Steve Guerdat, the Swiss star who took individual Jumping gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, has reclaimed the world number one slot in the Longines Rankings.
The 36-year-old, who was previously 140 points off the lead in second place behind Harrie Smolders, has now jumped ahead of the Dutch athlete with a 55-point advantage in the rankings published today by the FEI.
The four-time Olympian last topped the world rankings in November 2012 and his return to the number one slot, on 3,050 points, follows a series of impressive results last month, most notably an emotional victory in the IJRC Top 10 Final on home turf at Geneva.
Individual bronze medallist at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 last September, Guerdat also leads the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Western European League standings and will be aiming for a third victory in the seasonal Final at Gothenburg (SWE) in April after back-to-back wins in 2015 and 2016.
Germany’s Marcus Ehning, fourth in the rankings published at the beginning of December, has now switched places with McLain Ward (USA) to sit third on 2,936 points, 59 adrift of Smolders and just 16 clear of Ward. European champion Peder Fredricson (SWE) remains fifth on 2,815.
Daniel Deusser (GER), Ben Maher (GBR), Henrick von Eckermann (SWE), Beezie Madden (USA) and Guerdat’s compatriot Martin Fuchs (SUI) complete the top 10.
Germany’s Christian Ahlmann (44) clinched a thrilling last-to-go victory at the ninth leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2018/2019 Western European League at the Nekkerhal Stadium in Mechelen, Belgium today. In a tense competition from which only four of the 39 starters emerged to battle it out against the clock, the crowd were treated to a feast of legendary proportions. Because these were four of the greatest masters of their craft, and they put on an exhibition of showjumping at its very best.
Ahlmann is a four-time Olympian and former FEI World Cup™ champion, and it was Rio 2016 Olympic team gold medallist Kevin Staut (38) from France who he pinned into runner-up spot while World No. 1, The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders (38), lined up in third. Ahlmann’s compatriot, Ludger Beerbaum (55) has long been one of the biggest names in the sport, but this time around he had to settle for fourth when things didn’t quite go his way in the jump-off.
The first-round course set by Belgium’s Eddy Geysemans tested horses every inch of the way, with the first fence, the double at eight and the triple combination at 10 all taking a steady toll. But only a single time fault kept Ireland’s Denis Lynch (The Sinner), Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca (Armitages Boy) and Celine Schoonbroodt-de Azevedo (Chepetta), one of 13 Belgian contenders, from making the cut into the second round. The 71 seconds time-allowed was tight, but as Geysemans said, “the best riders were able to make it – if we had changed the time after the first three riders we would have had more clears, but the jump-off was great as it was!”
Staut led the way with a stunning run from his new ride, the 10-year-old Edesa’s Cannary, which he has only been competing since October and which raced through the timers in 40.98 seconds to set the pace. Smolders took time to check his route carefully before setting off with the 14-year-old stallion Don VHP Z, the horse that helped him claim individual silver at the 2017 FEI European Championships in Gothenburg (SWE). But they weren’t quite fast enough when galloping home in 41.42 seconds.
Beerbaum was well in touch when turning to the first of the two remaining elements of the triple combination two fences from home, but he lost his line and the 15-year-old gelding Casello ran past the fence, racking up 14 faults and leaving it wide open for Ahlmann as he set off, last to go. And Ahlmann had his game-face on from the start, weaving his way around the twisting track with the fabulous grey stallion Clintrexo Z who stopped the clock on 39.87 without hardly turning a hair. It was an amazing performance for a horse of just nine years of age.
“We built him up in the stallion approvals and later in young-horse classes, and Judy (his wife Judy-Ann Melchior) did some 3 and 4-Star Grands Prix and then allowed me to take him over and move him up another step. He won in Wiesbaden in May and Münster in August and he’s quickly growing into the big sport now. He really loves it, and he gets better and better week after week”
Christian Ahlmann (GER)
And he was extra-happy that he did well today because his family, including his young son Leon, were watching from the sidelines. He says Clintrexo Z is made of the right stuff for the top end of the sport.
“In the ring he knows exactly what to do and he is afraid of nothing. Whether he’s competing in Aachen or here it wouldn’t make any difference to him, he’s always really positive and tries his best – he’s everything you could wish for!”
Christian Ahlmann (GER)
Now the man who has competed at seven FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals, including Leipzig in 2011 where he came out on top with the great Taloubet Z, has the 2019 Longines Final in Gothenburg, Sweden next April in his sights. In sixth place with 46 points on the leaderboard he is easily qualified, and he’s spoiled for choice about which of his horses to take there.
Runner-up Staut was also very happy. “This was my goal coming here – not to be second but to gain more points to get to the Final!” he said, having moved into third with 51 points to his credit.
Basel in Switzerland will stage the next leg of the Western European League series in two weeks’ time.
There’s nothing quite like a big win in front of the home crowd to trigger the emotions, but Great Britain’s William Whitaker (29) wasn’t the only one with a tear in his eye after he reigned supreme in today’s eighth leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2018/2019 Western European League at Olympia in London (GBR). The packed stadium of spectators went wild with delight when their own man soared to victory over a world-class field in an 18-horse jump-off that was a nail-biter to the final footfall.
“It’s surreal! Since I’ve been coming here as a kid this has been a dream, and I can’t believe it’s actually happened!”
William Whitaker (GBR)
This was the biggest result of Whitaker’s career to date, as he pinned Belgium’s Karel Cox (36) into runner-up spot and American star, Laura Kraut (53), lined up in third.
With so many jumping clear over the first track presented by Portuguese course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral it was never going to be easy to come out on top, but Whitaker had no doubt about his plan. “The World Cup at Olympia is like a Championship, you get one shot at it every year and it’s all got to come together on the day. I told myself, if you’re clear in the first round then don’t hold back!”, and he certainly didn’t when seventh to go with Utamaro d’Ecaussines.
He’s long had a superb relationship with the courageous 14-year-old stallion, and when the pair set the target at 37.02 seconds with the smoothest of fast rounds in which every fence seemed to come up in exactly the right spot, and every turn was pure perfection, then that really put it up to the rest of them.
However two horses later it seemed Karel Cox and the nine-year-old Evert might just catch them when galloping down to the last. But the clock showed 37.21 to leave the Belgian contenders trailing by two-tenths of a second. Whitaker could hardly bear the tension.
“It was torture! Especially the last few – every one that goes by you get closer to the win, and its not just anyone, it’s the best riders in the world!”
William Whitaker (GBR)
Third-last to go was the magical German and world no. 4, Marcus Ehning, with his Geneva winner Pret a Tout. But when they turned too tight to the penultimate vertical they paid the price with a pole down in the quickest time of 36.03 seconds.
Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and Vinchester, winners of the previous leg at La Coruna in Spain two weeks ago, made a wider turn there to come home clear in 38.17, but Laura Kraut and Zeremonie looked a real threat when last into the ring. The pair who helped clinched team gold for the USA at the FEI World Equestrian Games in September stormed home with a determined run, but their time of 37.70 seconds would only prove good enough for third. It was destined to be William Whitaker’s day, and he could hardly believe it.
He was of course following in a proud family tradition. His uncles, John and Michael Whitaker, have enjoyed many major successes in the world-famous Grand Hall at Olympia during their spectacular careers. Following in their legendary footsteps means a great deal to their nephew.
“I have memories of watching John and Michael winning the World Cup here – one of the things that got me out of bed in the morning was thinking that some day I could do it too!”It was torture!”
William Whitaker (GBR)
And he was full of praise for Utamaro. “It helps when you’re on a horse like him, he has such a good brain and mentality. In the collecting ring I was struggling to get him into canter, but he just lights up when he goes in the ring, he grows a foot! I’m delighted for the horse and the owners, Jasmin and Ludwig Criel – he’s had fantastic results over the years but we never won a Grand Prix and I can’t believe it’s this one!” Whitaker said.
He’s got some changes coming up in the new year when he will be relocating to Germany, so he’s not quite clear if he will be in a position to line out in further World Cup qualifiers. “We’ll sit together after Christmas and make a plan” he said this evening.
For many others chasing down those precious points towards the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg, Sweden next April however, the next port of call is Mechelen in Belgium next weekend.
The leading travel and events management business ATPI Sports Events, part of the ATPI Group, has partnered with the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the global governing body for horse sport. Today’s announcement follows news of the FEI signing seven new sponsors and partners in the last 18 months.
ATPI Sports Events will run the FEI’s corporate travel needs as the official FEI travel agent. Its dedicated official FEI travel desk will provide essential and wide-ranging services for the FEI’s stakeholders, including athletes, national federations, officials and event organisers.
With equestrian fans also being frequent flyers, traveling to global events as well as spending as much time as possible with horses in their spare time, event packages and holidays are very popular.
ATPI Sports Events has an extensive track record in working with major sports events, from Olympic and Winter Olympic Games to yacht races, as well as football teams and other major sports federations. The specialist ATPI Sports Events team will create hospitality packages for major FEI events and holiday experiences for equestrian fans.
“Equestrian sport is truly global with our athletes, officials, vets, grooms, FEI staff and National Federation members constantly on the road, travelling to and from the 4,500 international events which take place worldwide annually,” FEI commercial director Ralph Straus said. “With ATPI Sports Events, we have found a professional and expert partner to support us in all our travel needs.”
“Equestrian is one of the world’s largest traveling sports, with numerous events taking place around the world every year,” said Adam Knights, regional managing director UK, France & Benelux, The ATPI Group. “Our passionate team has great experience in managing the complex needs of leading sports events and organisations and looks forward to becoming an integral part of the global horse sports community. We are committed to providing event organisers, athletes and fans with unified, seamless and cost-effective travel expertise. We’re excited to support FEI’s global equestrian community through every phase of an event.”
Ingmar De Vos was today re-elected unopposed as President of the FEI at the General Assembly in Manama (BRN), where he pledged to build on the success of his first term in office. The Belgian native received unanimous support for a second four-year term from delegates representing the FEI’s 133 National Federations.
It is the first time since 2002 that there has been an uncontested election for the FEI’s top role. The Belgian native is the 13th FEI President since the Federation was founded in 1921, and only the fourth to become an IOC Member.
“I believe in our sport, in our community and in our potential”, Ingmar De Vos said in a powerful acceptance speech after an extended standing ovation from the delegates. “These are exciting times for equestrian. We are growing, our fan base is diversifying and we have seven amazing and unique disciplines to promote – the sky really is the limit!
“Together – and this is the key word – together we can and we will continue to develop our sport and to attract new athletes, new fans and new sponsors. And we will do this by ensuring great sport, cutting edge formats and great products globally to showcase the unique attributes of our disciplines and our sport.
“One of my biggest priorities is to keep our community together and ensure we stand united, because this is how we can continue to drive the sport to new heights. We are all on this journey together. It is not the mission of one man but of a community and I am grateful to everyone in this room for all that we have achieved and all that we will go on to achieve.”
He gave a heartfelt vote of thanks to his wife Sabine and the couple’s four children for their unfailing support, before going on to thank his predecessor HRH Princess Haya al Hussein for her visionary leadership and his mentor, the late Jacky Buchmann, former President of the Belgian Equestrian Federation.
Under his leadership, the FEI has seen greater youth engagement and universality, continued improvements in governance within the FEI and its member Federations, and a major evolution in the Federation’s broadcast and digital media strategy.
In his Presidential Programme for 2018-2022, A Roadmap for the Future, Ingmar De Vos has pledged to continue working within the five pillars on which he structured his first term, each with their own set of key commitments. The five pillars are Serving our Community; Sport: Our Core Business; Equestrian Sport in the Olympics; Solidarity: The Engine of Development; and Horses as our Partners.
Under the FEI’s constitution, a president can serve up to three four-year terms. Ingmar De Vos was first elected in 2014 at the FEI General Assembly in Baku (AZE) after three years as FEI Secretary General at the FEI Headquarters in Lausanne (SUI).
De Vos (55), who was elected as an IOC Member in September 2017, is also a member of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) governance taskforce, a member of two IOC Commissions (Legal Affairs and Digital & Technology), and is on the board of the Belgian National Olympic Committee. Earlier this month he was appointed to the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) Council and as the GAISF representative on the 12-member World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee, replacing the late Patrick Baumann in both roles. Mr De Vos will take up the WADA post on 1 January 2019.
More about Ingmar De Vos
A Belgian native, Ingmar De Vos was born on 5 August 1963. He holds degrees in political science, and international and European law, and started his career as an advisor to the Belgian Senate. He joined the Belgian Equestrian Federation as managing director in 1990, and held the additional role of Secretary General from 1997 to 2011.
During his time at the Belgian National Federation, Ingmar De Vos was chef de mission for the Belgian team at all six FEI World Equestrian Games™ between 1990 and 2010 and at three Olympic Games – Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. He is a member of the Belgian Olympic Academy. He was co-founder of the European Equestrian Federation in 2010 and was also Secretary General from 2010 until 2011, when he joined the FEI.
After three years as FEI Secretary General, Ingmar De Vos was elected as FEI President in December 2014.
For competitors all across Western Europe, the long and winding road to the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2019 Final, which will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden next April, begins in Oslo, Norway this weekend.
Horses and riders from 18 countries will do battle in Sunday afternoon’s first leg of the Western European League which once again takes place in the famous Telenor Arena where Germany’s Daniel Deusser got his campaign underway with victory last season. Collecting early qualifying points is a real bonus, and the competition can be expected to be fierce from the outset.
It’s going to be a busy start to the series, with Oslo immediately followed by legs in Helsinki (FIN) and Verona (ITA) later this month before the action moves on to Lyon (FRA), Stuttgart (GER) and Madrid (ESP) in November. La Coruña (ESP) will mark the half-way point in early December, and then, after the Christmas shows at London, Olympia (GBR) and Mechelen (BEL), there will be just four chances left to chase down those precious points.
Basel in Switzerland will be a welcome new addition in January when Leipzig (GER) and Amsterdam (NED) will also attract the best riders to the closing stages. And Bordeaux (FRA) will present the 13th and last qualifier in February.
Now in its 41st season, the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series has legendary status. It marks the mastery of indoor jumping which requires a unique level of understanding, trust, precision and team-work between horse and rider.
Unlike competing in the great outdoors there is relatively little space to adjust your stride or change your plan, so accuracy is essential from start to finish. And one of the things that keeps spectators on the edges of their seats is the speed of it all, especially when it comes down to a jump-off to decide the winner. No doubt the roofs of many of the venues will be lifted by roars of excitement as the best combinations battle it out for a chance to put their names on the trophy that has been such a badge of honour for so long.
Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat knows what it’s like to hold it in his hands. The London 2012 Olympic gold medallist grabbed it two years in a row, in Las Vegas (USA) in 2015 and again the following year in Gothenburg (SWE). He was also just pipped at the post at the Gothenburg Final in 2013 by Beezie Madden, the lady who won the title again this year in Paris (FRA) where her American compatriot, Devin Ryan, lined up second ahead of Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann in third.
Guerdat, currently No. 2 in the Longines World Rankings, will be setting out his stall in Oslo, just a week after competing at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona (ESP) and only three weeks after claiming individual bronze at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (USA). He has an extraordinary strike-rate, and he’s likely to be the man to beat this weekend.
But Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander will also be coming out with all guns blazing as will Belgium’s Pieter Devos, a member of the winning team at that Final in Barcelona just three days ago. And 2016 Olympic team champion Kevin Staut from France will be there along with Dutch stars, father-and-son Eric and Maikel Van der Vleuten, and the best that Norway has to offer including the highly-competitive Gulliksen family, sister-and-brother Victoria and Johan-Sebastian and their father Geir.
The road to Gothenburg, where the inaugural FEI World Cup™ Final was held way back in 1979 and where the new-season Final will take place from 3 to 7 April 2019, looks set to be paved with many more magical moments. And, for the Western European riders, it all begins this coming weekend….don’t miss a hoofbeat!
French second and Ireland third in super-tight finish
Belgium won through on the tense and thrilling final afternoon of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2018 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) today. With all eight nations that qualified from Friday night’s first round starting again on a zero scoreline, and just one more round of jumping to decide the new champions, it was a roller-coaster ride over a big, challenging track set by Spanish course designer Santiago Varela. And, in the best sporting tradition, it was impossible to guess the outcome until the very end.
Like so many of the other teams, the Belgians had mixed fortunes, Niels Bruynseels kicking off with a superb clear from Gancia de Muze but both Pieter Devos (Claire Z) and Jos Verlooy (Caracas) each leaving three fences on the floor. However last man in, Nicola Philippaerts, kept a cool head to bring H&M Harley v. Bisschop home with a foot-perfect run that would prove plenty good enough to clinch it.
“We call ourselves the “Never Give Up Team” because in the middle we had two with 12 faults already but still we were fighting to the last rider, so this victory means a lot to us!”
Peter Weinberg (Chef d’Equipe, Team Belgium)
It seemed to have fallen into the lap of the Italians in the closing stages, as a clear from their anchor rider and last man into the ring, Lorenzo de Luca (Ensor de Litrange), would see them complete on eight faults to win it. But Varela’s extraordinary track was one that had to be ridden with absolute precision, and when, like so many before him, it unravelled for the Italian on the final line, his team completed on a total of 16. And because their combined times were slower than the French and Irish this dropped them into fourth place ahead of the Dutch when all four teams finished on a 16-fault tally. Sweden and Austria slotted into sixth and seventh places when both posting 20-fault finishing scores and Switzerland lined up eighth and last when putting 32 on the scoreboard.
It’s no surprise that Varela has been selected as course designer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Today’s track was a masterpiece that questioned control, balance, judgement and skill, every inch of the way. As Varela pointed out it wasn’t about the number of faults the riders collected. “A score of 8 or 12 didn’t mean they had a bad round, horses jumped unbelievably, but the course was difficult, tough and big….and everything was connected”, he explained. That was borne out by the number of riders who lost out over the last four fences where an oxer to a vertical could be tackled on a five long or six short strides, but where an error of judgement often led to mistakes at the penultimate double and final oxer.
In the end the Belgians were the only side that managed to produce two clear rounds – “and two clear rounds today was a super result!” Varela said.
Bruynseels was asked if he had a plan when setting off with Gancia de Muze to produce the first clear round of the competition. Bur apparently he doesn’t really “do” planning with his brilliant but quirky 12-year-old mare.
“I have a little bit of a special horse, so she’s not like all the others. She has really a lot of temperament so I have to do my course and my round. So I don’t mind going first and I don’t have to see the other horses, because we always have a different plan!”
Niels Bruynseels (Team Belgium)
Philippaerts said his team-mates told him “everything is still possible” when he was last to go. “I just tried to ride my own class and it worked out well – today it was me that could make the clear round that would make a difference, and another time it will be one of the others” he said. And he had even more reason to be pleased when sharing the €100,000 bonus for double-clear performances with team-mate Bruynseels, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and Italy’s new star, Riccardo Pisani.
This was Belgium’s second time to claim the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping title in Barcelona, their last in 2015. As Chef d’Equipe Weinberg said “it was an interesting day, first ups and then in between downs, but in the end we won anyway so it was really great sport!”