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Jemma is crowned Under-23 Champion at Olympia
Jemma Kirk (from Fife) made full use of her draw as last to go in the five-horse jump-off for the coveted Under-23 British Championships, sponsored by Team Murka and the World Class Programme, and shaved 0.62 seconds off World Class Development rider, Matthew Sampson’s excellent 29.25sec time to relegate last year’s champion to the runner-up spot. “I’m usually best under pressure,” admitted Jemma, who has been second and third previously in this prestigious competition at Olympia, the London International Horse Show. From Fife, she is one of many young talents to emerge from Scotland – her fellow countryman Scott Brash, winner of this prestigious class in 2008, made his senior championship debut this year at the World Equestrian Games.
“I’m so pleased to win on my best horse. Wexford has jumped well all year and really pulled out all the stops,” said Jemma, who was helped in the warm-up by leading Irishman Billy Twomey. “It’s been a great experience coming here and now I hope to come back another year and jump in the World Cup class.” Both Jemma and Matt were awarded wild cards to Olympia - Matt, 20, is now based with Henk Nooren in Belgium and this was only his second competition on British soil this year. He rode Utopia Xll as a young horse in Britain and was then reunited with her in Belgium.
He admitted he was a little frustrated at being beaten by such a short head, but said generously: “Jemma is a really good rider and always competitive. And I’m so pleased with my mare, because she’s only nine and I was worried about how she would cope with the atmosphere.” Matt had the compensation of being awarded the style prize, a generous £1,500 voucher to use, in conjunction with the World Class Programme master saddler and the Pilance System, to buy a saddle. This was judged by Team Murka’s rider, Peter Charles, and the reigning European champion Kevin Staut, who commented: “I’m very impressed at the level shown by these British young riders. It’s always interesting to see what happens in other countries, and there’s obviously a high standard of coaching here.” The top five riders went through to the jump-off – three clear rounds and the fastest two four-faulters.
World Class Development rider, Samuel Hutton (from Hampshire), riding Valentino Vll, had four faults in the first round but rode his luck to go clear in the jump-off and rise to third place. The other first-round clear was achieved by 16-year-old Mark Turnbull, another rising star from Scotland and making his Olympia debut, who finished eventual fourth on Ursula Xll. The most troublesome combination was the treble at 4, which caused about 25% of the 34-strong field to fault. Matt Sampson explained: “The approach to it walked at six strides, but we realised that you actually had to hold and ride it at seven to get a better line.” Pippa Allen, who suffered a fall at the second element of the double at 9, was later reported to be in good shape: no broken bones, but a precautionary trip to hospital for an examination.