By Ellie Kelly
DUBLIN (Reuters) – After a long period in the doldrums, Britain claimed the final leg of the FEI Nations Cup in Dublin on Friday to take a step closer to Olympic qualification.
The quartet of Ben Maher, Scott Brash, Holly Smith and Emily Moffitt produced stellar performances to finish the two-round competition on just one penalty with nearest rivals Italy trailing behind on 12.
The win catapulted the British from the bottom of their division to seventh place — a result that earned them a ticket to the Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona.
This provides them with another chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in addition to the European Championships in Rotterdam later this month.
It had been a worriesome period for the British camp who, despite winning team gold in London 2012 and individual gold in Rio four years later, have still not secured a ticket to Tokyo 2020.
They are also reliant on good results to retain their significant funding from Britain’s state lottery.
For the majority of the Nations Cup season Britain have struggled at the bottom of the Western European League.
The pressure was immense in Dublin, yet they put in a gritty performance and pulled off victory without needing Smith to compete in the second round.
It was momentous win for team performance manager Di Lampard, who has been challenged by a lack of experienced British rider and horse combinations for several years.
“We’ve ridden the storm this season, we’ve had the downs and the difficulties,” Lampard said after collecting the coveted Aga Khan Trophy.
“But it had to change some time and with a good team and the right spirit, I felt it was going to come right this week.”
It was the 27th time Britain had won the Aga Khan Trophy in the 93 year history of the event.
With this pivotal victory under her belt, Lampard is focused on the European Championships where Maher, Brash and Smith will be joined by Amanda Derbyshire and Laura Renwick.
“Now we are really confident about going to Rotterdam and winning a medal and our place in Tokyo,” she said.
(Editing by Nick Mulvenney)