Sweden’s Olympic gold medal-winning showjumping riders are on top of the world yet again, with major accolades falling the way of the talented equestrians.
Double gold medalist Peder Fredericson claimed the World No.1 spot in October for the first time, and only a few weeks later won the Best Athlete title at the FEI Awards.
And his team-mate Henrick von Eckermann and his individual silver and team gold Olympic horse King Edward have been crowned the €1.25 million Longines Global Champions Tour (LGCT) Super Grand Prix Champions.
The pair, along with Malin Baryard-Johnsson (Indiana), helped Sweden to its first team showjumping Olympic gold medal in almost 100 years.
The medal marked 29 years since Fredricson made his Olympic debut at the age of 20 at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, when he was an accomplished eventer and the youngest-ever Olympic equestrian athlete for Sweden.
The 49-year-old was unable to attend the FEI Awards in Belgium, but thanked sponsor Peden Bloodstockand everyone who voted for him in a video address.
He said the award meant a lot to him, as well as his team and owners.
“I’m also very excited to be number one in the Longines Rankings. It’s a goal I’ve had for a couple of years.
“I always try to do my best and improve myself, my team and the horses, rather than beat anyone else. We all work really hard to keep the horses fit and healthy, to achieve these goals and win many medals along the way. I’m also very grateful to my horse owners who stand by me and provide me this good string of horses.”
Fast and clear seals the deal for Henrik
A pivotal round for Henrik von Eckermann and his pocket rocket King Edward that paved the way to victory in the €1.25 million LGCT Super Grand Prix in Prague, when they jumped an extremely fast clear to secure pole position for the second round.
The third edition of the event featured the 15 top riders who qualified during the 2021 LGCT championship series.
The showdown took place in front of a sell-out crowd at the O2 Arena in Prague with victory for von Eckermann greeted with a standing ovation after the Swedish rider and his amazing gelding clinched victory.
It was not such a good night for LGCT 2021 season champion Peder Fredricson, who had a shock refusal on H&M Christian K coming home with to finish with 15 faults and right down the order, and Malin Baryard-Johnsson, whose El Barone 111 Z slammed the brakes on, grinding to a halt in the middle of the Longines combination in round one.
But von Eckermann was thrilled with his victory. “To be back in this atmosphere for me is amazing, it was a special moment for me with this crowd. I had a goal the whole time to qualify for here because I knew I would have a good chance. It is a fantastic feeling when it fits like it did today,” he said.
Also producing a double clear on his talented black gelding Alamo, Sergio Alvarez Moya secured second place while 2019’s LGCT Super Grand Prix winning combination Ben Maher and Explosion W cracked under pressure with the penultimate fence falling and rounding off the podium in third place.
There were huge cheers from spectators as von Eckermann triumphantly raised the silver LGCT Super Grand Prix trophy, which was presented by Longines CEO Matthias Breshan.
There was special recognition for the grooms as they received a trophy after leading the champion horses into the arena for the closing moments of the awards ceremony and the rousing lap of honour.
Double celebrations for FEI Awards
The stars of equestrian sport were honoured in the 13th edition of the FEI Awards during the FEI General Assembly in Antwerp, Belgium, last week, with the celebration also including the winners of the 2020 awards.
More than 300 distinguished guests, including local sporting legends, National Federations, FEI partners and stakeholders attended, with equestrian commentator Steven Wilde (GBR) acting as Master of Ceremonies. Also present in Antwerp were all of the 2020 Award winners — Ingrid Klimke, Semmieke Rothenberger, Carmen Thiemann, Angelika Trabert, and the Ebony Horse Club — who were invited to join in the celebration following the cancellation of last year’s ceremony because of the pandemic.
This year’s winners were decided by combining 50% of the public votes cast on FEI.org and on the Chinese social media platform WeChat, and 50% of the judges’ votes.
The Longines FEI Rising Star Award went to 19-year-old Greta Busacker (GER), individual and team champion at this year’s FEI Eventing European Championships for Young Riders, and bronze medallist at the 2021 German National Championships for Young Riders. Her win made the FEI Awards a decidedly family affair, with her mother, Ingrid Klimke, a recipient of the 2019 and 2020 Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete Awards.
The Cavalor FEI Best Groom Award was awarded to Sweden’s Marie Johansson, in recognition of her hard work and dedication in looking after dressage rider Patrik Kittel’s horses. Patrik and his wife Lyndal Oatley were on-hand to celebrate the win. “This award means everything to me”, she said. “It’s amazing that we grooms can also be a part of this gala. I’m so happy about all the people who voted for me, it’s such a big thing. I’m super happy and super proud! Really!”
The 2021 FEI Solidarity Award went to China’s Equuleus Charity, which aims to support young, underprivileged students to reach their equestrian dream while successfully completing their academic studies.
The award is given each year to an equestrian development project or an individual or organisation that has demonstrated skill, dedication and energy in expanding equestrian sport.
Founder and CEO Michelle Wang Qiang thanked the FEI, FEI Solidarity, the Chinese Equestrian Association, Equuleus’s partner foundations, and Alex Hua Tin and his mother Sarah Noble.
To celebrate the FEI Awards and pay tribute to China’s time-honoured tradition of valuing and cherishing horses, Founder and CEO Michelle Wang Qiang has written, in calligraphy, an iconic text on how to identify an exceptional horse by eighth-century Tang Dynasty scholar, poet and government official Han Yu. She has dedicated her calligraphy work to the FEI Awards Ceremony.
Taking the FEI Against All Odds Award was Beatrice de Lavalette (USA), who lost both legs in the March 2016 terrorist attack at the Zaventem Airport in Brussels (BEL) and went on to make her first Paralympic debut in Tokyo earlier this year in the sport of Para Dressage.
“The Against All Odds Award means everything,” de Lavalette said. “It shows me that everything I have done these five or six years has been seen and people have realised how big it really is.”
She said that as a result of the attack, she lost a part of herself and her freedom. “It took me a while to get through my sadness of losing my legs, losing my ability to walk, and waking up in a completely different life. Every time I get on a horse, I gain my freedom back. I get to ride a horse almost as everybody else. I get to ride a horse pretty damn well. I love doing it. Experimenting and doing different things with the horses gives a sense of power that I often lose being in a chair. So having that sense of freedom and that power back means everything.”