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Switzerland in charge after day two at the Longines FEI European Championships 2021

Thursday, 02 September 2021
Longines FEI European Championships 2021

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei are in the lead on the individual standing after a strong start to the Longines FEI European Championships 2021. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



The Swiss team is in charge after day two of the Longines FEI European Championships 2021. Coming into Thursday’s round as third on the preliminary standings, Elian Baumann, Bryan Balsiger, Martin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat all rose to the occasion and are overnight leaders ahead of Friday’s medal decider. Thanks to another incredible performance from defending European Champion Fuchs and his only 9-year-old gelding Leone Jei (Baltic VDL x Corland), it’s also a Swiss lead individually. 

It was a tough task today at Riesenbeck International, as Frank Rothenberger once again had designed a testing track. It was long, with fourteen fences and seventeen efforts – and it was the penultimate double of oxers that proved to cause the most faults with the poles hitting the ground again and again. “I think Frank has done a great job, both yesterday and today. It was a really nice course today, and fair to the horses,” Guerdat said. “Of course, it is always different with a championship – there is more pressure, so you fight a little bit more. There were mistakes, as you expect for a championship. The ground is super here, and it’s a pleasure to ride in this ring.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Elian Baumann and Campari Z got the Swiss off to a good start with a clear in today's first round of the team final. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Pulling off three clears in today’s second round at the Europeans, which also counted as the first round of the team final, the Swiss were outstanding. The 33-year-old newcomer Baumann showed no nerves when piloting Campari Z (Contact vd Heffinck x Platini M) to another clear, also jumping himself up on the individual standing – sitting fourth going into Friday’s round. When Bryan Balsiger and AK’s Courage (Chepetto C x Lennon) were unlucky to have a rail down on the oxer at 10, the two most experienced riders on the team stepped up and delivered clear rounds so his score could be discharged. While Fuchs’ round was a classic, and absolute poetry in motion to watch, Guerdat had to fight harder than usual with Albführen’s Maddox (Cohiba x Maraton). Losing hold of one of his two reins on the very technical line coming from the open water, the 2012 Olympic Champion really had his work cut out but managed to keep his cool and guided the 10-year-old gelding over the finish line on a zero-penalty score – putting serious pressure on Germany and Sweden that each had their anchor riders coming in as the two top teams from Wednesday. 

“I don’t have such a good run at the moment, so I am trying to at least fight so that I get the right attitude. I wanted to go clear here and help my team, because they had been brilliant before me,” Guerdat said. “It might not have been the nicest round, but I wanted to leave it all up out there and try to do my best. Yesterday, we had a much nicer round but result-wise it ended up worse, so I just have to keep on trying and it will turn around at some point.”

With one rein on the loose after the open water coming into the line from fence 8 to 9, where the horses were asked to lengthen and then shorten, Guerdat had plenty to think about during the course. “I was just trying to stay calm, and luckily I had another rein, so I did my best to focus on what I had to do. I thought that this line would be fine with only the top rein, and when I had a bit more time after, I concentrated on taking back my second rein,” Guerdat explained about how he managed to keep it all together. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Steve Guerdat and Albführen’s Maddox gave everything for the Swiss team, and jumped clear. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

With the Swiss adding nothing to their score of 5.47 today, the German and Swedish anchor riders had to deliver clears to stay in front. With clears from both Andre Thieme on DSP Chakaria (Chap 47 x Askari) and Christian Kukuk on Mumbai (Diamant de Semilly x Nabab de Reve), the Germans had the chance to make Marcus Ehning’s five faults their discharge score if David Will would keep a clean sheet with C Vier (Cardento x Concorde). But, like so many others, the 13-year-old gelding hit the back rail of the b-element in the penultimate combination and Germany had to add four faults to their score – finishing on 8.77 in total. 

The Swedes also needed a clear from Peder Fredricson and Catch Me Not S (Cardento x Ramiro’s Son), that were last to go in the ring. Coming in as overnight team leaders, the first two Swedish riders had not had luck on their side – Douglas Lindelöw’s Casquo Blue (Chacco-Blue x Carthago Z) had the back rail at 13b and Angelica Augustsson’s Kalinka van de Nachtegaele (Epleaser van’t Heike x Cicero Z) had a foot in the water. Veteran Rolf-Göran Bengtsson managed to keep it together with a brilliant clear on Ermindo W (Singapore x Carinjo) though, and with Olympic team gold medallist Peder Fredricson to follow it looked like the Swedes potentially could discharge one of their four-fault rounds. But the margins were not on Fredricson’s side either, and a rail fell on the oxer at 10 – leaving the Swedes on a score of 11.59, which dropped them down to third behind Switzerland and Germany. Breathing them in the neck ahead of Friday’s last team round – open to the ten best nations – is Belgium, on a score of 17.34. 

With some seriously strong performances on day two, it’s very tight on top of the preliminary individual standing. With only 1.31 penalty points, Fuchs is in the lead, while Kukuk has jumped himself up to second with a score of 1.93, followed by Bengtsson on 1.96, then Baumann and Guerdat on 2.15.

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Christian Kukuk and Mumbai jumped clear again for Germany, and sit second with the team as well as individually. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Defending European Champion and individual leader Martin Fuchs was full of praise for Leone Jei after the first two days of competition, and said he has always believed in the 9-year-old gelding. “We have had Leone Jei since the end of his sixth year, so I have been riding him for almost two-and-a-half years now. He has been brilliant from the first show I did with him; I remember it well – it was the youngster tour in Gorla Minore. Ever since then I knew he would be a Grand Prix horse, but that he gets so consistent this year, so quickly – jumping many five-star Grand Prixs, placing in most of them – I did not even believe myself. He jumped brilliant both today and yesterday, I was more worried about yesterday’s speed class – having to go fast with a 9-year-old horse at a championship – but he made that great and today he was very cool. I had a really good feeling.”

“He can get a bit excited, and he has a lot of power so sometimes I have to slow him down a bit,” Fuchs explained. “It was a nice course for me today, he jumped the triple really well, the water he always jumps like an airplane – and then at the last combination at the double of oxers I had to fight a little bit, normally he does everything so easy – you barely need any leg – but there even I had to push a bit!” Fuchs laughed. “As I said, he is just 9-years-of age, quite new at this level, and it’s three more big rounds and it’s definitely going to be bigger than today so I will just try to do one round after the other.”

“I definitely did not expect to be in the lead after two rounds, but still, it’s far away from the end here. Obviously, it’s already been good, we have had no rails down so far and I hope to keep it up like this. If I don’t make a mistake, I am most likely going to be happy at the end of the week,” Fuchs said about holding the individual lead. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “I definitely did not expect to be in the lead after two rounds, but still, it’s far away from the end here," defending European Champion Martin Fuchs said. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

It’s been a difficult build-up to the championships for Fuchs, as Clooney – his gold winner from Rotterdam in 2019 – had a career-ending accident in the middle of August, and has been in the clinic since. “The first week was the most difficult. I just stayed home, and only rode Leone, I was mostly in the clinic with Clooney. But, the past ten days it has been better with more of a routine. Just before I got on Leone today, I got a Facetime call from my girlfriend Paris and Clooney from the clinic – they were going to watch me together,” Fuchs told with a smile. 

Both Fuchs and Guerdat spoke of a very good atmosphere on the Swiss team. “Our horses are jumping good,” Guerdat said. “Bryan had an unlucky mistake today, Elian has been brilliant and Martin is from another planet at the minute – the horse is flying and it looks really solid from Martin. We will fight, we have a good team spirit and hopefully that can bring us somewhere.”

That somewhere might be the team gold medal, which Switzerland last won at the European Championships at Windsor in 2009 – back then, also with Guerdat on the team. 



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