An in-top-form Marcus Ehning was the one to seal the deal for Germany in a two-team jump-off in Saturday night’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. A thriller of a competition left the Germans and the Brits on a zero penalty score to head in to a jump-off, where Marcus Ehning and Pret A Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy) snatched the victory against Olympic Champions Nick Skelton and Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor).
“With my team and with the victory I am very, very happy,” said German Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker. “All the five riders on the team have been involved in this over the two rounds, already in the qualifier on Thursday as well as today. How all five rode here I am really happy, especially with so much pressure. Ludger came in towards the end and gave a clear round, like in Rio, and again today. Also Marcus, who had really bad luck in Rio and was not on the team there as the horse was not fit – so that he could ride a jump-off like this against the Olympic Champion… I have a lot of respect for the team, and I am really happy about this.”
Santiago Varela is likely to get the highest score possible for his course building in Barcelona this weekend, with tonight’s course as a real highlight. The delicate line from the oxer at three to the open water at four, followed by preferably six and for some seven strides to the upright at five caused problems for many as did the last line with a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination followed by an oxer. It was fair, but demanding – and in the end it turned out also the time allowed played its part in a clever way. Eleven riders produced clear rounds, while three picked up a single penalty.
The Dutch did simply not have a good day, and finished at the bottom of the score board with 20 penalties while Belgium was second last on 16 faults.
Three teams tied on five penalties, and all impressed with some very good rounds. Italy surprised to finish fourth as the best of those three, even with one of their best men on eight faults and the discharge score as Piergiorgio Bucci had two rails on Casallo Z (Casall x Carthago Z). Lorenzo de Luca continued to impress however, and stayed clear after a masterful round on Ensor de Litrange LXII (Nabab de Reve x Mr. Blue) – keeping the Italians in the game. And, when Giovanni Govoni showed some serious fighting spirit on Antonio (Oklund x Dick Z) to only pick up a time penalty – eyes were back on the Italians. Unfortunately, Bruno Chimirri recorded four faults on the relatively inexperienced Tower Mouche (Diamant de Semilly x Bleu Blanc Rouge II) – but still it was good enough to be the best of those on five penalties which was a result that there was no reason to be ashamed about today.
Ireland saw Darragh Kenny and Go Easy de Muze (Vigo d'Arsouilles x For Pleasure) produce an excellent clear as second to go for their team, and when Denis Lynch and All Star 5 (Argentinus x Alme) only notched up a single time penalty things were not looking too bad for the Irish. However, Greg Broderick and MHS Going Global (Quidam Junior x Cavalier Royale) had the c-element in the combination down which had to count as well seeing that Shane Breen picked up eight faults as pathfinder to set Ireland fifth today.
The Swiss finished on the same score, and sixth. Romain Duguet and Quorida de Treho (Kannan x Tolbiac des Forets) got their team off to the best start with a clear round, but when World Cup Champions Steve Guerdat and Corbinian (Cornet Obolensky x Pilot) had two rails down hopes were diminishing. Paul Estermann picked up positivity again when only recording a time fault on a very well jumping Lord Pepsi (Lord Pezi x Santander H) – also quite new to this level – but sadly for the Swiss, Martin Fuchs’ Clooney (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo) had a fault on the open water which finally left the Swiss outside the podium.
The all-female team of Lauren Hough on Ohlala (Orlando x Cardento), Audrey Coulter on Captain Colnardo (Colman x Coronado), Lillie Keenan on Super Sox (Salito x Silvio I) and Laura Kraut on Zeremonie (Cero x Quick Star) showed some serious girl power today to finish third for USA. After a bit of a rough start with four faults from Hough and eight for Coulter, the only 19-year-old Keenan – called in at the last minute to replace Lucy Davis – showed off her skills to jump an excellent clear round. Kraut did not disappoint as last to go, and delivered the clear round needed to get the Americans on the podium.
But, this night was in the end only about Great Britain and Germany. As the fourth team to go in the competition, the British got off to a good start with Skelton posting a brilliant clear followed by Michael Whitaker and Viking (Jacomar x Almox Prints) that managed just the same.
With one clear from Christian Ahlmann on his veteran Taloubet Z (Galoubet A x Polydor) and four very unlucky faults from Marcus Ehning on Pret A Tout on the German side, it suddenly got more exciting between the two teams when Great Britain’s Jessica Mendoza lowered three rails on Spirit T (Tornado x Carneval Drum) and Germany’s Janne Friederike Meyer went clear on Goja (Wandor v.d.Mispelaere x Palestro van de Begijnakker). If their two last riders would deliver clears, a jump-off was on.
With Scott Brash on Ursula XII (Ahorn x Papageno) and Ludger Beerbaum on Casello (Casall x Carolus I) as last to go, neither teams disappointed. A masterful clear from Brash put pressure on the Germans as he set the Brits on a clean sheet, but with his final performance for Team Germany Beerbaum was not up for making any mistakes – delivering his last clear round to put the perfect ending to a tremendous team career.
First to go in the jump-off were Skelton and Big Star, who put the pressure on with a fast clear round in 41.57 seconds. However, the Germans opted for in-form Ehning as their man against the clock. With three big wins over the three last weeks under his belt, that would prove to be a good choice. An above accurate turn to the combination as well as a spot-on angle to the third last vertical gave Ehning the advantage, and when he crossed the finish line he had brought the time down to 39.80 seconds and the 2016 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final-title home to Germany.
“I watched him, but I know from before that I am faster than him,” joked Marcus Ehning about whether he got to see Nick go before him in the jump-off. “No, I was really under pressure, when I saw his round he was very very fast – but I really wanted to have this win because of Ludger as it was his last Nations Cup and that makes me even more proud that I did it.”
Ehning was not alone, all riders on the team really wanted to give their all for Beerbaum. “I knew Daniel could have delivered a clear round, so the pressure was on me,” said Janne Friederike Meyer who was called in to replace Deusser whose horse caught fever last night and was excused from jumping today. “I am proud that I did it. I know there are some special days, and I think everybody could see that when Ludger went in and everybody knows that this man has to go clear to keep the chance to win. It was a special moment.”
“Overall, it was a perfect day for all of us. It was good team work today from the first until the last. Marcus jump-off was exciting to the last second, and it was a great class – especially for us and I could not be more happy," concluded Christian Ahlmann.
“What should I say, I think everything has been said from my team mates," said an emotional Beerbaum. "The way they expressed their thoughts, their feelings and their emotions about today’s competition, about our performances over the last months, about luck and bad luck, team spirit, fighting together, winning together, losing together, having good moments but also disappointing moments – says it all and I could not be more pleased with what they expressed. They really mean this, they were really fighting for me and it gives an unbelievable good feeling to have this push, to have this support and the respect. I believe we could not be more pleased and it could not have been a nicer end. Thank you to all of you,” Beerbaum closed off.
Text © World of Showjumping // Pictures © Tiffany Van Halle
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