What an exciting day at the Longines FEI Jumping European Championship 2021 in Riesenbeck with the second qualifier which also counted as the first round of the Team Final. Course Designer Frank Rothenberger provided ideal conditions today, creating a fair course with some challenging questions, but ultimately an exemplary platform to showcase great sport.
The Swedes, who had shone on Wednesday with four clear rounds, are on course for bronze after the first final round with 11.59 penalty points. The Swiss are now in the lead, with three clear rounds and a total of 5.47 points after two days of jumping. Team Germany was able to retain their silver position, ending the day with a total of 8.77. The most influential fence today was the double combination, the penutimate fence on the 14 obstacle course, with two massive oxers at the end requiring considerable effort and concentration from the horses.
Philipp Weishaupt had already predicted this in advance: "this is a championship combination,“ he said when walking the course. And he was right, with by far most of the most mistakes happening at this double. This was the case for the winner of yesterday's speed competition, David Will with C-Vier, picking up four faults which set them back to eleventh place in the individual standings. The European Championship title defender, the Swiss Martin Fuchs, now leads the individual ranking with just 1.31 penalty points. Riding the nine-year-old Leone Jei, Fuchs managed a wonderful clear round today. And his compatriots Elian Baumann on Campari Z and Steve Guerdat on Albführen's Maddox were also in form, helping the team take the lead ahead of Friday’s second and final round where the team medals will be decided.
Germany is now on course for silver with André Thieme and DSP Chakaria acting as pathfinders for the team. The mare jumped outstandingly. It was a close call at the last combination, but the poles remained in place. Marcus Ehning and Stargold collected five penalties, while Christian Kukuk with Mumbai delivered a beautiful clear on home soil. A spotless round at their home event catapulted the 31-year-old and the offspring of Diamant de Semilly from tenth place after Wednesday’s speed class to second place in the individual classification with 1.93 penalty points. Hot on their heels with 1.96 points are Sweden's Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Ermindo W after a ride in which Bengtsson was pure class. They delivered the only zero-fault ride for team Sweden today. Their three team mates, Douglas Lindelöw on Casquo Blue, Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli with Kalinka van de Nachtegaele and Peder Fredricson with Catch Me Not S, each had one pole down.
Tomorrow the second and final round of the team competition – which is also the third individual qualifier - will take place at 13:00.
Martin Fuchs (SUI): I had a very good day, it started well with my teammates riding brilliant and their horses jumped great, and then my horse felt very good. I just try have him calm, he has a lot of blood and gets very excited. He is only nine, but he seems to handle the pressure and the championship situation very well. I am excited for the next days, tomorrow I have to jump another clear to try and secure a medal for the team, and then we look forward to Sunday. Last week when Chaplin jumped double clear in Brussels, I was very emotional and felt upset. Chaplin and Clooney were always together. For sure here also the emotions will come by the end of the week, but for now my focus is on the rounds. I try to stay cool and afterwards, we can get emotional.“
Event President Ludger Beerbaum: "I think we have seen an interesting class. First day of the Nations Cup, we have seen some really nice rounds also from a few riders and nations that you maybe would not have expected and some of the favorites had a fence down here and there. I did not expect the Dutch to have such a bad day today, but this is how the sport goes. All in all, the course designer has done a good job, found the right challenge for everyone and I guess tomorrow it will be a little bit tougher.“ On the success of his riders Eoin McMahon and Christian Kukuk : „It is more a role of being around and aware of what is going on. I am happy and feel fortunate that these two don’t really need me there: They know what to do, they know their horses and they are both top professionals. We talked about the course and walked it together, but then it is up to them.“ On the role of an event organizer: „It feels nice. Everyone is motivated, the spirit is good. I am enjoying myself!“
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE): „He is twelve, but we have taken it easy with him. I felt in Falsterbo during the Swedish championships – where the last course was big – that he can make this also. It took him a while to be comfortable with the height of even 1.45m. He got intimidated and held back a bit, but when that went away, we took another step up, but get going slow. Then I have only done St. Gallen, where the first round was not goot but not bad. Also for me as a rider, when you are out of the big sport, you need to get going again on the bigger fences – you need a totally different approach. I did not ride my best in St. Gallen on the first round, but we both improved from round to round there. Then we jumped in Rotterdam and were nearly double clear – I was too slow with time – and Stockholm. Those are the big events he has done, so he is green on this level. I must say that today it felt like I was jumping one of my older, better horses again. It is a nice feeling, and I hope I can keep him feeling like this. Going ahead, it is exciting and I hope tomorrow will be good – we have a lot to do still, but this is fun!“
Nicolas Philippaerts (BEL): „I think we had an unlucky start yesterday, my horse got a bit spooky but today she jumped very good. She feels to be in a very good shape, and the championship is only just started, so we are just going to try and make the best out of it and see where we can finish.”
Swiss Chef d’Equipe Michel Sorg: „I am so proud of this team and these guys today! We know the riders, but their horses are new on the championship level and what they have shown yesterday and today it is really amazing. To be now in the lead is of course amazing, but now we need to try and keep this place – there is another round and another competition tomorrow. Now we have achieved this, but we want to go back home with something in our hands. All the riders are also well off individually, but it is not over yet. We have to focus on tomorrow and the coming hours.“
Angelica Augutsson Zanotelli (SWE): „I am very happy with my horse and proud of the way she jumped. I think she jumped the same from start to finish, which is really good. It was my mistake on the water, I should have been riding a bit stronger there. From the round itself, I am very happy. She jumped great. I love being back on a championship – all those nerves again! I have been dreaming about this and now I am here, and I could not be happier. I really want to do my best and I hope I can support the team with some clear rounds. My horse has a lot of blood, it is sometimes difficult to keep her with me. The jumping, she has all the scope and she is super careful, so the rideability is the only challenge we have.“
Christian Kukuk (GER): „I think I had a good round. Like yesterday, Mumbai gave me a great feeling, he felt concentrated and safe, he gave me an easy round. It means a lot to me to ride here at home, all the people – my family, my team, everyone around me – they are all here supporting me and I am just happy to give something back to them. If they are happy, I am happy! Mumbai has this championship character: He gets better and better every day. I had a very good feeling with him already, which is not always so easy with him, but the good feeling has continued and I hope we can keep this up. My own goal was just to qualify for Sunday, but for sure – if it goes well and I am in the top ten, I will have my eye on the medals! But for the moment, that is way too far ahead – I try to take it step by step.“
Eoin McMahon (IRL): „I did not get to the best start yesterday, but I changed a few things for today. I think my horse was much more relaxed today and I think he jumped better today. I knew he would get better every round, I am very happy with the way he jumped today. It is really good riding here, and luckily my whole family made it here from Ireland, they have not been with me at a show for two years because of Corona. When I first walked the course, I thought it was very big, I did not think it would jump as well as it did. It was a fair course and I think he got the time allowed spot on. We seem to be back on track today, and if we keep going the way we are, I think we will be ok.“
Pieter Devos (BEL): „I am very happy, Jade jumped great and gave already a great feeling yesterday. Today the course was technical and long, and you had to keep the concentration and power until the end, with the double waiting there. It was quite difficult. It is the first championship for my horse, and she gave me a safe feeling. We came here to get experience, and a clear today is a great result and it gives me confidence going forward. My aim is to do two good rounds for the team, and after that I have no expectations. I came here after Tokyo with no pressure, I just try to do the best I can for the team. The facility here is top, the stables are fantastic.“