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Geir Gulliksen: Better than he's ever been

Tuesday, 03 September 2019
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. “With both indoor and outdoor championships counting, I have been the Norwegian Champion 17 times,” Geir says. “But winning my 10th King’s Cup means a lot to me, it is very special in Norway.”

 

Text © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

 


 

When Geir Gulliksen, affectionately nick-named Jimmy by friends, won his 10th Norwegian King’s Cup in August this year at the age of 59 it was 27 years since he claimed his first one. Looking to be in the shape of his life, we called up the soon-to-be 60-year-old.

As usual, Jimmy picks up in his favoured element: On the road with his wife Elisabeth, on their way to support their son Johan at a local show in Norway. “I don’t like to stand still,” Jimmy laughs.

Commenting on his 10th King’s Cup and the years that has passed since he won his first at the Norwegian Championships at Skien Klosterskogen in 1992, Jimmy is quick to remark that in those 27 years that have passed he has won 24 medals in total. “With both indoor and outdoor championships counting, I have been the Norwegian Champion 17 times,” he tells. “But winning my 10th King’s Cup means a lot to me, it is very special in Norway.”

Given all his success, you could also refer to Jimmy as the king of equestrian sports in Norway – also taking into consideration his influence on the horse industry in the country. However, there is not much royal about Jimmy’s daily routines. “Everyone thinks that I don’t ride at all at home, but I ride two to three horses every day. It keeps me fit.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. "Jumping at the big shows keeps me fit as well, and it is important to stay in the game. But what I think makes the biggest difference, is my mentality. I have a young mind!” the 59-year-old laughs.

In addition, Jimmy takes his weekly exercise regime seriously. “I go to my personal trainer at least twice a week, and we do strength and condition training. I work a lot on the core, I need to work on things that help me with my riding. My balance is better now than it was ten years ago, but I am not saying that I am like Marlon Zanotelli,” he jokes.

“It is really important to stay fit but not over-do it,” Jimmy continues. “I don’t need to run one hour every day. Jumping at the big shows keeps me fit as well, and it is important to stay in the game. But what I think makes the biggest difference, is my mentality. I have a young mind!” the 59-year-old laughs. “I am enthusiastic and positive, I am always thinking about ways to improve myself. In my mind, I am 25 – and that is what I want to be.”

When it comes to nutrition, Jimmy believes in modesty. “I eat what I want,” he tells. “However, I try to eat with modesty and I weigh myself every day. I can take a glass of wine, but I don’t drink a lot and never did. I think that is one of the reasons for me being as fit as I am now. In general, my lifestyle has always been healthy.”

At the highest level of a sport with all kinds of competition hours, be it early or late – combined with constant traveling – a healthy lifestyle can be hard to maintain. “It is important to think about,” Jimmy continues. “But I also believe you need to keep everything at normal levels, not to take anything to extremes. You have to enjoy life. I sacrifice a lot of things; people at my age go to holidays a lot but I enjoy going to shows.”

Though young in his mind and extremely competitive, Jimmy has his feet on the ground – something he has learned during his years in the sport. “You have to be realistic about your own situation,” he explains. “I am not running around thinking I am Scott Brash or Marcus Ehning. When I talk about trying to improve, I mean to improve myself, to be a better version of myself, not to imitate anyone else. When you start thinking you are better than others, that is where the downhill begins. When I was younger, and had a bit of success, I thought I was the king. But I learned that thinking so puts you down very quickly. When it comes to mentality, John (Whitaker) is near perfection; he never carried yesterday with him, just started fresh the next day.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping. Naturally, his horses are a huge source of positive energy for Jimmy. “To do well, you have to love horses. If you don’t like horses, and don’t enjoy being around them, you should not ride," he points out.

With both of his children competing as well as being involved in the family business, Jimmy is constantly being asked about his plans for retirement. “As long as I feel that I am not dragging behind, I am not going to retire. Going to shows and doing well motivates me, and so do my kids. I want to beat them,” Jimmy says. And he is not joking!  “It is a competition and I don’t like them to beat me,” he continues in his trademark lively-way. “If I don’t win, I want them to win but I don’t want to see them in front of me. End of story.”

However, Jimmy is not planning to go on forever and is trying to pass on his mentality and work philosophy to his kids. “At one point, they will take over. But I want them to have their own careers, and let mine be mine. I am trying to teach them about the whole industry, and gradually I let them do more and more. I believe that they must do their own thing and make mistakes. Just like them, when I was 21 I thought I knew more than I know now. They know that I have all the experience, that I have made all the mistakes and they don’t have to do them again. However, they do want to try on their own, and that is the best way to learn. Nowadays there is so much money involved in our sport, but I try to remind my kids that we are seeing the reality of maybe 2% of the world’s population. Money is not everything, how you treat people is more important. You should never look down on anyone. If I want to do well, I have to do better, not wish others do worse.”

“I try to pick up things, to learn from other people,” Jimmy continues when speaking about the secrets to his outstanding stamina. “I think this is also one point where our sport is so unique; we have a very good friendship between the riders – it is like a big family. There are not many sports where athletes discuss their tactics; you don’t see skiers talking to their rivals about what they are going to do. But we equestrians have a good atmosphere, and I enjoy that.”

Photo © Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping. “I think this is also one point where our sport is so unique; we have a very good friendship between the riders – it is like a big family," Jimmy says, pictured here with Leopold van Asten, Henrik von Eckermann and Christian Ahlmann, his team mates from Scandinavian Vikings.

Naturally, his horses are a huge source of positive energy for Jimmy. “To do well, you have to love horses. If you don’t like horses, and don’t enjoy being around them, you should not ride. I think if you work with horses, they work with you. Helena Stormanns once said to me, that she believes the most of my success is because I like my horses and they work for me,” Jimmy tells. “And I think she is right. I don’t try to change my horses, I let them be how they are.”

Jimmy’s curious mind has kept him young, but what he believes has also helped him is the fact that he is social. Very social. “There are not many people I don’t like,” he laughs. “But there is one person who stands out for me, one I respect the most,” he lets us in on a little secret. “Marlon Zanotelli. He is an unbelievable person, such a gentleman and so caring. He is one of the nicest people in this sport,” Jimmy praises the freshly crowned Pan Am double gold medallist. “When he won in Lima, I sent him a message writing that the most important thing is still that you’re a great person.”

Jimmy has made a point to surround himself with good people who inspire him to be better. One of the ways has been creating the Global Champions League team Scandinavian Vikings, where Jimmy is involved not only as a rider but also as the team manager. “The Vikings is one of the reasons I am able to compete at the level I am at the moment,” he explains. “At those shows, there is no room for error. Every mistake counts, it is tough. And it makes you better. Riding at the GCL-circuit has made me better, I am better than I’ve ever been,” he continues.

“I have a dream,” Jimmy says when we ask him about his goals – since his retirement obviously can wait. “I had many nice horses during my career, but not one that was a really good one. I wish I could find one and compete for a few more years, to really compete with the best. I am not as quick as Ben (Maher) and Scott (Brash), but I think I can do well if I have a good horse.”

One short term plan is clear though; in January next year, when Jimmy turns 60, there will be a huge party. “I had a big party when I turned 50 and I don’t think it should be any smaller this time around. I enjoy bringing people together,” Jimmy closes off. 

 

 

No reproduction without permission, copyright © World of Showjumping 

 

 

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