The final competitions of the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games have wrapped up in Tryon, North Carolina, with showjumping, vaulting, para dressage and driving results.
Germany’s Simone Blum, 29, etched her name into the record books when becoming the first woman in the 28-year history of the FEI World Equestrian Games, and only the second female athlete in the 65-year history of the World Jumping Championships, to take the individual title when coming out on top in the Bank of America Championship at Tryon, USA on Sunday.
With her 11-year-old mare DSP Alice, Blum took the gold medal as the only combination to jump clear in all five competitions this week at Games. Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs takes the silver with Clooney, while fellow Swiss rider, Steve Guerdat, won bronze with Bianca.
Going last and keeping her head is all in a day’s work for the rider who, during her early career, was often specifically chosen as anchor rider on teams because of her coolness. And although this was her very first major championship, she was selected for Tryon because she has shown incredible form at top level in recent years, winning the German Ladies title in 2016 and then coming out to top the 2017 German Men’s Championship in which the best German ladies are also entitled to compete.
The sense of achievement of all three who were presented with their medals by IOC President Thomas Bach and FEI President Ingmar De Vos was tangible. For Fuchs it was particularly special moment because his 12-year-old gelding Clooney underwent colic surgery this spring, but has made a tremendous recovery.
And 2012 Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, was elated – hardly surprising as Bianca produced two breathtaking tours of two enormous tracks.
For Blum, who also collected team gold on Friday, there is now another very big day ahead. She said she owes her success to her fiancee, Hansi Goskowitz because “he found Alice, and he is the most wonderful man for me in the world and it’s just because of him I am sitting here! I will marry him in the next four weeks – he will become Mr Blum!” _ Louise Parkes
Chiara Congia and Justin van Gerven helped Germany to victory in the Squad Freestyle at the FEI World Equestrian Games 2018. © FEI/Martin Dokoupil
Individual and Squad Vaulting
Gemany’s Kristina Boe added individual gold to her Nations gold medal in the female individual final. Boe, a formidable competitor and ambassador for the sport, now holds the European, World Cup and World Championship titles.
Her innate story-telling and characterisation have been stand-out characteristics throughout her years of success in the sport. Her achievements have been aided by her incredible relationship with lunger Winnie Schlüter and the impressive horse Don de la Mar. Posting an unbeatable combined score of 8.388, she managed to halt the challenge launched by compatriot, Janika Derks.
“As a result of the new Nations Team Championships it is the first time that it is possible to win two medals for an individual. To come away from Tryon with two gold medals makes me speechless and more than grateful”, Boe said.
Derks, who took the bronze medal alongside Johannes Kay two days ago in the Pas de Deux competition, came out all guns blazing. With Carousso Hit and renowned lunger Jessica Lichtenberg, her final freestyle highlighted her impressive strength yet was beautifully contrasted with classical music. Finishing on 8.374, she kept the pressure on Boe right to the end. Bronze went to Austria’s Lisa Wild for the second time this week.
The highest freestyle score of the day went to Germany’s Sarah Kay who posted 8.880 in the final test (8.308). However her assault on the medals came too late in the competition as she finished on a combined total of 8.308 to line up fourth.
Lambert Leclezio from France dominated the individual male category as his execution, artistic impression and control meant he was in a league of his own. He got a standing ovation from the Tryon spectators as he once again changed the face of the sport. It was his partnership with Poivre Vert and Francois Athimon that allowed him to perform with such confidence to finish on 8.744.
This lunger and horse partnered Jacques Ferarri to the gold medal four years ago in Normandy, so it was a very special moment when they did it all over again, but with a new vaulter this time around. Poivre Vert, who has done so much for the sport, will now retire.
The standard throughout the class was exceptionally high, but it was Germany that continued their impressive form to secure both second and third places on the podium. A second silver at these Games went to Jannik Heiland on Dark Beluga lunged by Barbara Rosiny, when they were consistent, fluid and harmonious to finish on 8.606. Fellow-countryman Thomas Brüsewitz claimed bronze supported by Danny Boy who was lunged by 2010 Individual Male gold medallist Patric Looser (8.533) and who managed to overtake yet another of the powerful German contingent, Jannis Drewell (8.509).
With only 0.001 separating overnight leaders Germany and Switzerland the squad championship was destined to be a nail-biting final. It was the Germans who rose to the occasion, leaving no doubt that they would walk away double gold medalists from these Games.
With competitors taking to the arena in reverse order of merit it was the Swiss who were the first of the two big-hitters to stake their claim to the title. But with gold on the line they had some nervous moments and had to settle for silver together with their horse Rayo de la Luz and lunger Monika Winkler-Bischofberger (8.433). But their head-to-head battle with Team Germany will go down as one of the greatest of all time.
Last to go, the German squad produced a stunning performance of their captivating ‘Now You See Me’ freestyle. With their horse Danny Boy and Patric Looser on the lunge they looked at ease despite the immense pressure and their freestyle, laced with big lifts and eye-catching dismounts, delighted both the audience and judges alike. By the end of their routine gold was guaranteed (8.638).
Austria rounded off the podium, taking bronze alongside Alessio L’Amabile and Maria Lehrmann on the lunge (8.198), with USA in fourth (8.000) and Italy in fifth (7.986). _ Hannah Eccles
Para Dressage Freestyle
Dutch stars Sanne Voets and Rixt van der Horst both made it triple Gold in a memorable closing session of Para-Dressage at the FEI World Equestrian Games on Saturday.
Having won their respective individual championship titles and helped the Netherlands end Great Britain’s reign as World Champions, they each signed off by claiming Freestyle Gold medals and completing a perfect set.
Voets launched another successful day for the Dutch in Grade IV, edging out Brazil’s Rodolpho Rixalla with a score of 79.645% on Demantur N.O.P, to take top spot, and in doing so she became the first non-British rider to win three Gold medals at one Paralympic, World or European event. US Kate Shoemaker and Solitaer took Bronze. » Full result
Van der Horst, riding Findsley, followed suit in Grade III, but there was a dramatic twist as her main rival – Great Britain’s Natasha Baker – fell from her horse Mount St John Diva Dannebrog early in her test and was eliminated. The United States’ Rebecca Hart took second place, while Germany’s Dr Angelika Trabert was third.
Baker was unhurt in the fall, and she said, “I absolutely have no idea what happened. It was so out of character for her. She is an angel. I have watched the video back and it’s hilarious! I am fine. My ego is bruised and my backside probably is as well. At least I hit the center line when I landed!” » Full result
There was an emotional Grade I victory for Italy’s Sara Morganti, who added Freestyle Gold to the Individual title she won earlier in the week, just two years after being eliminated from the Rio Paralympics when her horse Royal Delight failed the first horse inspection.
Morganti saw off the challenge of Latvia’s Rihards Snikus and Lord Of The Dance by almost three percent, and there was another Bronze medal for the United States – their third in Para-Dressage at Tryon, before Hart’s silver made it four in total – as Roxanne Trunnell completed the podium after a fine ride on Dolton. » Full result
Grade II also produced a golden double for Denmark’s Stinna Tange Kaastrup, as she enjoyed a clear victory on Horsebo Smarties from Austrian Pepo Puch, while the Bronze medal went to the Netherlands’ Nicole den Dulk.
“I gave it all I got in there,” Kaastrup said. “I had no more left in me. I think we have gone to another level in terms of the partnership with my horse. I knew I had a really good horse and I know I am a decent rider, but to do all the work together really takes time. Coming here, we have found a new level.” » Full result
Britain’s Sophie Wells also secured a double Gold performance by adding Grade V Freestyle success to her individual triumph on C Fatal Attraction, which more than compensated for the two Silver medals she won at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games.
Wells posted an outstanding score of 80.755%, with the Netherlands’ Frank Hosmar and Alphaville N.O.P. taking second on 79.155%, and there was a first Para-Dressage medal for Japan as Tomoko Nakamura, riding Djazz F, took Bronze. » Full result
On a day when the home nation USA, secured a stunning victory in the Polaris Ranger driving team competition, Australian driver Boyd Exell proved he remains in a league of his own by securing a third successive individual WEG gold medal.
Despite the valiant efforts of crowd favourite Chester Weber, who showed icy composure to drive his team to gold and grab individual silver, no-one was able to rival Exell from the moment he entered the dressage arena on day one.
First in the dressage, third in the marathon stage despite driving with broken brakes and second in the closing cones phase, Exell finished with an overall score of 154.14, almost 10 points clear of Weber. Edouard Simonet, the 29-year-old Belgian who was once a back-stepper for Exell, took the bronze medal with a final score of 174.15.
Weber, who also finished second to Exell at the 2014 WEG in Normandy, France, was overjoyed to take an unexpected team title in front of a raucous North Carolina crowd.
“I can tell you it was a surprise, I thought we came here with a chance of a medal but if you had asked me if I was going to have a bet on whether we were going to be world champions I would have said I am not sure,” said Weber, whose US team finished with a winning score of 353.39.
Teammate James Fairclough, who introduced Weber to the sport as a 13-year-old, already has an eye on the future after the USA beat the Netherlands, the 2010 and 2014 champions, into second and Belgium into third.
“I hope it’s going to inspire a lot of people to come forward and try the sport. It’s a great boost for us.” Fairclough said.
Basking in the glow of winning a WEG bronze medal to go with their 2017 European team bronze, the Belgium team also served notice of their intention to change driving’s established order.
“We are the future not only of Belgium driving but of international driving,” said Glenn Geerts, who like individual bronze medal winner Simonet is 29 years old, while Dries Degrieck, the third member of the team, is just 23.
In comparison, traditional powerhouses the Netherlands finished Tryon 2018 lamenting unexpectedly poor marathon performances from their often all-conquering father-and-son duo Ijsbrand and Bram Chardon.
The pair did come out firing on the final day, with 25-year-old Bram Chardon producing the only double clear round. But it was not enough to deliver a third successive team gold, with the Dutch team settling for silver.
“We wanted to get our spot back, that spot was meant for us,” said a dejected Bram Chardon. _ Luke Norman