"I am a championship rider, and that is what I like the most." That is what Jeroen Dubbeldam told World of Showjumping when we visited him in March this year. Today the Olympic gold medallist and team World Champion x 2 proved exactly how good he is at what he likes the best, when he won a very well deserved individual gold medal at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy. The Dutch rider has a reputation of being a true horseman, with a feeling for the horses that is hard to match – and this really showed in today's top four final as Jeroen rode clear on all his equine partners. It was a close call between him and France's very own Patrice Delaveau though, as only a tiny time penalty separated the two – with Patrice having to settle for the silver medal. Bronze went to America's Beezie Madden.
All riders opened up the exciting top four final by riding their own horse. First out was Dubbeldam on Zenith SFN (Rash R x Fuego de Prelet), that has jumped amazing during the championships – also being an important contributor to the Dutch team gold here in Normandy. Dubbeldam set a very secure clear, making light work of the eight fence course set by Frederic Cottier.
Next in the ring was Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on Casall Ask (Caretino x Lavall I). The expectations for a clear round were high, so when the stallion lowered the rail on the final element coming out of the triple combination – the disappointment in the Swedish camp was visible. When both Beezie and Patrice posted clear rounds on Cortes 'C' (Randel Z x Darco) and Orient Express HDC (Quick Star x Le Tot de Semilly), the pressure was on.
For Rolf, things continued to develop in the wrong direction. Already during the three minute warm-up aboard Dubbeldam's Zenith SFN, it was clear that the two could not find the tone. The ten year old gelding was not easy in the mouth anymore, and appeared to be slightly out of his comfort zone with his first rider change. It started ok in the ring, but coming out of the triple combination it was too hectic and again it was the c-element that caused heart ache for Rolf. In addition two time faults were added, and things did not look that good for Bengtsson. Beezie also recorded her first faults, as Bengtsson's Casall Ask this time took down the b-element of the triple combination – although jumping very well under the American rider.
Patrice Delaveau put even more pressure on when going clear on Madden's Cortes 'C', although he survived a hairy moment as the horse almost jumped onto the standard on the right side coming out of the treble causing the crowds to gasp for air. Dubbeldam kept up as well, as he did a fantastic secure clear on Delaveau's Orient Express HDC – who looked fresh and happy under the Dutch rider.
For the second rotation of horses, it was Beezie's turn to get on Zenith SFN – the least experienced horse in the top four final. Although looking quite calm during his warm up this time around, the ten year old gelding again became unsettled in the triple combination and hit 5b after rattling the a-element – and the American rider had to add another four faults.
Patrice was the second new rider for Bengtsson's Casall Ask, and the two looked to like each other as they quietly warmed up with the help of Kevin Staut and French coach Philippe Guerdat. Guiding Casall Ask with his light riding around the track, Patrice was the first one to not knock a pole down on the 15 year old stallion – but unfortunately the French rider picked up a time penalty. Dubbeldam continued to impress with his amazing feeling and precision, and made light work of solving any questions asked on Madden's Cortes 'C' – recording his third clear of the day going into the last round as the leading rider on a zero penalty score.
Unfortunately for Rolf, he had to pick up another four faults in his third round. It looked so good though as the Swedish rider jumped around the track on Delaveau's Orient Express HDC, but down the last line it seemed like he put a little bit too much pressure on the stallion – that lowered the front pole on the final Rolex oxer as a consequence. Rolf was behind the rest with his fourteen penalties, and although it was less than two poles down to Beezie it looked like it would be hard to catch up.
Patrice Delaveau was first into the final round of horse rotation. The atmosphere had reached its climax, with the spectators waving their French flag from the edge of their seats as he entered the ring. And Patrice did not disappoint as he was the only other rider apart from regular jockey Jeroen Dubbeldam who managed to produce a clear round on Zenith SFN, and in style as the gelding looked both comfortable and relaxed. When he crossed the finish line the crowds exploded, and the pressure was on for Jeroen who could not afford a single mistake.
But there were no mistakes to come either, just flawless and beautiful riding as Dubbeldam continued to display his horsemanship – this time on Casall Ask. It looked simple and calm as Jeroen guided the stallion around the eight fence track, as if there was no pressure on – and when the couple crossed the finish line clear it exploded, this was the new world champion and he had earned the title. Jeroen could raise his arms into the air, and receive the crowd's celebration – and his second gold medal in four days leaving the silver to France and Patrice Delaveau.
It took a few minutes before the battle for the bronze could commence. When it did, it was with intensity as Rolf went into the ring and produced a clear round on Cortes 'C' – that was clean in all his four rounds on Sunday and that only has lowered one pole throughout the entire championship in Normandy. The heat was on for Beezie, she could have one down on her final ride aboard Orient Express HDC – but not two. That would mean the bronze would go to Rolf. Coming into the triple, Orient Express HDC lowered the a-element – but Beezie stayed her usual cool and collected herself. The rest of the fences stayed intact and she could collect the bronze medal, leaving Rolf out of the podium this time around.
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