred, 12-year-old, Romeo 88.

A performance showing none of Harry’s youth or relative inexperience, at just 22-years-old, the pair put in a clear round and quick time.

I couldn’t ask for a better start really. It felt amazing, I was so focused that I was at fence 11 before I knew it. Being here has been incredible – I like to say that I’ve done a lot of really nice shows and this just puts it into context that our sport is far bigger, this is the absolute pinnacle – to be amongst some of the world’s best athletes, not just in our sport but in all the sports. I’m part of a great Team GB squad.”

Attending the Olympics in a new but flourishing partnership with Romeo 88, the pair glided around the course like they had known each other for years. An exciting partnership for the future, Harry explained that he had “never really had one like him”.

Harry Charles (GBR) & Romeo 88 - Jumping - Individual Qualifier - Equestrian Park, Setagaya City, Tokyo. Image credit Jon Stroud Media
Harry Charles (GBR) & Romeo 88 – Jumping – Individual Qualifier – Equestrian Park, Setagaya City, Tokyo. Image credit Jon Stroud Media

Joining Harry at the Olympic showjumping venue was his father, Peter Charles. An gold medal olympian himself, Peter was part of the winning team in London 2012 with Harry’s new team mates, Ben Maher and Scott Brash. Walking the course together, the Charles’ picked apart the “tricky” course, full of colours and lights.

However, not only looking up to his father’s achievements, Harry also admires the work of his team.

It’s been great having someone like him, Ben, Scott and Holly beside me, they’re so experienced and I can always go to one of them to ask for advice.”

“I couldn’t ask for better start – to get into the final in my first Olympics is more than I could have hoped for. That was the goal coming here, and hopefully that’s the goal achieved now.”

On the outside, the run looked smooth. Although, Harry did allude to feeling the pressure. He took to the course quicker than he would usually do, with a couple of extra strides in between combinations. It was only when he really allowed Romeo to open up and enjoy the course that things began feeling on course.

Harry and Romeo 88 finished the course clear in a time of 86.94 seconds. The combination finished in 15th on the qualifying leaderboard.

Ben Maher and Explosion W

Second on the course for Team GB was the infamous, Ben Maher with Explosion W.

No stranger to the pressure of an Olympic Games, Ben with the 12-year-old gelding exploded around the course to complete a dynamite clear! Rocketing straight to the top of the leaderboard, the duo maintain the top spot for the entire qualifier.

The spooky course seemed to blow over the combinations head, as they whizzed from fence to fence.

Ben Maher (GBR) & Explosion W - Jumping - Individual Qualifier - Equestrian Park, Setagaya City, Tokyo. Image Jon Stroud Media
Ben Maher (GBR) & Explosion W – Jumping – Individual Qualifier – Equestrian Park, Setagaya City, Tokyo. Image Jon Stroud Media

Commenting on Explosion’s performance in the ring, Ben explained;

It’s a fair course that suited Explosion – it’s relatively big but all the distances were a bit open. He grows in confidence when I ride with a bit of speed – I have to trust his quality and ride with that pace. I didn’t want to miss qualifying today, so I made the decision to go in and attack a bit. He felt great and it fills me with confidence. He’s coming off the back of two 5* Grand Prix wins – we have momentum, but these weeks can throw in big surprises. I’m confident but I also just go in there and do my best on the day.”

However, this was Ben’s “most nervous round of the week”. Therefore, with Explosion and Ben growing in confidence as the rounds progress, medal contention is looking good for this jet-fuelled pair.

Ben Maher and Explosion W finished the course clear in a time of 81.34 seconds. They finished in first, 1.33 seconds ahead of their closest rival, Team Ireland’s Kenny Darragh.

Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson

Last to go for Team GB was Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson. Following in his teammates footsteps, Scott attacked the course with speed aboard the 12-year-old gelding, which was causing major issues for other combinations.

Scott Brash (GBR) & Jefferson - Jumping - Individual Qualifier - Equestrian Park, Setagaya City, Tokyo. Image Jon Stroud Media
Scott Brash (GBR) & Jefferson – Jumping – Individual Qualifier – Equestrian Park, Setagaya City, Tokyo. Image Jon Stroud Media

Still growing an understanding for one another, Scott and Hello Jefferson also have a lot more in the tank for the Olympic competition. Scott recognises his “worst day is is first day” with his ride usually entering competition’s sharp and with lots of energy.

Taking about this year’s competition, Scott commented;

I’m delighted, he jumped fantastic. I thought it was a very good course, but I’m surprised there’ve been as many clears as there have been, if I’m honest. There’s a lot for the horses to look at in there on the first night – it’s very colourful so you don’t really know how they’re going to relax.”

Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson finished in 9th on the qualifier leaderboard. The combination finished clear in a time of 85.72 seconds.

The individual final, which decides the medals takes place tomorrow night and will run in reverse order of merit based on how they qualified. Combinations start on zero, so tomorrow will have everything to play for.

For the full viewing schedule and how to watch the Olympic Showjumping, click here.

Header Image; Ben Maher and Explosion W at Tokyo 2020’s Individual Qualifier (FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst)

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