NORTHALLERTON’S Nicola Wilson is still pinching herself after taking an individual bronze and team gold as Yorkshire excelled at the European Championships of eventing in Strzegom.
World No 4 Wilson and Huddersfield’s world No 8 Oliver Townend helped Great Britain top the team event rostrum at the weekend’s event in Poland – ending an eight-year-wait for gold.
She’s such a special horse and has just been fantastic at this championship. I just can’t thank everyone enough, and I’m so pleased for her owners, James and Jo Lambert. I feel very fortunate and lucky to have her, she’s a great friend.Nicola Wilson
A further key factor in the British success story was Markington-based Chris Bartle, the new performance coach who left his role with Germany earlier this year.
Bartle had helped Germany to Olympic, World and European gold medal successes.
The 65-year-old has now struck gold on his first international assignment with Great Britain and Yorkshire compatriot Wilson proved the star of the team.
Riding 11-year-old mare Bulana, Wilson finished third in the individual event with a penalty score of 33.5, just behind a German one-two.
Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob took gold on a final score of 30.3 penalties, meaning that team-mate and reigning Olympic champion Michael Jung had to settle for silver aboard FischerRocana FST and just missed a record fourth successive European individual title.
The Germans had to settle for silver in the team event as Britain finished on a score of 113.9 penalties.
Sweden collected bronze with Italy finishing fourth and Ireland fifth.
“I think I am still pinching myself,” said Wilson about her double triumph.
She continued: “I’m delighted with how Bulana has been this season and she’s been a superstar all week.
“She’s such a special horse and has just been fantastic at this championship. I just can’t thank everyone enough, and I’m so pleased for her owners, James and Jo Lambert. I feel very fortunate and lucky to have her, she’s a great friend.”
Three members of the British team in Wilson, Townend and Tina Cook were also involved when Britain last conquered Europe in 2009.
Riding Cooley SRS, Townend was the discard score following a testing cross-country round on Saturday, but Wilson, triple Olympic medallist Cook and major championship debutant Rosalind Canter all delivered clear show-jumping rounds under acute pressure.
Due to a minor injury, Cooley SRS was not presented at the final morning’s horse inspection and, therefore, did not come forward to contest the final showjumping round.
But Townend beamed: “The whole week has had such a positive feel about it and it’s been a real team effort.”
As far as the individual event was concerned, Cook and Billy The Red finished fourth, a further 2.7 penalties behind, while fifth-placed Canter and Allstar B posted a final total of 40.2.
Elsewhere, Ireland’s Sarah Ennis was seventh, one position ahead of British individual competitor Gemma Tattersall on Quicklook V, whom the rider also partnered at last year’s Rio Olympics. Fellow Brit Piggy French was 28th with Quarrycrest Echo.
Cook, who was competing at her eighth European Championships, added: “We were really wanting that gold. It has been a few years, and it’s fantastic to be back in this position.
“It is all so different (than in 2009). I am on a different horse and a different team, but it’s still just as special.”
Canter, the youngest team member at 31, said: “To be surrounded by this team and the whole of the GB team has just been fantastic. I don’t think it’s still really sunk in yet. It’s so exciting to be part of this team, with all their experience around me and it’s so special for us all.”