Mixed loyalties facing Bartle as he aims to lead Germany to gold

Christopher Bartle pictured at the Yorkshire Riding Centre near Harrogate with Ballyengland Rebel, known to his friends as Matey. picture mike cowling
Christopher Bartle pictured at the Yorkshire Riding Centre near Harrogate with Ballyengland Rebel, known to his friends as Matey. picture mike cowling
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THE Olympic equestrian events begin today with the first day of dressage for the eventing teams.

Dressage continues tomorrow, followed by the cross-country on Monday and show-jumping on Tuesday.

Hopes for the British team are high but their biggest rivals are likely to be the Germans, who topped the medal table at the last Olympics.

Yorkshire is represented in both camps.

Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz will step out with pride for the British team, while Markington’s Chris Bartle will be doing his very best to steer the German team to victory.

Bartle, who is a former Olympic rider, has been training the German eventing team since 2001.

During this time, they have won team and individual gold medals at Beijing and Michael Jung was individual world champion in Kentucky in 2010.

The Germans also won team and individual gold last year in Luhmuhlen.

Nicola Wilson, who lives near Northallerton, also does some training with Bartle at the Yorkshire Riding Centre and she and Opposition Buzz had their best dressage score at Bramham International Horse Trials in June.

Bartle admits that for him the Games will be a time of mixed emotions but added: “My job is to train the German team. Once we get into action, I’m afraid the German team is my team.”

However, when it comes to watching the British dressage team in action later next week, it will be another matter for Bartle.

“I think our dressage riders have to be favourites and I’ll certainly be rooting for them when the time comes,” said Bartle, who has a personal interest in the outcome.

He still holds the record for being the highest-placed British dressage rider in the Olympic Games.

He was placed sixth at Los Angeles in 1984, riding Wily Trout.

“It’s amazing really, I thought it (the record) would have gone long ago. I think it’s going to be blown sky-high this time but I have enjoyed it while it has lasted,” said Bartle.

He will also be keeping an eye on the progress of Swedish rider Ludwig Svennerstal over the next few days.

He has been training at Markington with Bartle since 2009 and at the age of 21 he will be one of the youngest riders competing at Greenwich, riding for the Swedish eventing team.

Nicola Wilson’s support team – her parents, husband Alastair, owner of Opposition Buzz Rosemary Search and sponsor Mary Lofthouse – were all travelling to London yesterday to watch the trot-up. Wilson will be first out in all three phases for the British team.

“I have had so many cards, letters, texts and calls wishing us luck, it’s lovely. I feel the whole of Yorkshire is behind us,” said Rosemary Search.

Michael Whitaker, non-travelling reserve for Britain’s Olympic show-jumping team, will ride Viking rather than GIG Amai should he be called up to compete.

The decision follows veterinary advice and the fact that the Olympic competition is a demanding series of three rounds.

Viking, owned by Huddersfield’s Whitaker, is a 10-year-old 16.3hh chestnut gelding and has been well placed at Grand Prix level, also competing in the Nations Cup at St. Gallen where the British team finished second.