Sweden Take Team and Individual Gold at WEG With Help from King Edward

The World Equestrian Games continued with the showjumping following the dressage. The whole of the FEI World Jumping Championships was sponsored by Agria and presented by Helgstrand.

Louis Konickx. Dutch Course Designer

The showjumping at the games comprised of both a team and individual medal competitions. The first class of the event was a speed class in which there were 103 starters. All the courses was designed and built by Louis Konickx and Quintin Maertens, both from the Netherlands. For the first class, the designers built a fourteen jump course with seventeen jumping efforts required at a top height and spread of 1.55m. The time allowed was 120 seconds. This class was the first part of the team competition. It was a pure speed test and no faults were given for fences down. The class also formed part of the final individual medal placings. Any faults from a rider would be added on to their time – so if a rider completed the course in 80 seconds and had a fence down – his/her total would be 84 seconds. The rider who went round in the least number of seconds including poles down would be the winner. There were four 30 minute breaks in the class to allow for arena maintenance. In the first 21 to go before the first break, most of the riders had a fence down. There were seven to go clear with Nicola Philippearts riding Katanga vh Dingeshof leading with 81.02 seconds and no poles dropped.

Julien Epaillard (FRA) leads the field after the first two rounds

After lunch, 50 riders had gone and most had a fence down, earning them another 4 seconds on the clock. The leader was still from Belgium – Nicola Philippearts. After hours of show jumping, the end of the class saw the French in the driving seat. Julien Epaillard riding Caracole de la Rogue won with 79.08 seconds and no faults; as was the second, Great Britain’s Scott Brash riding Hello Jefferson with 79.54 seconds. Martin Fuchs from Switzerland riding Leone Jei was sitting third with 79.79 seconds. There was one other who came in under 80 seconds which was Peder Fredricson riding H & M All In for Sweden. With several days of competition to go, the leader board is bound to change. At the end of the class, the leader board had Sweden in the team gold medal position with France and Belgium in silver and bronze respectively.  

The next class was ‘Competition 1’ the first of two Grand Prix for both the individual and team medals. There were 22 nations with teams and all the 103 riders went again. The course was at the full height of 1.60m. As with the first round of this championship, Louis Konickx and Quintin Maertens, the course designers set a 17 jumping effort course with a time allowed in the first round of 86 seconds over 570 meters. This also acted as a qualifying round for the next the following day – where a lot of the wheat would be separated from the chaff. As is always the case in these international events, sadly, there are many horses who have been very proficient at 2 and 3 star levels and the jump to 5 star is just simply too much. Therefore, only the top ten teams would be allowed to proceed to the next round ‘Competition 2’. The same can be said for the individual medal hopefuls. They would also have to qualify and only the top 20 would be allowed to jump. In other words the number of athletes in the second round would be no more than 60. We could go on and write capias amounts about this class, but frankly it was a very ordinary and pedestrian affaire.

Scott Brash was in individual Silver for two rounds

The odd thing was that the leader board remained unchanged from the first speed class. The first fourteen on the board from the speed class were still there in exactly the same place after this class. Julien Epaillard was still in the individual gold medal position with Scott Brash in second and Peder Fredrickson in third. The team gold medal placings were unaltered from the first day as well – Sweden in the lead, followed by France and then Germany in third. Perhaps, rather surprisingly, The United States did not qualify for the next round as they finished in eleventh place; neither did the home nation Denmark along with Austria and Italy.

Competition 2 was held under flood lights. This was always the plan, but with the heat wave affecting most of Europe with temperatures well into the 30 centigrade (99 Fahrenheit) levels it was a good thing for the well-fare of the horses. Sixty two riders came forward, either as individuals in their own right as well as being part of a qualified team; or were individuals whose team did not qualify or they were not part of a team in the first place. Thus far, this championship was very tight at the top. There was less than one fence between the top fourteen riders after the second round of jumping for the individual table and only and less than a fence between the top three teams – so every pole down in any round would prove to be expensive.

The course was fair but very big with the highest jump set at 1.65m. The time allowed was 83 seconds this round, which all the riders found to be very tight. In fact most got time faults and with 1 fault for every second over the time allowed, the time faults could add up very quickly. The individual riders all had some trouble with the time. Of the first 23 riders to go, all riding as individuals, only Daniel Bluman on Ladrino Z for Israel posted no faults. The tricky part of the course was the treble came very near the end of the course and required careful accurate jumping. By the time the horses reached this part of the course, they were both tired and running out of time – so inevitably they had part of the treble down, mainly the middle part. Out of all the riders, only eight went clear without jumps or time faults. As each team member rode, the leader board was constantly changing.

Sweden Take the Gold Medal

As with the Olympic Games last year, the Swedish team were in the driving seat. Firstly Henrik Von Eckermann rode the fabulous King Edward for a perfect round. His team mate Jens Fredricson riding Marken Cosmopolit followed with another clear round. Malin Bayard-Johnson riding H & M Indiana, the third Swede to ride collected just four faults. By the time the final Swedish rider came in – Peder Fredricson on H & M All In, Sweden had already secured the gold medal and could not be beaten. All In actually had the worst round of the Swedish team leaving the arena on 12 faults – so it would have been the discard score anyway! With Sweden taking the team Gold with just 7.69 penalties, the fight was for the silver and bronze. Both France and Germany were in those places at the start, but the French team collected another 21 faults in this round after their discard score – so they were well out. Germany didn’t fair quite so badly. They ended with 13 extra penalties to add to their score. Their cause was not helped in that Andre Thieme fell off DSP Chakara, thus eliminated so all the three German riders left had their scores counted. The battle for Bronze was between Great Britain and Ireland.

Team Winners of WEG Team. Sweden – Gold, The Netherlands – Silver and Great Britain Bronze

For Ireland, Daniel Coyle had a terrible time with Legacy knocking several down and he decided to retire. The three riders left scored just six faults between them and this put them very close to Great Britain who were just ahead due to a good first speed round. Great Britain ended with eight faults for the team after Scot Brash’s score on Hello Jefferson was discarded. He had a very difficult warm up as several of the other horses in the warm up arena were busy going potty!! Great Britain took the bronze with just one half a penalty. Ireland ended with 23.15 penalties and Great Britain finished on 22.66. The Netherlands finished just ahead of the British on 19.31 penalties to take the team silver medal. Harrie Smolders riding Monaco NOP sealed the deal with a clear round as the anchor rider. This was an exciting and very close championship for the teams. Without doubt, Sweden were the deserved winners, and really the rest were a lottery as to who would make less mistakes. Another important point of the WEG championships was that the top five teams  would automatically qualify for the Paris Olympic Games in two years’ time.

After a day off, for both horses and riders, the scene was set for an exciting and close final. There were two rounds, the first with a maximum of 25 combinations and the second with a maximum of 12. In the first round there were only in fact 21 riders who came forward. The riders were drawn to go in reverse order with the best to go last and worst to go first. It soon became clear that the course was a kind one, as most of the riders went clear. It was therefore down to what each score was for each rider to determine who would fill the final 12 slots for the final round.

Maikel Van Der Vleuten Maikel, NED, Beauville Z takes individual Bronze

The time for this round was too easy. The riders were all able to go round at leisure, making sure they left the fences up in the 16 jumping efforts required. The time allowed was 87 seconds. Of the riders who did take a fence out, they only ended with one fence down – so the leader board changed very little. The worst number of faults for the riders going to the final round was just 10.40. That was for Marcus Ehning from Germany riding Stargold. The exciting thing was the possibility that with only 2 fences separating Marcus Enhing and  Jen Fredrickson from Sweden, in second place on the leader board, the whole leader board had the prospects of being turned upside down. Only, the world number one – Henrik Van Eckermann – since early this month was any way out in front on only 0.58 penalties.

Jerome Guery (BEL) takes individual Silver on Quel Homme de Hus

After an hour for all to consider what the final round may bring – Marcus Enhing took to the stage. All the riders faced a different course and all continued with the penalties they got in the previous rounds. The time allowed for the 12 obstacles, 16 jumping efforts required was 77 seconds. Marcus Ehning – who rode a foot perfect round and added nothing to his tally of 10.40 penalties; all he needed now was for all the others following to take fences down to see him rise to the top. Seven of those following, obliged and did take at least a fence down – so from 12th, Marcus moved and finished in 5th place. Finishing in 4th was Ben Maher from Great Britain. He nearly had a foot perfect round but took one off which gave him a final score of 9.72. Ben was in bronze medal position until the last came in and dropped him just out of the medals.

Henrik Von Eckermann takes GOLD and is World Champion

The top three all had clears and therefore finished on their previous penalty scores. The first, from the Netherlands, Maikel an der Vleuten riding Beauville Z N O P finished in bronze medal with 5.96 penalties from the five rounds of jumping. In Silver was Jerome Guery from Belgium riding Quel Homme du Hus with 3.35 penalties. The Gold medal went to Henrik Von Eckermann riding King Edward for Sweden. A richly deserved gold medal as he only dropped just 0.58 penalties in the first speed round – and had no further faults for the rest of the competition. It must have been a sweet experience for the rider who just missed out to Ben Maher at the Tokyo Olympics just a year ago. Neither Von Eckermann nor Guery had a single pole down during the whole five round extravaganza.

All in all – this World Equestrian Games has to be remembered as a vintage renewal. The results were probably much as expected, but even so, the tension for the final rounds was pal papal. Louis Konickx provided five testing but fair courses, although the time allowed for the fourth round was probably too generous. Otherwise, he and his team provided some excellent sporting entertainment.

images courtesy Lar Miller, Stephan Lafrenze, Goldeneye Photography, clipmyhorse

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