Alcochette, Portugal: Mubarak Khalifa Bin Shafya gave the UAE its fourth successive individual gold medal in the European Open Championship which concluded in dramatic fashion late yesterday.
The UAE’s Asian Games bronze medallist Sultan Bin Sulayem crossed the finish line, first but had the misfortune of seeing his horse failing to clear the final vet check.
Mubarak’s triumph follows the wins in 2001 by Shaikh Rashid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, 2003 gold medal by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and in 2005 by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Finishing second was French rider Jean Phillipe Francas while the Dubai-based Spanish couple of Jaume Punti Dachs and Maria Alcarez were third and fourth, respectively.
Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum finished fifth.
Earlier, Shaikh Mayed Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s horse Kevin De Narthou slipped and fell just half a kilometre from the end while Shaikh Rashid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s horse was eliminated in the penultimate stage with 27 kms remaining for the finish.
Earlier in the day, the UAE riders looked set for a comfortable golden double after completing four of the six stages.
Five of the six-member UAE team claimed the top five positions after the first stage in the 160-km ride which has attracted a strong field of 88 competitors from 20 countries.
The UAE came close to capturing all six positions at the top, but Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the 2002 world champion, suffered a setback when his horse lost one of its shoes early in the ride. Shaikh Ahmad lost crucial time until a farrier was rushed to the scene. He finished in 78th place but soon progressed to 12th place.
In the team event, the UAE had then mustered a healthy lead of 60 minutes over traditional rivals France and looked headed for a double triumph in the individual and open categories of the Championship.
While some leading riders from the host country Portugal fell by the wayside in the first half of the ride, Bahrain’s Shaikh Duaij Bin Salman Al Khalifa, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdullah and France’s Sophie Arnaud also made an early exit.Earlier in the morning, the 88 riders battled foggy conditions and a light drizzle to start the four-star event in which the UAE were the defending champions.
1. Mubarak Khalifa Al Shafya (UAE) Horse: Zakah Zahara 8:22.30
2. Jean Phillippe Francas (France/ Hanaba du Bois) 8:23.12
3. Jaume Punti Dachs (Spain/ Elvis Ahb) 8:23.18
4. Maria Alvarez Ponton (Spain/ Nobby) 8:23.43
5. Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Kaysand Farrazah) 8:25.07.