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Swedes speed to the lead on day one of the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023

Wednesday, 30 August 2023
FEI Jumping European Championship 2023

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Sweden's Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit won the opening speed leg of the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan, Italy. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



Reigning World Champions Sweden picked up where they left off in Herning one year ago when they raced to the top of the scoreboard in today’s speed leg – and opening round – of the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan, Italy. With Jens Fredricson and the Swedish-bred 11-year-old gelding Markan Cosmopolit (Cohiba x Calido I) taking the win, followed by Henrik von Eckermann on Iliana (Cardento x Gentleman) and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on Zuccero (VDL Zirocco Blue x Caretino) in 6th and 7th respectively, as well as their pathfinder Wilma Hellström and Cicci BJN (Ci Ci Senjor Ask x Tornesch) in 12th, no one could do anything about the Swedes as the competition got underway at the Ippodromo Snai San Siro on Wednesday. 

“I’m happy, but a bit surprised,” Fredricson smiled after taking the lead individually on the opening day of the Europeans. “It’s a good start but it’s still a long way to go. It was a fantastic day for the team, with all four riders in the top twelve. All the horses jumped well!”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Sweden's Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Judged as a Table C with four seconds added for a rail down, it was all to play for at the Ippodromo San Siro – and the riders with quick horses could afford to take a bit of risk. It was Bryan Balsiger (SUI) and Dubai du Bois Pinchet (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Andiamo) who as pathfinders set the first clear, and the time was good too – with their 74.39 seconds they held on to the lead until Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and the powerful grey stallion Zuccero entered the ring as no. 30 to go. With one of his signature rounds – accurate, beautiful to watch but still fast – the 2011 European Champion shaved the time to beat down to 73.60 seconds. 

Meanwhile, there were plenty of faults being made over Uliano Vezzani’s thirteen-fence 1.50m track. The two combinations at 3ab and 4ab claimed several victims, but the biggest headache was caused by the Longines oxer at no. 8 – that followed the open water – where many horses got a bit flat in their approach and took with them a rail or two. The oxer-oxer combination at 10ab also fell again and again, and the FEI oxer at no. 12 was another fence that caused faults. 

Europe’s best horse-and-rider combinations had no trouble with the track though, and as no. 46 in the ring world no. four Martin Fuchs (SUI) and the 11-year-old gelding Leone Jei (Baltic VDL x Corland) – reigning European vice-champions – delivered a tremendous performance to stop the clock at 72.53 seconds, taking over the lead. “Leone Jei was great; really calm in the warm-up and wonderful in the ring. I had a great feeling,” Fuchs said. “It was a very nice course by Uliano, with faults everywhere – and it was not crazy big. Everything went to plan for me; at first I was thinking to take a bit more risk in the turn to the wall but then a couple of horses slipped a bit there so I perhaps did an extra stride there – but for the rest I’m very happy.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Reigning European vice-champions Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei sit second on the overnight standings both individually and for Team Switzerland. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

It looked like it would be very hard to beat Fuchs, but eleven riders later, Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit – that were part of the gold winning Swedish team at the 2022 World Championship – proved that prediction to be wrong when not once pulling back around Vezzani’s track, crossing the finish line in an impressive 71.98 seconds. The pressure was on for those to come.

“I loved the course; it offered lots of different possibilities. You could not go crazy, you had to jump the whole way – it was a beautiful course,” Fredricson said about the challenges Vezzani had laid out. “I had an offensive, good plan; I wanted to do the nine, the six, the nine, the eight, going around and then do the eight to the water and then going a little bit out to do the seven to the [Longines] oxer, then do the four [to 11] – they came longer than I thought – and then I got a good shot at the next oxer so I could just go down easy on nine to that last plank,” he detailed about his round. 

One rider later, Philipp Weishaupt (GER) and the incredible 9-year-old gelding Zineday (Zinedine x Polydor) gave the time to beat a great shot when stopping the clock at 72.60 – showing off along the way as the scopey chestnut played with the fences. Crossing the finish line, the pair slotted into 3rd. Steve Guerdat (SUI) and the wonderful 10-year-old mare Dynamix de Belheme (Snaike de Blondel x Cornet Obolensky) also made light work of the tricky track, and with their time of 72.84 seconds, they went into 4th behind Fredricson, Fuchs and Weishaupt – pushing Bengtsson down to 5th. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Germany's Philipp Weishaupt and the only 9-year-old Zineday impressed when finishing third in the opening leg of the 2023 European Championship. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Fredricson must have been biting his nails as Julien Epaillard (FRA) entered the ring as start no. 70 with fifteen left to go. Known as one of the absolute fastest in the world, Epaillard set off in top gear with Dubai du Cedre (Baloubet du Rouet x Diamant de Semilly) – looking like a real threat to the Swedish lead. However, the back pole on the oxer at 10b fell to the ground and the French speed demon had to add four seconds to his 69.20 – a time that would have been the fastest of the day. Nevertheless, it was good enough to put Epaillard 5th at the end of the class.

Fredricson’s compatriot Henrik von Eckermann – world no. one – and Iliana also saw a pole hit the grass on the oxer at 3a, which brought their time of 69.38 up to 73.38. None of the remaining riders could do anything about the time to beat; Ben Maher (GBR), Marcus Ehning (GER) and Max Kühner (AUT) all faulted on the oxer at no. 8 – adding four seconds to their final score and leaving Fredricson to celebrate taking the lead both individually and with the team. 

With a total team score of 1.51, only 0.41 penalty points separate the Swedes and the Swiss on the overnight standings after Martin Fuchs, Steve Guerdat and Bryan Balsiger all performed brilliantly on day one in Milan. For Switzerland, the result this week is especially important as they are still looking to book their ticket for the Paris Olympics – three of the best nations in Milan not already qualified for the Games will do so on Friday. “We have such a cool team here, and all year long we have worked together and performing well in the Nations Cups – supporting each other,” Fuchs said. “It’s such a pleasure to ride with these guys on the team. They are good friends and cool boys. If we keep going like this, I think we can medal this week and with a medal we will qualify for the Olympic Games.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Two Swiss pairs finished in the top five, as Steve Guerdat and Dynamix de Belheme took the fourth place. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“It’s for sure in the back of our minds, but we came here trying to defend our title and I think this is what is in our heads – to try to do well and jump clear rounds to be able to win a gold medal,” Fuchs continued to speak about the added pressure of still having to qualify for Paris. “I’m delighted with this start though; to sit 2nd individually and with the team. The Swedes were very strong today and are definitely the team to beat this week, but the Swiss horses were also looking good today. I can’t wait for tomorrow!”

The European Championship continues on Thursday, with the second round of competition – which will help determine which ten of the fifteen nations get to compete on Friday when the team medals will be decided.



30.8.2023 No reproduction of any of the content in this article will be accepted without a written permission, all rights reserved © World of If copyright violations occur, a penalty fee will apply. 

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