Olympic champion Steve Guerdat has jumped to his second successive Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final victory, riding Corbinian to claim the €172,500 winner’s purse.
The crowd in the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden, went wild after the 33-year-old rider produced two faultless rounds on Monday night with the 10-year-old gelding. It was the perfect end to a great event for the Swiss champion, bringing his earnings for the weekend to €232,100.
The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders took the runner-up spot and a handsome pay cheque of €131,250 for the two rounds, while Germany’s Daniel Deusser, winner of the Longines FEI World Cup Final in 2014, stood on the third step of the podium and joined Smolders in hoisting Guerdat and the trophy into the air in celebration.
Guerdat’s biggest wins have come with three different horses – Nino des Buissonnets at London 2012, the mare Albufuehrens Paille in Las Vegas last year, and now his latest champion Corbinian. Today’s victory was the fourth for Switzerland in the FEI World Cup Jumping series, with Markus Fuchs lifting the trophy in 2001, Beat Mandli in 2007 and Guerdat now making it two in a row.
The Swiss rider was already out in front going into the final decider, but had to leave all the fences on Santiago Varela Ullastres’ brilliant course standing in both rounds in order to complete his historic double. As the first round began the sport’s biggest stars were all lining up behind him, three-time World Cup champion Marcus Ehning from Germany just two points adrift after the first two days’ results were converted into points, and Deusser and Smolders carrying just 3 points apiece while Belgium’s Nicola Phillipaerts was one fence adrift of the leader carrying four.
The first track was enormous but jumped really well, the double at fence nine proving the bogey with its water trays under each element.
The second track was another colossal test and again definitely not for the faint-hearted. But this Final has produced spectacular sport and continued to highlight extraordinary horses and super-talented riders, with the audience loving every moment of it. When Australia’s Chris Chugg jumped clear in the second round with the beautiful mare, Cristallina, who is only eight years old, the spectators jumped to their feet to give them a standing ovation and, always the showman, Chugg produced a lovely bit of theatre as he accepted their appreciation. And the USA’s Callan Solem, almost unknown across the European circuit, also drew huge applause for her brilliant second-round clear with VDL Wizard.
In the end it was a case of whether the three at the top end of the leaderboard would crack, but none of them did, Smolders throwing down yet another jumping exhibition with Emerald before Deusser followed suit with Cornet d’Amour.
The atmosphere was at fever-pitch as Guerdat rode back into the ring for the last time knowing that, although he could afford a few time faults, a falling pole would put paid to his chances, leaving the Dutchman and the German battling it out for the title in a third-round jump-off. The Swiss rider set off with his jaw set and his adrenalin running, and the crowd rode every fence with him and his horse, wriggling in their seats with concern and anticipation only to burst into an explosion of sound as the pair galloped through the finish with a zero score still on the display screen.
The fun and games on the presentation podium underlined the great sportsmanship and the tremendous spectacle enjoyed by everyone in Gothenburg this weekend. All the riders had every reason to be proud of their contribution a great event, but Guerdat looked to be the proudest man of all as he finished up this evening on a poignant note.
Asked if he had the opportunity to share his success with his father, Philippe Guerdat who was at the show as Chef d’Equipe for the French, the double-champion said, “yes … we saw each other … he’s been a rider himself so he knows what it’s about, we come from the same life, the same world so we don’t need to talk too much or see each other too often. We just love each other, and those moments belong to him as much as they belong to me – like father and son.”
• The last three riders to go in Mondays first round – Daniel Deusser’s Cornet D’Amour, Marcus Ehning’s Cornado NRW and Steve Guerdat’s Corbinian were all riding horses sired by Ehning’s former champion ride, Cornet Obolensky.
Result: 1, Steve Guerdat SUI 0; 2, Harrie Smolders NED 3/65.45; 3, Daniel Deusser GER 3/66.17; 4, Marcus Ehning GER 6/66.67; 5, Denis Lynch IRL 8/65.38; 6, Christian Ahlmann GER 8/67.79; 7, Callan Solem USA 9/63.58; 8. Penelope Leprevost FRA 9/65.62; 9, Simon Delestre FRA 13/66.26; 10, Chris Chugg AUS 16.