THEY’RE the family to beat.
And the odds are that when the prizes are handed out at Britain’s top showjumping event later this week, the name Whitaker will be to the fore.
This extraordinary family from Huddersfield are currently dominating the sport.
And there is every expectation that they will continue to do so at the 2012 Olympics in London.
In fact, on current form, the Whitakers could make sporting history by becoming the only family ever to make up a complete national team.
The dynasty founded by Donald and Enid Whitaker, of Outlane, is continuing to spread, with the new generation now gaining plaudits for their horsemanship.
Two of Donald and Enid’s sons, John and Michael, have reigned at the top of British and world showjumping for years.
But now the next generation are heading for the stars, including John’s son Robert, his niece Ellen and nephew Michael.
All are expected to line up in Birmingham’s NEC tomorrow when the four-day British Open Showjumping Championships get under way.
Show spokesman Sarah Briscoe said: “The Whitakers, especially John and Michael, are now household names, famous for their outstanding achievements.
“But it is now the young generation of their own family who have become their competitive rivals.
“The family are, without doubt, the most famous in show-jumping, possibly in the world.
“And the new generation, like Robert, Ellen and William – who are all in the top 20 rankings – are helping boost the sport’s status, on TV, in the flesh and in the commercial world.
“Show jumping personalities are stepping into the limelight and achieving greater recognition outside of the equestrian world”.
The 2008 British Championships proved a spectacular success for the family with Whitakers claiming the top three spots.
Robert won the title, Michael took the Reserve title and William clinched third place having jumped impressively all week.
Looking ahead, the Olympics is a genuine target for them all.
John rode in Beijing as part of Team GB, taking his Olympic appearances to an incredible five!
Michael has ridden in four Olympics himself, only missing out on five appearances due to his horse’s lameness in Hong Kong, where the 2008 Olympic Equestrian Games were held, and neither look set to retire anytime soon.
Briscoe said: “Robert’s attitude is very similar to the understated and modest approach of his father.
“He is unassuming and his approach to competition is uncomplicated.
“The show this week, the start of the approach to London 2012, could be the start of something very special, for the family, for the sport and for Britain”.