Tag Archive: John Whitaker

  1. Will John Whitaker get team GB to Rio?

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    John Whitaker turns 60 in August – but you would never know it.

    Further proof of his enduring quality came with a brilliant anchorman performance as Great Britain’s showjumpers got their points-scoring Furusiyya FE Nations Cup campaign off to a flying start through victory in Rome.

    The selection picture is developing into a promising one for Great Britain’s new chef d’equipe Di Lampard

    Riding the stallion Argento, Whitaker’s double clear – the second round being delivered under acute pressure because any mistake would have handed top spot to a powerful Dutch team – was a masterclass of precision riding.

    And it confirmed beyond doubt that the mercurial Yorkshireman means business at the start of a huge 15 months for British showjumping when Rio Olympics qualification hopes will be on the line.

    The selection picture is developing into a promising one for Great Britain’s new chef d’equipe Di Lampard, with riders like Whitaker, his brother Michael, world number one Scott Brash and his fellow London 2012 gold medallist Ben Maher in prime form, plus exciting young stars like Spencer Roe and Holly Gillott pushing hard.

    Lampard, despite having been in the role for only a short time, has restored a feelgood factor that was noticeably absent last year, culminating in a desperately-poor World Equestrian Games when Rio qualification proved way beyond reach.

    This summer’s European Championships in Aachen represent the final chance – three Olympic qualifying spots are up for grabs – and after back-to-back Nations Cup victories in La Baule and Rome, plus a second-place finish in Lummen, prospects suddenly look infinitely more encouraging.

    Britain’s performance at Piazza di Siena also said everything about deep reserves of character as a team of John Whitaker, Michael Whitaker, Robert Whitaker and Holly Gillott delivered the goods on a day that saw just four double clears on going made deep by torrential rain an hour before the action started.

    It meant a testing afternoon for Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani, but his sympathetic handling of the situation – rails were lowered, spreads reduced and the water jump cut in length to complement testing conditions – ensured that a thriling competition ensued.

    READ MORE: Derby House Post show jumping stories

    And John Whitaker, perhaps more than any other rider, dominated the course through an intuitive display of accurate jumping that showcased exactly why he has won 19 major championship medals, including an Olympic team silver at Los Angeles, which he collected before current team-mate Gillott was born!

    “It was a great one to win, and it was important for us to do well because we were looking for points,” said John, after Britain claimed a ninth Nations Cup victory during the Rome show’s 83-year history.

    “Argento is a stallion and he is a bit full of himself because it’s spring! He is a lovely horse, not as difficult to ride as he might seem. He is so careful at the jumps – he really wants to clear every fence – and that is a fantastic feeling.”

    For Lampard, the next Nations Cup stop is St Gallen in Switzerland on June 5, when Gillott, Roe and Robert Whitaker will be joined by Staffordshire-based Joe Davison, who is the son of British dressage rider and four-time Olympian Richard Davison, and Wiltshire rider Jessica Mendoza.

    “Rome was an incredible day,” Lampard said. “Everyone delivered such brilliant performances, and to win the first of the competitions in which we are chasing points puts us in an extremely good position.

    “All the horses and riders have been fantastic, team spirit is superb and I really am unable to praise everyone enough, not just our horses and riders, but also our owners, grooms and support crew.”


  2. Will Britain’s show jumpers FAIL to make it to Rio?

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    It is probably one of the least-known facts in British sport – and a question that would currently hold its own in any sports quiz.

    Name the reigning Olympic champion team that has not qualified for the Olympics?

    Amid the unfortgettable scenes of Greenwich Park in August 2012, it appears inconceivable that approaching three years later, there is a very real possibility that Great Britain will not have a showjumping team at Rio 2016.

    It only seems like yesterday that Peter Charles and Vindicat W jumped London Bridge, Charles jubilantly punched the air, a sell-out crowd went bonkers and Britain’s showjumpers – Charles, Nick Skelton, Ben Maher and Scott Brash – had Olympic gold medals hanging around their necks. 

    They made it mission accomplished against a back-drop of pure sporting theatre. A thrilling jump-off – showjumping’s equivalent of soccer’s penalty shoot-out – a captivated audience, both in Greenwich and on television, and a result that few could have imagined as Britain pipped the Netherlands to gold.

    It was not apparent at the time, certainly not during prolonged celebrations inside and outside The Greenwich Tavern, that London glory did not translate to Rio qualification.

    And now the chips are well and truly down, with Britain having one more chance – August’s European Championships in Aachen – to secure one of the few remaining qualifying places, or end up watching Rio from afar.

    The Brits could have done it by now, but a spectacularly-poor World Equestrian Games in Normandy last September saw them finish a miserable 18th, way off the Rio-bound places filled by the Netherlands, France, United States, Germany, Sweden and Brazil as hosts.

    Britain has still got it all to do when they arrive in Aachen, pursuing one of just three places.

    There were, to a degree, mitigating circumstances for the Brits, with injuries and unavailability undermining the World Games campaign, but it also meant that they left Caen with the heat well and truly turned up.

    The problem – and it is a sizeable one – centres around a few other teams with high expectations who have also not qualified, which means Britain has still got it all to do when they arrive in Aachen, pursuing one of just three places.

    Ireland, led by boy wonder Bertram Allen, Switzerland, with reigning Olympic indivivual champion Steve Guerdat in their ranks, Belgium and the Ukraine have also yet to book flights for Rio, so Britain has much to contemplate.

    It could well be a case of Games over before they have even started.

    Now under the direction of new team boss Di Lampard, the overwhelming priority must be to identify the team she wants for Aachen – then do everything in her power to ensure she arrives in Germany with a line-up capable of setting off on the road to Rio, rather then being turned back to Blighty.

    It will not be easy, but then neither should it be. If she is able to choose from strength, with the likes of Brash, Maher, Michael Whitaker, John Whitaker and the gifted young talents Spencer Roe and William Whitaker, then Britain ought to make it with something to spare.

    Anything less, though, and it could well be a case of Games over before they have even started.

    Should the latter scenario unfold, then the inquest will inevitably be a long and painful one. After the World Games flop, Britain has a second opportunity, and they must take it.

    Their major championship record has been outstanding in recent years, and the rider quality and horse-power is not in question, but it is all about getting things to happen accurately and consistently over the space of a few highly-pressured days.

    They did it spectacularly in London, now they must shine at Aachen. The stakes are high.