It has been three years in the making due to pandemic cancellations, so there’s an extra sizzle of excitement ahead of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2022 which will kick off next Thursday, 7 April, at the Exhibition Hall in Leipzig (GER). The line-up of 36 athletes qualified from six different leagues around the globe includes four previous champions, and two of those could possibly set a new record at this 42nd finale to the much-loved and long-running annual series.
British young gun, Harry Charles, said in a recent interview that three-time champion and the current title-holder, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, has “a bit of a magical relationship with the World Cup Final” and he’s right about that. Few who witnessed it will forget his electrifying winning round when he first lifted the trophy at the Thomas & Mack Centre in Las Vegas (USA) in 2015 with Albfuehren’s Paille. And a year later he did it again in the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE), this time partnering Corbinian.
Plenty of history
The last time the Final was staged it took place at the same Swedish venue in 2019 where he steered Alamo to victory ahead of two men who have made plenty of history themselves since then. Swiss compatriot, Martin Fuchs, was runner-up with the brilliant Clooney who subsequently went on to win individual European gold later that year, and in 2021 Fuchs claimed team gold and individual silver at the Longines FEI Jumping European Championships at Riesenbeck (GER) with another brilliant grey, Leone Jei.
Third place at the 2019 Final went to Sweden’s Peder Fredricson who has also enjoyed a real purple patch ever since, the 2017 European champion moving into the number one spot in the world rankings following phenomenal results that included individual bronze at the European Championships just a few short weeks after clinching team gold for his country at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Peder will not compete in Leipzig next week but the Fredricson family will be represented by his older brother, Jens, who comfortably qualified when finishing eighth in the 2021/2022 Western European League.
The 36 competing athletes represent 19 different countries and amongst them is another three-time winner, Germany’s Marcus Ehning, who has also known plenty of glory during his great career. He first scooped the World Cup honours with Anka in Las Vegas (USA) in 2003, then with Sandro Boy in Kuala Lumpur (MAS) in 2006 and again in 2010 with Noltes Küchengirl and Plot Blue.
This time around he brings the power-packed stallion Stargold whose enthusiasm for his job has endeared himself to spectators everywhere over the last year and more.
Only one other rider has scored a hat-trick of wins and that is Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa who proved absolutely unbeatable with the super-stallion Baloubet du Rouet between 1998 and 2000.
If Guerdat can come out on top again this time around he’ll make history as the first four-time champion, so there’s a lot hanging in the balance for him and there’s no better man under pressure. He brings the 13-year-old gelding Victorio des Frotards to do battle this time around.
However the start-list also features two more former champions.
Hard to believe
It’s hard to believe so many years have passed since the glorious partnership of Great Britain’s John Whitaker and the magical Milton won the first of their two consecutive titles back in 1990. And it’s even harder to believe that John is still so highly competitive that, riding his reliable 14-year-old gelding Equine America Unick du Francport, he joins his 20-year-old nephew Jack Whitaker and 22-year-old Harry Charles on the British contingent at this year’s event.
What a story it would be if John could clinch that title once again, 32 years on…..
The last of the four previous winners is 2017 champion McLain Ward, currently 12th in the world rankings and one of nine riders to represent the USA at the year’s Final. And nobody thinks that this American is making up the numbers.
He posted that memorable victory with the mare HH Azur who was flawless all week on home ground in Omaha (USA) and, after 16 previous attempts, it was emotional in the aftermath. He brought the American tally of wins in the Jumping World Cup series to 10, matching Germany’s record, but the following year Beezie Madden was victorious in Paris (FRA) so US athletes now have the advantage with 11 wins in total.
Riding the super-exciting 13-year-old gelding Contagious this time around, Ward is likely to make a big impact from the outset, and amongst other notable names on the startlist are his compatriot, the decorated veteran Margie Goldstein Engle, Ireland’s Conor Swail who has risen to seventh in the world rankings thanks to spectacular performances on the US circuit this season and his fellow-countryman Denis Lynch who topped the Western European League table.
The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders is rarely far from the sharp end and neither is Belgium’s Jos Verlooy, while Germany’s David Will, 16th in the current rankings, was in sensational form with C Vier 2 in Riesenbeck last year where he helped clinch team silver and finished individually seventh with the 14-year-old gelding who is qualified for the Leipzig finale.
However at every Final since the story began with a win for Austria’s Hugo Simon back in 1979 there are always a few surprises. Austria will be represented by Max Kühner this time around while athletes from Egypt, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan will also fly their country’s flags. And with Germany’s Frank Rothenberger designing the courses they can expect to face a very significant challenge.
The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2022 will, no doubt, expose more relatively unknown talent while providing three days of super sport, beginning with the opening Speed event on Thursday 6 April followed by the Jump-Off competition on Friday 7 and the deciding Third Final competition on Sunday 10 April when the 2022 champion will be crowned.
Further information here.