Jack Whitaker made it a birthday to remember today in becoming Team GB’s first medallist of the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games with silver in the showjumping international team event.
Whitaker, who’s just turned 17, competed as part of Europe in today’s finals and the five-strong team were only edged into silver by North America via a dramatic jump off.
Europe had headed into today as joint leaders alongside North America and Australasia following clear rounds in yesterday’s qualifications – including one from Whitaker – but it was Africa who took bronze with just one penalty point to their name.
With the best three riders’ scores counting, Europe and North America’s faultless scores couldn’t be separated, even after all riders had jumped again, but it was the North Americans who took gold on the combined times of their quickest three clear rounds in the decider.
Whitaker, onboard LV Chance Luck, clipped a fence in both the final and the jump off to record four penalty points in each but was delighted to cap a 17th birthday with silver. His first phone call was to father Michael who won silver 34 years ago at Los Angeles 1984 as Whitaker continued the family’s Olympic success in Buenos Aires.
“It means so much to win this medal. My dad has achieved so much so it’s great to continue the legacy,” said Whitaker.
“I spoke to him on the phone straight after the final, he likes to keep across what’s happening and he’s the boss so I like to tell him what I’m doing. He never says too much usually but said a ‘massive well done’ when I spoke to him.
“It was a bit of an unknown today. I had no idea what the horse was going to be like in competition having only ridden him three times out here and we’ve never competed as Europe before so I think it’s a great achievement to win a medal.
“Having only been with the horse a few days you try and work with it as much as you can rather than against it and you just do your best to build a bond with him.
“The performance over the last two days gives me massive confidence going into the individual event. He [L V Chance Luck] has done well today so hopefully that can continue into the weekend.”
Elsewhere, in blustery conditions at Urban Park and on choppy waters, Team GB’s rowing men’s pair battled to a fifth place overall.
Entering the semi-final Theo Darlow and Michael Walton were drawn in a tricky race against Uzbekistan, Chile and Argentina.
The home team and Uzbekistan flew out early and despite Team GB reeling them back in over the closing stages they held on to make the A final, meaning Team GB dropped into the B final, which they won comprehensively over Croatia and Chile.
“It was disappointing not to make the A final,” admitted Darlow. “But we certainly used that as fuel for the B final and we felt it was still a good result as the 500m race is quite new to us. The conditions weren’t great and we struggled to find our rhythm.
“We set our sights on who we thought would be the next fastest crew,” added Dalton. “We have a good history against the Croatians so it was pleasing to put down a fast time and beat them.”
Georgie Robinson Ranger raced in the quarter-finals of the women’s single sculls. Robinson Ranger lined up against Sweden, Australia and Slovenia and it was the Swedish rower who started quickest.
There wasn’t much to separate the first three with the Slovenian athletes four seconds back. Despite pushing the Swede and Australian in the latter stages, Robinson Ranger wasn’t able to overhaul them and finished third meaning that she will compete in the single sculls semi-final C/D tomorrow morning.
“I was really happy with the race overall,” said Robinson Ranger. “The Swede went fast out of the blocks but I always knew it was going to be a fast race and the length is one where you can’t afford to make mistakes.
“It was a lot choppier today than it has been, so was quite bouncy but it’s like any outdoor race where conditions are interchangeable so you just have to be ready. I’m excited about tomorrow and hoping to go for a top 10 finish.”
Ellie Pryor finished her Youth Olympic Games in sixth in the women’s -53kg event with the Wrexham lifter producing a best of 61kg in the snatch before recording 81kg in the clean and jerk.
A late qualifier for the Games, Pryor was well supported by a hoard of Team GB athletes in the Youth Olympic Park for her only day of competition in Buenos Aires.
“I feel really happy and I’m pleased with my performance,” said the 17-year-old. “I was 3kg off both my personal bests and that’s with just five weeks training for this competition so I’m happy.
“I lifted more than I expected myself to do. I thought I’d do 75kg on the clean and jerk and I did 81kg so that was good. It was really nice having loads of other athletes from Team GB supporting me – it created a great atmosphere. That was my highlight of the Games so far, competing out there, I really enjoyed it.
“I’ve really enjoyed being part of this team and we’ve come quite close across the sports and I think I’ve got friends for life here.
“I’m heading into a period of rest when I get back home and then will start training towards the back end of the year. Long term, my goals are to get selected for the 2022 Commonwealth Games and then the 2024 Olympics.”
Finn Hawkins moved into the medal positions in the men’s windsurfing event after a third and fourth place finish today. Kalpo Kalpogiannakis of Greece, who has led from day one, sits in first on five points with Hawkins 10 points back, two clear of Haoze Chen in fourth.
With the competition at the halfway mark, Hawkins will hope to still be in contention when the medals are contested in Friday’s final race. In the women’s event, Islay Watson sits in 14th after her six races following an eighth and ninth finish today.
Golf commenced at the Hurlingham Club, named after the venue of the same name in Fulham, London. First up for Team GB was Lily May Humphreys who scored nine over par in her first round of three, placing her joint 22nd.
Later on in the morning Joe Pagdin got his competition underway and the front nine saw him go round at level par before two dropped shots on 11 and 14 were rectified with a birdie on 16 to leave him at +1, two shots off the lead.
Over in the America Pavillion the uneven bars and the parallel bars qualifications were taking place. Amelie Morgan placed fourth with an overall total of 13.300 to qualify for the finals, whilst Adam Tobin also qualified placing seventh with a total score of 13.341.
Elsewhere, there was disappointment in the badminton with both Grace King and Chris Grimley ending their Youth Olympic singles campaigns at the group stage.
King went down 21-13, 21-9 to Tereza Svabikova and, despite two wins in the group, finished third behind the Czech player and Yue Hooi of Singapore.
Grimley produced a comfortable 21-17, 21-12 victory over Balazs Papai of Hungary to sit second in his group but with only the top player going through to the quarter-finals the Scot’s two wins this week weren’t enough to progress.
Image credit: FEI/Liz Gregg