It was a rollercoaster day at the Agria FEI Jumping World Championships in Herning, Denmark today, but the two leading nations and the two leading individuals after yesterday’s opening competition maintained their positions. So Sweden heads France going into tomorrow night’s team medal decider and Frenchman, Julien Epaillard, is holding Britain’s Scott Brash at bay in the individual rankings.
Another superb course designed by Dutchman Louis Konickx separated the top ten nations from all the rest, so joining the Swedes and French tomorrow evening in the team finale will be Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland and Brazil. It was touch-and-go all day with the team placings constantly changing, and the USA missed the cut when finishing eleventh of the 22 competing countries despite a great performance from McLain Ward and Contagious who produced the only American clear round.
Team Belgium was lying third as the action began and could have been badly shaken by the elimination of Jos Verlooy for a fall from Igor who stopped in the triple combination. But Peter Weinberg’s “Never Give Up” team lived up to their motto, and with a foot-perfect run from Jerome Guery (Quel Homme de Hus) and just single errors from both pathfinder Nicola Philippaerts (Katanga vh Dingeshof) and anchorman Gregory Wathelet (Nevados S) they only dropped two places to fifth.
Clears form Marcus Ehning (Stargold) and Andre Thieme (DSP Chakaria) saw Germany move up to third with only four faults to add to their scoreline while Maikel van der Vleuten (Beauvilel Z) and Jur Vrieling (Long John Silver) did likewise to leave The Netherlands in fourth.
The British had a rocky day, stalwarts Ben Maher (Faltic HB) and Scott Brash (Hello Jefferson) steadying the ship when relatively new recruits Joseph Stockdale (Equine America Cacharel) and Harry Charles (Romeo 88) faltered. In contrast Team Canada, lying twelfth as the day began, put in a really gutsy performance with zero scores from both Beth Underhill (Nikka vd Bisschop) and Tiffany Foster (Figor) and just single errors for Erynn Ballard (Gakhir) and Amy Millar (Truman) to put themselves right into the reckoning when moving up to eighth.
The spirit in the Canadian camp is infectious. The all-female team are completely in synch as they give it their all for chef d’équipe Eric Lamaze who announced earlier this year he would retire from the saddle due to health issues. Watching the 2008 Olympic champion support his ladies from the Kiss and Cry this week has been highly entertaining as he jumps every fence with them and feels every emotion.
“The energy coming from him is unbelievable!” said Tiffany Foster after her second great ride of the week which sees her holding fifth place going into day three of these Championships. “We have a long history, Eric and I, and we all know how much this means to him. As a team we are so tight and so close, myself and the girls are doing this for him as well, he puts so much time and energy into it, he’s just 110% behind us.
“And he does actually know what he’s doing – this isn’t his first rodeo – I definitely think we’ve got the best chef d’équipe here!”
Three clears rounds, from Henrik von Eckermann (King Edward), Jens Fredricson (Markan Cosmopolit) and Peder Fredricson (H&M All In) kept the Swedes in pole position. It’s a really special week for brothers Peder and Jens as it’s their first time to be in a Championship team together.
And it’s a really special week for Jens’ horse-owners and his gelding’s many fans because the 11-year-old has a quite a story behind him. Jens works at the Swedish National Training Centre in Stromsholm, and the owners of the cafe there bought the horse for the riding School as a three-year-old. “Nobody thought he was special but the cafe owners wanted to buy a horse for me and because he was too sensitive to use in the school I said I’d ride him and maybe we’d sell him on later. To my big surprise he turned out to be a superstar!” Jens explained today.
Team France also produced three clear rounds to hold their place, but arguably the most pressured ride of the day was that of anchorman Kevin Staut who took a fall from Scuderia 1918 Viking d’la Rousserie yesterday. That could have rattled him badly, but like the true professional he is, he just regrouped and steered a perfect run this afternoon when it was really needed.
“I was so disappointed yesterday, it was like what happened at the WEG in Lexington (USA, 12 years ago) but I’ve been to many Championships and I know well that anything can happen. I am a team rider and Team France means everything to me, so I just got on with it today!” he said after securing that second spot for his country.
Smoothest of rounds
Swedish supporters were going wild when Peder Fredricson entered the ring, last to go today when the smoothest of rounds with his brilliant 16-year-old gelding saw him secure the team lead while also moving him up to individual third place after Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs dropped all the way to 15th with a fence down. The strength of the Swedes is evidenced by the fact that Fredricson’s team-mate, von Eckermann, is lying individually fourth ahead of Canada’s Foster in fifth while Britain’s Ben Maher lies sixth.
Julien Epaillard’s mare is only 10 years old but is taking the Championship challenge completely in her stride to keep the Frenchman on his zero scoreline. But Britain’s Brash looks a real threat to the leading bunch. Hello Jefferson coped with a tricky moment at the triple combination which proved the real bogey of the day by simply jumping himself out of potential trouble, and Brash looks like a man on a mission.
Talking about his horse he said, “He’s busy and energetic and he’s lovely. He was tricky to start with because he has such a busy brain and he’s strong-minded so he always thinks he knows best! It has taken time to make a partnership – Nick (Skelton, Rio Olympic champion) said he’s an unbelievable horse when he saw him – we’ve had to work to get the partnership right and thankfully it’s come through now. They (horses) are soulmates at the end of the day who we spend most of our time with, I spend more time with them than my family!” he said.
He decided to bring this horse to Herning because “he was just amazing in Aachen and it feels like he can do anything right now so I was pretty confident coming here that he’s in good shape. But to keep all the poles up every day within the time allowed is demanding – you need a bit of luck along the way as well,” said the London 2012 Olympic team gold medallist.
Everyone will be hoping for a little of that luck when the action resumes tomorrow night at 21.00 local time with not just the Team Jumping title at the ECCO FEI World Championships 2022 up for grabs but five Olympic qualifying slots also on offer.
Swedish Chef d’Equipe, Henrik Ankarcrona, said his riders want the team gold “so bad that it hurts! But we all know it can fall apart in a split second with a fence down….”
It’s still all very much to play for, so don’t miss a hoofbeat…..