Reynolds lifts dressage team to Olympics

An Irish record Grand Prix score of 76.351% by Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K hauled Ireland across the line to secure a first-ever Olympic team place in dressage at the European Championships in Rotterdam yesterday.

Reynolds lifts dressage team to Olympics

An Irish record Grand Prix score of 76.351% by Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K hauled Ireland across the line to secure a first-ever Olympic team place in dressage at the European Championships in Rotterdam yesterday.

“It was a fantastic day to pull that out,” Reynolds told the Irish Examiner, paying tribute to her now 17-year-old gelding, owned by her parents Joe and Kathleen Reynolds. “I hadn’t expected that, to be honest, going in — but I knew he was in great form.

“The warm-up was just spot on. He was just amazing in the test, but still I hadn’t quite expected that, even coming out. He responded to every little aid and every little question. He was just outstanding.”

The Irish team finished in seventh place overall, which was enough to secure one of the three Tokyo places that were on offer, with several of the teams involved having already qualified before these championships began.

Germany won the gold medal, with silver claimed by The Netherlands and Sweden taking third. Great Britain had finished second, but were relegated to fourth after their final rider Charlotte Dujardin was eliminated after her test. Ireland were never fancied to challenge for medals, and were not even seen as favourites for one of the Olympic places.

“Having never qualified a team, we weren’t one of the teams to watch, but there was a little bit of talk about us,” Reynolds said.

We’re not a proven team by any means. They were watching us, but maybe not expecting it.

In the chase for the three Olympic places that were on offer, Denmark, as expected, finished highest, with Ireland second, and Portugal in third.

The Irish team, under Chef d’Equipe Milan Djordjevic, had begun their quest on Monday with Kate Dwyer scoring 66.180% on Snowdon Faberge before Heike Holstein boosted the figure to 69.472% with Sambuca, the rider having to overcome a cycling tumble earlier in the day.

It left Ireland in 10th place overnight on Monday, close to, but not inside the cut for an Olympic place.

Yesterday’s session saw Anna Merveldt finish with 67.717% on Esporim, leaving the team still adrift of the Olympic cut. As Ireland’s highest-ranked rider, the expectations were always going to be on Reynolds to supply the champagne, but she said she tried to keep the hype out of her mind.

“I took myself back to the hotel this morning and did my own routine,” she said. “I tried to focus on my own job and I knew that if we did our best, that’s all we could do.”

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Reynolds is the only Irish rider whose score was high enough to progress to the individual competition, which continues with the Grand Prix Special tomorrow.

The Irish showjumping team begin their challenge for an Olympic place at the championships today. Like the dressage team, Rodrigo Pessoa’s outfit are hoping to claim one of three places that are on offer.

Ireland are the defending champions from the last Europeans in Sweden in 2017 and will be going for medals once again, but Olympic qualification would be a satisfactory outcome if they end up off the podium.

To get to Tokyo, they must finish in the top three among the teams not already qualified and they have stiff opposition in that regard, with Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Italy being among the principal aspirants.

The British team won the Aga Khan Trophy convincingly at the Dublin Horse Show recently and they have now added Ben Maher’s prolific Explosion W to their arsenal. Ireland’s para-dressage riders also get their first taste of championship action today.

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