Swedish hearts were bursting with pride as local girl Angelica Augustsson
galloped to victory in the penultimate qualifying round of the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping series in the Scandinavium Arena at Gothenburg, Sweden, on Sunday.
Angelica Augustsson and Midtown Du Tillard.
Edwina Alexander and Ciske van Overis.
Ludger Beerbaum and Gotha. © Roland Thunholm /FEI
There was an outpouring of emotion in the aftermath, and even hardened veteran Ludger Beerbaum
, who was third behind runner-up Edwina Alexander
from Australia, expressed his amazement at having taken part in one of the most thrilling competitions seen on the international circuit in recent history.
"For any sport it is fantastic to see very talented up-and-coming young people, and what we saw today was the cream - it doesn't come better than this, and we will remember today for a very long time" said the German legend.
Dutch course designer Louis Konickx earned high praise from riders all weekend and produced another master-piece for the test, in which 12 made it through to the second-round jump-off. With three home runners amongst them, the Swedish interest was always going to be strong, but pathfinders Douglas Lindelow and the mare Talina left the door open when hitting the penultimate oxer, while fellow-countryman Peder Fredricson, was eliminated with H&M Arctic Aurora Borealis when they fell at the fifth fence on the new track. This rustic oxer had been the last in the opening round and as the 38-year-old rider galloped down to it, the distance just refused to come up right - Fredricson asked for a long stand-off, the grey gelding tried to chip in an extra stride and the result was a crashing fall that left a muted atmosphere around the ring despite no apparent damage to either horse or rider.
Third to go, Augustsson immediately lifted Swedish spirits with a stunning run with Midtown du Tillard. This 11-year-old Crusing mare looked a handful to ride in Friday's feature class but, as her 24-year-old rider explained, "she's not very organised on the flat but she really wants to clear the fences," and as they weaved their way home in 33.69 seconds it was clear they had really put it up to the rest of them.
And, try as they would, none could catch them, Switzerland's Hansueli Sprunger and Kepi de Valse producing the next clear round two horses later but more than two seconds off the pace, while Beerbaum gave it his best shot with Gotha but was still more than a second slower. Portugal's Luciana Diniz had a cut at it with Winningmood but, having already lowered the first element of the triple which was now reduced to just two efforts, she was very nearly dislodged from the saddle when tackling the oxer two from home. Approaching at an angle, she caught the upright on her way up and found herself sitting in front of the saddle on the landing side of the fence. Typically determined, however, she wriggled back into position and continued on to complete with an eight-fault score.
And the excitement still wasn't over. Four-fault rounds from both Ireland's Denis Lynch (Abbervail van het Dingeshof) and Switzerland's Pius Schwizer (Carlina) were followed by a determined effort from Germany's Marco Kutscher, but his chances slipped away when Cornet Obolensky, mirroring a similar incident in Bordeaux, France two weeks ago, threw his head in the air in front of the penultimate fence and had to be re-presented thus bringing their tally to ten faults. Two fences down for The Netherlands' Jeroen Dubbeldam (BMC Van Grunsven Simon) kept them out of the frame. Last to go, Australia's Edwina Alexander, set off like the wind with Ciske van Overis who jumped awkwardly in the first round but who seemed to thrive when the hand-brake was removed. They sailed home with the closest time to Augustsson's winning target to snatch second spot as the clock showed 34.08 seconds.
Augustsson couldn't hold back the tears during the prize-giving ceremony. "I didn't expect this at all," she said. But after steering her black gelding, Walter, into runner-up spot behind Frenchman Philippe Rozier in Saturday's Grand Prix, third-placed Ludger Beerbaum predicted that it wouldn't be long before this young Swedish talent would enjoy her first Grand Prix success.
"This was a really fantastic day for our sport" he said today, "it was the way Angelica did it, winning in front of her home crowd, it was very special and I am very happy to be part of it," he said.
Alexander quipped - "I think Sweden likes me a lot more for finishing second rather than first! - but I'm very happy too, Angelica deserves this and its great to see new people coming through in the sport, I'm delighted to have been part of this today," she agreed.
Angelica Augustsson, riding Walter, receives her award from Magali Dubois-Vaucher of Rolex for winning the World Cup round on Midtown Du Tillard. © Roland Thunholm /FEI
Augustsson has been working for horse agent Dietmar Gugler in Germany for the last four years, and her story is an inspiration to young people hoping to make their way in this tough sport. As a child she helped in the local riding school to earn riding lessons and when she was "maybe 9 or 10" she started riding with the Zetterman family and joined Alexander and Daniel on the pony circuit.
"My family isn't wealthy, so I never had a horse of my own but we rented stables and I rode horses for different people, including some for the Zettermans," she said. It was while trying out horses at Gugler's yard four years ago that he spotted the intuitive talent she is now displaying, so he offered her a job and she has made her way up the levels of the sport with help from trainers Ted Netterkvist and Gerry Mullins.
Asked about her ambitions for the future she could hardly find the words to reply. "This is my first 5-star show, my first World Cup, my second time to ride Midtown over a 1.60m track and my second time to ask her to gallop against the clock - I don't know what to say!" she replied. It seems the Rolex FEI World Cup has unearthed another star.
Just one qualifier remains, at 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands 24-27 March, before the final of the Rolex FEI World Cup series takes place in Leipzig, Germany from 27 April to 1 May.