By James O'Connor
Irish junior showjumper Jason Foley is “world class” according to Irish youth team manager James Kernan.
The Carlow rider Fontainebleau was crowned European U18 Showjumping Champion at the Longines FEI European Youth Championships in Fontainebleau on Sunday.
This bridges a 42-year gap since Ireland last won European U18 gold, and team manager Kernan, who won European Gold as a junior in 1974, believes this is only the start for the young rider.
“That young man is a world class rider, a class act, and he is going to go far as a showjumper. Jason didn’t have much time with the horse (Castlefield Vegas), a big slopey horse, big strides, but he was so natural on him.”
Foley’s gold took Ireland’s tally at the European Championships to four medals, with Rhys Williams riding to individual gold in the U14 Championship on Saturday. The Irish U14 team also claimed silver along with the U18’s sealing bronze.
Williams, 13, overcame a tense final round with composure to claim gold and was the only rider to complete the race on a clean sheet.
“For a young lad, he is very naturally gifted. He is a complete rider with a very natural stride. I knew the moment he made the first jump that he was going to have an exceptional performance. He’s one for the future,” Kernan said.
“For the first time, there is a World Series in Belgium for young riders so that’s our next event. With all things going to plan we’ll be going there with three teams, and if they perform like they did last weekend I’m confident we’ll do well.”