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Finally! It’s gold for Fuchs and Clooney 51 at the Longines FEI European Championships 2019

Sunday, 25 August 2019
Longines FEI European Championships 2019

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Switzerland's Martin Fuchs celebrates his gold medal with Clooney 51 at the Longines FEI European Championships in Rotterdam. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.



Text © World of Showjumping



After being close on so many occasions, it was finally Martin Fuchs and Clooney’s turn to step to the top of the podium at the Longines FEI European Championships 2019 in Rotterdam. Individual silver medallists at last year’s World Equestrian Games, vice-champions at this year’s World Cup Finals and twice team bronze-medallists at the Europeans – the 27-year-old Swiss rider has a great record with Luigi Baleri’s 13-year-old gelding but today they could add gold to their collection. 

“It looked very much like I would be second again, my London Knights team-mate Ben has been great the past two years. Especially at these championships, again, I did not think that I would beat him or that he would make a fault. Obviously, I am very happy to be winning here and to finally stand on top and not “only” to have the silver medal,” Fuchs said. 

 Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Gold to Martin Fuchs, silver to Ben Maher and bronze to Jos Verlooy. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

After the first round in Rotterdam was jumped, Ben Maher (GBR) and Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet) were still in the lead – keeping on their penalty score of 0.62. The first-round track shook it up however, with Louis Konickx (NED) delivering another mastermind course that kept it all open to the very last fence – also using the time allowed to put pressure on the riders. Again and again, the front pole on the last oxer coming out of the final combination at 12ab fell – stirring it up in the top ten. 

Moving into the best ten horse-and-rider combinations, Marcus Ehning (GER) and Comme Il Faut (Cornet Obolensky x Ramiro) had put some pressure on with a clear round to keep on their score of 9.56 – breathing those ahead in the neck. Sitting 10th overnight, reigning European Champions Peder Fredricson (SWE) and H&M All In (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Andiamo Z) kept it together to add nothing to their score of 8 and when Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and Toveks Mary Lou (Montendro x Portland L) also went clear as next to go the Swedes went off the hooks. 

Reigning World Champions Simone Blum (GER) and DSP Alice (Askari x Landrebell) passed the Swedes on the leader board as next to go however, when delivering a much needed clear to stay on their score of 6.21 penalty points. Unfortunately, her compatriot Daniel Deusser (GER) and Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z (Tangelo vd Zuuthoeve x Mr. Blue) fell down the ranks after both 12a and b agonizingly hit the ground. Alexis Deroubaix (FRA) on Timon d’Aure (Mylord Carthago HN x Drakkar Des Hutins) and Steve Guerdat (SUI) on Albführen's Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento) fell victim to the final line as well – which send them down the overall standings with eight faults each added to their overall score. Coming fresh from their team gold on Friday, expectations were high for Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and MJT Nevados S (Calvados Z x Romualdo) but they had the upright at six down and added four faults to their score – also falling down behind Marcus Ehning.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Great Britain's Ben Maher and Explosion W took the silver medal. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Sitting third overnight, Martin Fuchs (SUI) and Clooney 51 (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo) proved what a special partnership they have when once again going clear – keeping on their score of 3.46 and putting Jos Verlooy (BEL) and Ben Maher in the heat. Verlooy and Igor (Emerald van 't Ruytershof x Nabab de Reve) have not touched a rail so far in Rotterdam, but today they had a pole down coming out of the triple combination and had to see their score increase with four faults to sit on 5.68 behind Fuchs as they left the ring. Now, it was down to Ben Maher and Explosion W – but they sailed around the tricky track to another clear round – holding onto their leading position, however with less than a rail separating them from Fuchs. 

With the twelve best riders moving on to the second and deciding round, and two poles in between leading rider Maher and reigning champion Fredricson in 6th it was bound to be a thriller. Ten fences including a tricky triple combination waited for the riders, and again the time allowed was tight. 

It was perhaps home hero Marc Houtzager (NED) that got the most exciting round of all however, when he as third to go in the ring with Sterrehof’s Calimero (Quidam de Revel x Libero H) got interrupted by animal activists who decided to storm the ring during his round. While staff and security personnel where hunting them down, Houtzager kept calm and miraculously delivered a clear round – to standing ovations from the crowds. Houtzager ended as the best Dutch rider at the championships, in 8th place. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Despite animal activists storming the ring during his round, Dutch rider Marc Houtzager went clear with Sterrehof's Calimero. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Marcus Ehning again put the pressure on with only a single time penalty aboard Comme Il Faut, finishing on a score of 10.56 and when both Fredricson and Von Eckermann had a rail down each in the triple combination the German rider climbed up the standings. Simone Blum also had to add a pole to her score in the triple combination, finishing on 10.21 overall and was left to nervously watch if it would be good enough for a medal as the last three riders went in the ring. 

Verlooy has had a fantastic championship, and once again the 23-year-old Belgian rider kept it together to leave the fences up when it really mattered – only adding a time penalty to end his championship campaign on a score of 6.68. The two boys ahead had his breath in their neck. 

Fuchs and Clooney have been in pressurised situations before however and demonstrating nerves of steel they left the jumps up again, but like Verlooy, Fuchs added a time penalty to his overall score – finishing on 4.46. Now it was all down to Maher, and he had to jump clear to get the gold. One down meant silver, two down meant bronze. It was looking good all the way to the very end for Maher, but steadying up to the penultimate upright it got a bit tight and unfortunately a rail went to the ground – leaving the British rider, who has had a fantastic championship debut with Poden Farms' 10-year-old gelding, to the silver medal and Fuchs to gold – finally.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping The bronze went to Belgium's Jos Verlooy and Igor. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“He jumped a very good first round, so I was confident,” Maher said. “The second round with the wall to the skinny oxer there, sometimes he is so careful that I have to make some pressure and he got a little stressed there. He jumped a great round, I decided to do the eight strides to the water tray and, I don’t know, he just didn’t jump this one. On the day it was just not good enough to beat Martin. All of these horses deserve to win at this stage but unfortunately I made a small mistake, and I’m very happy for Martin. If anyone has to beat me, then I’m happy it’s him!”



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