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Gerrit Nieberg and Ben 431 beat the world’s best in the €1,500,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen

Sunday, 03 July 2022
CHIO Aachen 2022

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Germany's own Gerrit Nieberg and Ben 431 won the €1,500,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Germany’s very own Gerrit Nieberg and Ben 431 (Sylvain x Quincy Jones) saved the best for last in Sunday’s €1,500,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen, to take the victory in front of an ecstatic home crowd. The 29-year-old German rider, a son of Olympic team champion Lars Nieberg, made dreams come true when beating the world’s very best with a full house of spectators as witnesses to become the next live contender in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping and writing his name into the history books. 

The first round had all the action, drama and emotions to be expected of the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen. It took no less than thirteen horse-and-rider combinations before the first clear was delivered, and it came from Nayel Nassar (EGY) and Igor vd Wittemoere (Cooper van de Heffinck x Orlando). Home hero Christian Ahlmann (GER) followed suit with the powerful Dominator 2000 Z (Diamant de Semilly x Cassini I), and immediately after the third clear in a row came from title defender and live contender Daniel Deusser (GER) on Killer Queen VDM (Eldorado v. Zeshoek x For Pleasure). 

Frank Rothenberger’s (GER) enormous fourteen-fence track caused plenty of headache for the riders. Again, and again, one of the elements in the triple combination with a triple bar-oxer-upright at 5abc fell to the ground, and the back pole on the oxer coming out of 11b also hit the grass repeatedly, while some had their dreams of a clear round shattered at the very end – by the black Mercedes-Benz upright at fence 12, jumped away from the in-gate. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson came close, but had to settle for the second place. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Eventually ten more horse-and-rider combinations managed to post clear rounds, and some of the world’s absolutely very best were among them; Gerrit Nieberg and Ben 431, Kevin Staut (FRA) and Visconti du Telman (Toulon x Dollar du Murier), Darragh Kenny (IRL) and VDL Cartello (Cartani 4 x Lord), Yuri Mansur (BRA) and QH Alfons Santo Antonio (Aromats x False Pass), Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and Katanga vh Dingeshof (Cardento 933 x Tornedo FCS), Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello Jefferson (Cooper vd Heffick x Irco Mena), Ben Maher (GBR) and Explosion W (Chacco-Blue x Baloubet du Rouet), Conor Swail (IRL) and Count Me In (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes), Gregory Wathelet (BEL) and Nevados S (Calvados Z x Romualdo) and Mclain Ward (USA) and HH Azur (Thunder v. Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui v. Zuuthoeve). 

With eighteen moving on to round two, the thirteen clears were joined by Harrie Smolders (NED) and Bingo du Parc (Mylord Carthago*HN x Diamant de Semilly) on one time penalty, as well as by four-faulters Mario Stevens (GER) and Starissa (Stakkato Gold x Quidam's Rubin), Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Venard de Cerisy (Open Up Semilly x Djalisco du Guet), Harry Charles (GBR) and Romeo 88 (Contact van de Heffinck x Orlando), and finally Philipp Weishaupt (GER) and Asathir (Diamant De Semilly x Papillon Rouge). 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping Third place went to Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga v.h. Dingeshof. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The excitement continued in round two, which opened with drama when Philipp Weishaupt parted ways with Asathir on the dreaded double of liverpools next to the lake, followed by Harry Charles who had Romeo 88 jump through the first oxer of the same combination and then opted to retire. Following eight faults from Steve Guerdat, it was Mario Stevens – reigning German Champion – who managed to post the first clear, and the crowds went wild. It was not until Mclain Ward, winner of both Grand Prix qualifiers in Aachen, entered the ring as start no. eight, that the first double clear was posted – and the American style icon lived up to the expectations, making light work of the tricky track with his veteran HH Azur. Next to go was Daniel Deusser, and he did not disappoint – posting a double clear with Killer Queen VDM and it exploded at Soers as a jump-off was secured. 

Following a disappointing rail for reigning Olympic Champions Ben Maher and Explosion W, compatriot Scott Brash – the only rider to have ever won the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, back in 2015 – kept the British flag flying when delivering a strong double clear performance aboard Hello Jefferson. None of the five riders to follow could clear Frank Rothenberger’s second-round track, that counted eleven fences and included the double of oxer liverpools at 4ab and a triple combination at 9abc with an upright-oxer-upright, but the two very last in the ring delivered; first Nicola Philippaerts who rode another incredible round on the feisty Katanga vh Dingeshof, followed by Gerrit Nieberg – who made the stadium at Soers explode with the last double clear of the class. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM, last year's winners, finished fourth. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Mclain Ward opened the jump-off and had no choice but to go all in. Coming full speed down on the final, long, stretch from the Mercedes-Benz upright away from the in-gate to the Rolex oxer, the American ace got off too far for Azur to make it to the other side and had to see four faults added to his score. There to defend his title from 2021, Daniel Deusser knew well what it would take, but when the clock showed 41.60, compared to Ward’s 40.03, it looked as if there would be room for improvement. 

Scott Brash has also won the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen, in 2015 with the legendary Hello Sanctos, and there was no doubt he was hungry for a second title as he put Hello Jefferson into top gear – delivering a lightning-fast round in 39.24 seconds, cheered on by the fully-seated Soers, to take the lead. It looked like it would be hard to beat Brash, and despite a very good attempt from Nicola Philippaerts – who showed some tremendous skills with Katanga vh Dingeshof – the Belgian rider had to slot in behind with his time if 39.92 seconds. 

Gerrit Nieberg was last to go in the jump-off and showed no fear against his more experienced competitors when he made a daring inside turn from the Turkish Airlines oxer to the combination, before going full speed in the rollback to the Mercedes-Benz upright, and came flying down the final line cheered and shouted on by the crowds who desperately wanted a home win. Clearing the Rolex oxer to bring the spectators to an immediate standing ovation – the clock had stopped at an incredible 38.63 seconds and Nieberg had written his name into the history books. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “I just tried to focus on my horse and myself, and the plan I had for the jump-off," Gerrit Nieberg said. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“I asked one of my colleagues in the warm-up, and he said ‘it’s ok, you can do it’, and I did it and it was good,” Nieberg said about his risky inside turn to the double which no one else attempted. “I just tried to focus on my horse and myself, and the plan I had for the jump-off. I wanted to start a little bit normal, then take the risky turn to the double, so I was more focused on my horse and myself,” Nieberg explained about his feelings as he entered as last rider in the ring at a boiling Soers.

“I knew there was an inside turn to the double, and when I walked the course, I said ‘if I’m in the jump-off then maybe I do it’, but then when Daniel did not do it – I thought you know, ‘oh…’ Because he can always do those inside turns very well…,” Scott Brash reflected on the options for the jump-off. “Then when I rode in, I saw it, and I did not like where the red oxer was to come inside so I thought ‘I need to go around’. I knew that Gerrit had to do that [Editor’s note: Go inside] to win, and fair play to Gerrit: He did it and did it really well, and he deserved to win.”

While Nieberg had just recorded a career best, the young German made it clear that the success will not get to his head any time soon. When asked about his feelings on claiming a title his famous father never won, the young German quietly said: “But he achieved much more than me.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “I did not expect this, it is a dream come true today – an amazing feeling!" Gerrit Nieberg said. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping

While Brash, a former world no. one and Olympic team champion, was beaten by world rank no. 106 Nieberg, he was not too disappointed. “I’m absolutely delighted with Jefferson, he jumped amazing, he has done everything that was asked of him and more,” Brash said. “He really had to jump his heart out today because of this guy,” the British rider smiled, looking at Frank Rothenberger. “He seems to make it harder and harder each year.”

“To be honest, I tried to go as quick as I could in the jump-off – Katanga is a bit feisty sometimes,” Nicola Philippaerts said. “I thought it perhaps was a bit too much risk to go inside to the double. Gerrit did an unbelievably good turn there, and he was a deserved winner today. I am very happy with Katanga, she jumped really good all week and I am very proud of her to finish third in the biggest Grand Prix in the world. She is an unbelievable mare and hopefully we get a chance to try another time.”

Asked about his feelings in the moment he crossed the finish line, Nieberg said: “Everything was still unreal. I did not expect this, it is a dream come true today – an amazing feeling!



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