Forty nine starters representing 16 nations – including nine of the world’s current top 10-ranked riders – contested the headline class, Trophée de Genève, on the opening day of the 60th edition of CHI Geneva. With the Palexpo’s iconic Geneva Arena filled with excited and expectant fans, many starved of witnessing top level international show jumping, the world’s very best show jumpers and their equine partners braced themselves for course designer, Gérard Lachat’s 13-obstacle, 16-effort 1m60 test.
Eighth to go, 56-year-old French veteran rider, Roger-Yves Bost, demonstrated his experience, recording the class’s first clear round with his stallion, Cassius Clay VDV Z. Team gold medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, Bost was soon to be joined by compatriot Edward Levy, who went clear with his mare, Rebeca LS. At the halfway stage, the two Frenchmen were joined in an exclusive group progressing to the jump-off comprising Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington and his long-time partner, Creedance, and two future next generation riders: 22-year-old Swiss Edouard Schmitz and his 12-year-old gelding, Quno, and 24-year-old Greek, Ioli Mytilineou with her talented 10-year-old gelding, L'Artiste de Toxandra, who she refers to as her ‘big friendly giant’.
Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof
After the break, Rolex Grand Slam Live Contender and world number two, Daniel Deusser, partnered by Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z, went effortlessly clear, with a stellar list of riders joining the newly crowned Rolex Testimonee in what was shaping up to be a scintillating 14-strong jump-off. They included current world number one, Peder Fredricson (H&M Christian K), Austrian Rolex Grand Slam Major winner, Max Kühner (Elektric Blue P), Rolex Testimonee and local hero, Martin Fuchs (Conner Jei), Germany’s Christian Kukuk (Checker 47), Jérôme Guery from Belgium (Quel Homme de Hus), home favourite, Bryan Balsiger (Dubai du Bois Pinchet), and Nicolas Delmotte (Ilex v.) from France.
Into the jump-off and it was American, Kent Farrington, who proved too strong for the other 13 riders, clearly demonstrating how much he loves competing at CHI Geneva. With half of the field going double clear, Farrington and his gelding, Creedance – who possesses a superior mix of speed and accuracy – held on and had enough to beat current Olympic Team champion, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson into second place by 0.47 seconds. Germany’s Daniel Deusser slotted into third.
Thrilled with his win and to be back at CHI Geneva, Farrington, commented: “It’s great to be back at CHI Geneva. It’s tough times in the world still, so I’m very happy the organisers are able to put on this great event. It feels amazing to be competing with these guys, the best riders and horses in the world. We’ll use Gazelle in the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. She’s feeling good, and the plan is to jump her in a small round tomorrow and then go from there.”
Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof
MEET THE NEXT GEN WITH:
Why is CHI Geneva such a special show?
I think it’s a special show to every rider out there. For me, the first time I came here I was kindly invited by the show through Steve Guerdat, as we owned a horse of his called Bianca [Albführen's Bianca] at the time. From that very first time, CHI Geneva was super special, as it was my first time competing with the big guys. I thought to myself, ‘I have to come here and perform, otherwise I’m going to let Steve down!’. Now that I’ve managed to qualify on my own merit, from having had success at this year’s Europeans – it’s just an absolute dream come true. It’s an amazing venue, with a huge arena, and so much atmosphere – it just feels like home and I love it.
Which horses are you competing with this week? And can you tell us a bit about their characters?
I’ve got two horses with my this week. One is a gelding called L'artiste De Toxandra, who’s just a giant softie. He’s a big, long, strong horse, but at the same time he’s a big friendly giant, which is exactly how I’d describe him. He’s a little bit nervous with things like the sounds, but he can run, and when he wants to run he’s just gone! Then I’ve got a stallion called Levis De Muze, who as a character is just everything you could possibly wish for in a horse. He’s intelligent, super cheeky but gentle at the same time, and just an all-round pleasure to be with. And that’s not just for me, he’s the same for my groom and my home rider – we all have the same feelings for him, as do the spectators. They’re both relatively underused 10-year-olds so they’re both quite new to this level, so coming here is an experience for the three of us.
Which of your young horses are you most excited about?
At the moment, I’ve only got one young horse, who’s a seven-year-old called Sevenoaks. When I say ‘only one’ he’s actually a very good young horse, and I honestly think he’s a horse who could jump here in the future. He’s got all the right tools, including being athletic and clever, but he’s only seven so he’s still got work to do. He’s got it all, I do believe.
What are you dreams and ambitions for 2022?
A big goal of mine next year is the World Equestrian Games, which I’m sure a lot of the riders here are also aiming towards. There’s so much to jump in this sport, so I also just want to take a step back and decide which ones I really want to do, as I think you can sometimes get ahead of yourself and just jump everything.
What’s the proudest moment of your career so far?
Definitely Riesenbeck this year. I was actually proud of the way my horse handled the whole event. He’s never done anything like that in his life, I’d barely even jumped him for three days at a show. Going there and jumping so many rounds under so much pressure, he just handled it like a true veteran. I was just so proud to be there and feel the love that everyone had for him and for us as a couple. I just felt as though everyone there wanted to see me doing well and were rooting for me, so I felt proud that I could touch so many people’s hearts.
What attributes do you believe a successful show jumper needs?
For me, patience is a big one, and then just believing what you’re doing is the right thing and making the best plan for you. It’s very easy to see what other people are doing and change things around all the time, but having trust in yourself and your horse is a huge thing. Having a strong mind is also a big part of it. You can have all the ability, but if you’re not mentally tough enough to cope with it all, it certainly makes things harder.
How important is the team behind you?
So important. I’m a huge believer in everyone knowing their roles – I’m the rider, the groom’s the groom, the vet’s the vet, the farrier’s the farrier, and so on. I really admire each and every person I work with because everyone is so good at what they do, and they’re each able to come together at the same time.
What does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping mean to you?
It means everything. Just being here at one of the Majors is indescribable. The four Majors combined create the most prestigious series there is to win. Being able to be a part of just one of them is amazing, and I hope to get the opportunity again – I’d love to be part of all the Rolex Grands Prix, if I could. It’s just a very cleverly thought out idea, and I’d say most people would agree with me on that.
Just like tennis and golf, show jumping has its very own Grand Slam. Which of the other sporting ‘Majors’ do you love watching, and which is your favourite and why?
I’d say tennis because my dad is a huge tennis lover. He’s been playing tennis for years and years, so my sister and I played tennis a lot when we were growing up. For me, it’s one of the most interesting sports to watch. I went to Roland Garros a couple of years ago and just being there was unbelievable. I watched a young Greek tennis player [Stefanos Tsitsipas] who’s very high in the rankings at the moment, so we went to watch him, and there were so many people cheering his name. I think he was only 20, so I nwas imagining, ‘Wow, I’d love to be young and have people chanting my name’. Golf I don’t watch so much of, but my trainer Sean Crooks plays it a lot so he’s always talking about it, and includes a lot of golfing analogies in his training.
If you were stranded on a desert island, which three items would you take with you?
I would take my horse, Porky, as I like hanging out with him. I’d have to take my phone. And a saddle so I could ride Porky!
Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof
WORD FROM THE ORGANISER WITH:
Sophie Mottu Morel, Show Director
You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?
Yes, we are very happy to be here. Last year was very tough for us because we had to cancel the show one month before it was supposed to begin. So, this year we are delighted that the show is going ahead even though it has been a challenge to organise. We love to see the riders and the fans back in the arenas, and to be able to meet friends we haven’t seen for a long time, so we are very happy.
Last year, CHI Geneva hosted a daily television programme, which was a huge success. You must be thrilled to have fans, volunteers and media back at the show this year?
Yes, definitely. Last year we did a TV show because we wanted to keep the contact with the public and to do something during the normal dates of the show and it was a huge success, but this year we are so excited to have everyone back. The fans are so important to us, and they give so much positive energy that inspires us to keep going. The volunteers are the soul and the spirit of the show, they are so passionate and are part of our CHI Geneva family. The show would not be a success without them, and this year we have dedicated it to the volunteers – it was very important to us to shine a light on their hard work and dedication. Some of the volunteers are behind-the-scenes and are never seen, so on Saturday evening we are having a ceremony for them. It is very important to us to give them their glory moment.
The media are also vital to the success of the show, they convey the excitement and top-level sport shown at the CHI Geneva. We are so happy to see our press centre full again, and we are very appreciative to have people from all around the world here when it was very hard to get to Switzerland. The crowds will be back in full capacity, although we have to respect the rules of mask wearing and COVID-19 certificates for entry, but this is a small price to pay in order to have our fans back. Things change so quickly at this time, so we have our fingers crossed that it all stays the same.
Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges that you’ve had to overcome to ensure that this year’s edition of the CHI Geneva has been able to go ahead?
The biggest challenge was that everything kept on changing. We had to keep on adapting to these changes and have new ideas about how to react to them. Initially, we had to be really reactive and have new ideas every day, and we were quite anxious, as we did not know what tomorrow would bring, and for me that was the toughest challenge. Of course, this period has caused financial issues for many people, including our fans and our sponsors. We had to keep reassuring our partners, giving them confidence that we will produce a beautiful show in these difficult times. It was very exhausting but also rewarding, as we had to be so creative and adaptive that I think it has been a good thing for the show.
How much hard work have you and your team had to put in to make this year’s edition of CHI Geneva happen?
This year we have a new team, so it was a bit harder, as many of them have never organised the show before. This year it was difficult to keep the team and the organising committee motivated because of all of the uncertainty around the show. The majority of the organising committee are volunteers, and so to motivate them and assure them that the show would be back for the 2021 and even better than before has been tough. It was not easy for some people, but we all love the event and wanted to see it back again. My team was easier to motivate, as it is their job, and we all love our jobs even when it is hard.
What positives will you take from the last 18 months?
Definitely the creativity that we had to have has been a positive both for me and the show. It has given us a chance to think about any changes we wanted to make to the event. For me one of the biggest positives is that people and relationships have become closer and stronger – in these tough times we had to come together and work as a team. My team wants to be a big family and give all of our positive energy to the show.
Source: Press release Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping