Jeroen Dubbeldam wrote another page of showjumping history in Aachen today, when he added the individual European Championship title to his tally. The 2000 Olympic Champion, 2006 team World Champion and 2014 double World Champion goes home from the 2015 European Championships with two new gold medals - claimed on Zenith SFN N.O.P. (Rash R x Fuego du Prelet) which also was Dubbeldam’s partner in Normandy last year - for ever preserving their names as one of the greatest couples of showjumping.
Dubbeldam was in silver position ahead of Sunday’s final, after going clear all the way over the three days of competition. It was just his score from the opening speed class that was attached to his result; 2.68. The only rider in front of him was Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya on 1.47. It was very close on top; a pole down could change everything for those leading the way - which meant that the pressure was on from the beginning. There was no room for error.
The first twelve fence track was very delicate. The line from the open water at six to the triple combination consisting of two uprights witha set of very light and white wavy planks and then a giant oxer proved to be the heartbreaker; again and again one of the three elements fell and fifteen of the 25 riders fell victim to this challenging part of the course.
Only five riders went clear, and the first came from 2009 European Champion Kevin Staut on Reveur de Hurtebise HDC (Kashmir Van't Schuttershof x Capricieux des Six Censes) who bounced back after performing less than expected in Friday’s team final for France. Denmark’s Andreas Schou also continued to impress, riding another fantastic clear on the tiny rubber ball Lenardo der Kleine (Lenardo x Fabelhaft). One rider later, another small horse with a big heart jumped incredible as Ryan des Hayettes (Hugo Gesmeray x Ryon d’Anzex) went clear with France’s Simon Delestre in the saddle. A totally different horse from these two small chestnuts is Gregory Wathelet’s huge and beautiful stallion Conrad de Hus (Con Air X Locato), which was the next one to jump around without touching a pole - and with their rounds Schou, Delestre and Wathelet was one step closer to the podium as they found themselves in the top five as round one came to an end.
Out of those in the top seven ahead of round one, Dubbeldam delivered the sole clear. It was a real display of horsemanship, and not only a clear round though. Clearly stressed by the noise and tension that comes with going into the ring in Aachen, especially on such an occasion, the 11 year old gelding refused to enter the in-gate and in the end the speaker had to kindly ask the audience to be completely quiet. Finally, the two made their way in and you could hear a pin drop as they started their round. When they finished it on a clean sheet, after outstanding riding and jumping, the stadium exploded into a thunder of applause.
The only one who could threaten Dubbeldam’s lead was Spain Sergio Alvarez Moya, but coming into the triple combination Carlo 273 (Contender x Cascavelle) had pulled off after the water and the two came far too close only to lower the top plank at 7a dropping down to bronze position behind Dubbeldam and Wathelet. The scores left nothing to coincidence as the board showed 5.47 for Moya, 5.04 for Wathelet and 2.69 for Dubbeldam.
For the second round, the track was slightly less demanding - the open water was gone, but instead Frank Rothenberger and his team had used the famous Liverpool double situated by the lake. Now it was disguised as part of a triple combination, being the final two elements that jumped as an oxer-oxer-vertical. Nine riders jumped the track clear, and five on a time fault. Only two of the riders in the final delivered double clear rounds; one of them being Kevin Staut who in the end finished 10th individually.
Moving half way into the second round, the home hopes grew as both Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Christian Ahlmann delivered clear rounds putting the pressure on those to come. As did France’s Penelope Leprevost who with a faultless performance on Flora de Mariposa (For Pleasure x Powerlight) froze her score to eight penalties overall, which meant less than a pole down to those in silver and bronze position.
Opening for the top five, Andreas Schou had his only pole down of the championships as Lernardo der Kleine fell victim of the huge triple combination coming out of it. Simon Delestre and Ryan des Hayettes kept it all under control though, only to record a time penalty as they took their time around the ten fence track - and with only this mistake from the two final rounds their score stopped on 7.67 leaving them as serious medal candidates and with no room to breathe for those three to follow.
Sergio Alvarez Moya’s luck had come to an end, as the Spanish rider had to see the back pole of the oxer at six hit the ground bringing him down on 9.47 and behind both Delestre, Leprevost as well as Jur Vrieling.
Entering the ring in Aachen, Gregory Wathelet had the chance to secure his first championship medal. Well known for being calm and collected in high-pressure situations, expectations were high as to another clear round with Conrad de Hus - who did his second championship for Belgium. The round was a pure demonstration of Wathelet’s skills as a horseman and rider, and crossing the finish line he could throw his hands in the air - silver was secured, the question was - could it be gold.
The saying this week in Aachen has been that orange is the new gold, so there was more than big expectations that followed Dubbeldam as he rode into the ring for the final round. Seemingly immune to pressure and stress, Jeroen jumped another clear round with just a time fault being recorded - words become insufficient on an occasion like this when trying to explain how easy and beautiful it all looked. The crowds thanked him with a volcano of standing ovations, that poured out all over Aachen and the green hills around - Dubbeldam had done it again and gold could once again glitter around the Dutch rider's neck.
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