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Inside CHIO Aachen: Gerrit Nieberg wins the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen and becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender

Monday, 04 July 2022
CHIO Aachen 2022

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Gerrit Nieberg won the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen and is now the new Rolex Grand Slam live contender. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof.

 

Press release from Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

 


 

Bathed in glorious July sunshine, CHIO Aachen’s 40,000 capacity Hauptstadion looked resplendent, as it was once again the venue for the 2022 edition of the Rolex Grand Prix, part of the inimitable Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Comprising 40 starters from 14 nations, including 20 of the world’s top 30-ranked riders, the World Equestrian Festival’s knowledgeable crowd was full of anticipation, ahead of being treated to unparalleled levels of skill and precision from the horse and rider combinations that had qualified for this pinnacle class.

With just the top 18 progressing to the second round, there was little room for error, as the Frank Rothenberger-designed course – consisting of 14 obstacles and 17 efforts – demanded that each pairing was on the very top of their game. Thirteen riders eventually went clear, including on-form McLain Ward, who had his sights firmly set on a hat-trick of victories, having claimed both Wednesday’s and Friday’s showpiece classes. British trio, Harry Charles, Scott Brash and Ben Maher joined the American in round two, alongside five Germans – Gerrit Nieberg, Christian Ahlmann, Daniel Deusser, Mario Stevens and Philipp Weishaupt – much to the delight of the rapturous home crowd. Five advancing riders picked up penalties in the first round and had it all to do, including three-time Major winner, Steve Guerdat, and Harrie Smolders from The Netherlands.

After a short break, while the 12-obstacle second round course was built, two-time Major winner, Philipp Weishaupt got the contest back underway, although an early refusal by his mount Asathir meant there would be no third Major triumph for the German. Eighth to go, America’s McLain Ward and his mount HH Azur was the first combination to go double clear, much to the delight of his team watching on from Aachen’s ‘kiss and cry’ area. Next to go, the current Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender, Daniel Deusser, and his super mare, Killer Queen Vdm, demonstrated their unwavering talent and ability, recording the contest’s second double clear, thereby triggering a jump-off. The only rider to ever win the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Scott Brash soon made it three in the jump-off, after he and Hello Jefferson navigated the 17-effort test fault free. It wasn’t to be for Irish duo Conor Swail and Darragh Kenny, Nayal Nasser of Egypt, Rolex Testimonee Kevin Staut and Great Britain’s Ben Maher, after they all accrued penalties. Penultimate rider to go, Nicola Philippaerts, would become the fourth to contest the jump-off, while last to go, Germany’s Gerrit Nieberg also booked his place in the final showdown.

McLain Ward kicked off proceedings in the jump-off, but was unlucky to put the final fence down. Next up, Daniel Deusser made no mistake, crossing the finishing line without a fault in 41.60 seconds, thereby setting a tough target for the final three riders to try and beat. If anyone could emulate Deusser’s time, Scott Brash could – the 36-year-old Briton going over two seconds faster than his fellow Rolex Testimonee. Despite going clear, Nicola Philippaerts’ slightly slower time saw him slot into third spot. Last to go, current world number 106, Gerrit Nieberg, produced the ride of his life abord his 11-year-old bay gelding, Ben 431, crossing the line over half a second quicker than Brash, thereby winning the 2022 edition of CHIO Aachen’s Rolex Grand Prix and in doing so becoming the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender.

On his victory, winning rider, Gerrit Nieberg, commented: “Everything is still unreal – I really didn’t expect this. Dreams definitely came true today – it was an amazing feeling. 

On the winner, second placed Scott Brash, said: “Gerrit did a fantastic round. I knew that there was an inside turn to the double and looked to it when I went in, but I didn’t fancy it and no one else had done it. He [Gerrit] had to do it to win and he did it very well, so all credit to him, and fair play. He rode very, very well and his horse jumped great today.”

On his horse, Hello Jefferson, Scott Brash, said: “I’m extremely proud of Jefferson today, he did an amazing job. I couldn’t have asked any more from him. We were beaten by Gerrit who did an unbelievable round.”

On his mare, Katanga V/H Dingeshof, third placed Nicola Philippaerts, commented: “I’m so proud, you can’t imagine – she’s a very special mare. She gave everything and jumped unbelievably well.”

 


 

Rider interview: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof.

You have had some incredible moments here at CHIO Aachen; do you still get a buzz when you arrive here?

Yes, I must say that when I arrived at the show Thusrday, I got a little teary eyed because I have so many great memories here, and there’s so much emotion. The highest point in my riding career occurred at this venue. There were also some low points in between, where I had to be motivated to come back from disappointment and defeat – there was just so much emotion. It’s a wonderful place and it still makes my heart go pitter-patter.

You’ve achieved some phenomenal successes in the sport; do you now feel a responsibility to give something back and help nurture the next generation of show jumping talent?

Yes. I’m at a different point in my life now, showing less and training more, and I’m very happy to do that because I feel as though I can give something back to the sport, particularly young riders, and particularly women. I think I’ve paved the way for women in this sport, showing them that anything is possible, including being number one in the world, as a woman. And to also make the German team, as a woman, which was dominated by males before I came along. It’s very rewarding for me to be at a different point in my life now and to give something back. 

We hear a lot that the Aachen crowd supports riders, whether they win or not. What makes the crowd here so special?

It’s a very special feeling when you walk into the arena and there are 40,000 people clapping for you, all crossing their fingers and wishing you the best. This motivates every rider. It’s an incredible experience to ride here, but to win here in this atmosphere in front of this spectator field is indescribable, it gives you the goosebumps.

Do you believe any of your young horses have the potential to become future Grand Prix stars?

We have a few really nice, young horses at the moment. I currently have a horse, who I’m riding, who I’ve been bringing along called I’m Blue, and I think he’s definitely going to make it to Grand Prix level.

 


 

The vet check: Dr. Wilfried Hanbücken

Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder Dr. Wilfried Hanbücken. Photo © Rolex Grand Slam / Peggy Schröder.

What is your role at CHIO Aachen?

I am the president of the veterinary commission so I am responsible for all veterinary affairs. This requires us to carry out examinations on the horses on arrival to see if they’ve travelled well, that they’ve arrived without any infectious diseases, and that they have no fever. With every horse, we then have to perform a veterinary inspection, which consists of a trot-up to check if the horses are lame or not, to check that the tendons look good, and confirm that the horse’s general attitude is fine. For some disciplines, such as eventing, we sometimes have to do that twice, both before and after cross-country, for example. We also have to view horses’ medication.

It is my responsibility to ensure that there is a good veterinary service provided – a vet in each ring and a vet in the stable area. Here in Aachen, there is a whole team of vets, including specialists in diagnosis and specialists in internal medicine. We are very well equipped – we have ultrasound, endoscopy, we have a complete laboratory here on the showground so that we can deliver a first class service to the horses, especially in cases when a horse is injured or not well. 

It allows us to manage things on-site and find an early diagnosis. Only in the most severe case, where a surgical intervention is necessary, is a horse then referred to a hospital.

Have you worked on any other international equestrian events?

I have been the foreign veterinary delegate for European and World Championships, and also at the Olympic Games. My stand-out experience came when I was part of the veterinary commission at the London 2012 Olympic Games, which was a fantastic event. 

It was incredible public relations for all equine sports. I’ve had great times in La Baule, which is a good event. However, the one that I like most is CHIO Aachen. I was born in Aachen and I grew up in Aachen. I’ve work on the show for 40 years – I started as a student supporting the vets, then worked as a vet, then became a member of the veterinary commission, and since 1998 I have been the chef of the veterinary commission. 

 


 

About the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping

The Rolex Grand Slam is considered by the sport to be the ultimate equestrian challenge, primarily due to the sporting prowess required to achieve this feat. It is a quest taken on by the world’s top riders, vying to secure the legendary status associated with winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

The format of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is simple: anyone who wins three Majors in a row receives the Rolex Grand Slam trophy and a €1 million bonus on top of the class’s prize-money. If that same rider then continues their success by winning a fourth Major in succession, they will be rewarded with an additional €1million bonus. If two shows are won in succession, the bonus is €500,000 or if an athlete wins only 2 majors in a period of four successive shows, the bonus is €250,000.



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