Dutch showjumper Jeroen Dubbeldam has followed in the hoofprints of legendary German rider Hans Günter Winkler in winning the “big three” – adding this weekend’s individual final at the FEI European Championships at Aachen to his Olympic and World Champion titles.
Dubbeldam now has showjumping’s three majors in the bag – Olympic individual gold claimed at Sydney 2000, the world championship title he took at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy last year and now the individual European title which has not been won by The Netherlands since Johan Heins stood top of the podium in Vienna back in 1977. And he has achieved each of the last two victories after already contributing to team gold with the same brilliant gelding.
Belgian rider Gregory Wathelet jumped into silver on Conrad de Hus, with bronze going to Simon Delestre and Ryan des Hayettes from France.
The final began without Ukraine’s Cassio Rivetti whose horse, Vivant, did not pass the second horse inspection. That saw Dubbeldam move up from third to silver medal spot, and he was only just over one penalty-point behind the leading partnership of Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya and Carlo as the first round began on Sunday afternoon.
In the first round of the final, there were just five clear rounds over the demanding Frank Rothenberger course from the 25 starters. Of the top four riders, only Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya had a pole down, which dropped him out of the medal contention. Despite a time fault, France’s Simon Delestre replaced Moya in the bronze medal position and when Gregory Wathelet from Belgium went clear into silver, Jeroen Dubbeldam entered the arena knowing that, although he could afford a time penalty, just one pole down would cost him the European title.
But this is a man who is used to delivering results under intense pressure, and from the moment he cleared the first fence, it was obvious that he was riding with his confidence sky high. He took his time, and accumulated a time fault, but the poles stayed in their cups and when he cleared the final Rolex vertical, a broad smile broke across his face as he raised a clenched fist to acknowledge the loud cheers from the crowd. As if to prove that old adage that consistency is key to winning at Championships, Jeroen Dubbeldam and Zenith were the only combination to not bring down a single pole throughout the five days of competition.
Dubbeldam was overwhelmed by his win: “I simply can’t believe it – after winning double gold at the World Championships last year, and now double European Championships gold. It is too good to be true. I am simply overjoyed!
“If you go here to Aachen, one of the most difficult places you can have a championship and one of the nicest, then you know it is going to be a tough battle,” Dubbeldam said.
“So many good riders and so many good horses, you can only dream that it comes true – there’s no wisdom for it and you have to be also, of course, a little bit lucky. First of all, everything needs to be, of course, good, you know horses have to be fit and you have to be fit and you have to focus and everything, but in the end you also need a little bit of luck and I had the luck also on my side and this is a dream coming true.
“My thanks goes first of all to my horse,” the visibly moved Dubbeldam said “and the whole team standing behind me.”
In the lap of honour the show-jumpers often like to put their foot down. Dubbeldam did it quite differently. First of all in walk and then in a gentle canter, the 42-year-old enjoyed every second of the lap of honour for the medal winners.
The silver medal went to Gregory Wathelet and the 10-year-old Holsteiner Conrad de Hus – it is the 35-year-old’s first Championship medal and the first individual medal for a Belgian show-jumper since 2007, when Jos Lansink won silver.
“Over the last two months, I had the feeling that my horse was getting better and better,” said Wathelet, who rode for the Ukraine from 2005 to 2007. “But I didn’t think I would win a medal. I just wanted to be as good as I could and my horse really fought for me.”
Simon Delestre was 14th in the rankings before the final day of the championships, but after jumping double clear he secured himself the bronze. Delestre, 34, won team gold at the European Championships for Young Riders in 2000, and now runs his family’s riding establishment near Metz in France.
• The crowning of the Jumping champion Jeroen Dubbeldam was the final sporting moment in Aachen, but it was FEI President Ingmar de Vos who had the final words to bring the super-exciting FEI European Championships Aachen 2015 to a close on Sunday night.
“With 117 years’ experience of presenting equestrian sport, Aachen is no stranger to events of the scale of the FEI European Championships,” he said. “In this equestrian heartland, our athletes – equine and human – have been given a five-star welcome with the great professionalism that they are known for. Over the past 12 days, Aachen has once again shown its amazing ability to organise a multi-discipline event and make it look so easy.
“Thirty nations competed in Aachen and battled it out for 13 gold medals and to qualify for the next Olympic Games in Rio. My sincere thanks go to Carl Meulenbergh and his employees, my dear friend Frank Kemperman and the City of Aachen, the organisers and the host of these important European Championships. You have written a further glamourous chapter in the history of equestrian sport.”
Final Results – Individual Competition
1. Jeroen Dubbeldam/SFN Zenith N.O.P. (NED)
2. Gregory Wathelet/Conrad de Hus (BEL)
3. Simon Delestre/Ryan des Hayettes (FRA)
4. Penelope Leprevost/Flora de Mariposa (FRA)
5. Jur Vrieling/VDL Zirocco Blue N.O.P. (NED)