Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden of the USA took the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Championship on Sunday in Paris, capping a three-day stellar performance in which she rode perfectly clear in four of five rounds of competition.
Madden, who at 55 is the oldest rider to ever win the title, won Day 1 and Day 2 of the event, and came into Day 3 carrying zero penalty points.
In the final Grand Prix, she stayed clear in the first round and only knocked one rail in the second, for a time of 67.31 seconds and four penalty points aboard the 12-year-old stallion Breitling LS.
Her exemplary performance throughout the entire Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals gave her a tremendous edge heading into Sunday’s competition and laid down a gauntlet for the other riders, many of whom had won the World Cup™ title in previous years.
It was the USA for both gold and silver on the podium, as American Devin Ryan took a hard-won second place on nine-year-old Eddie Blue.
Ryan, who wasn’t expected to factor into the top finishers, showed maturity and grit throughout the three days of riding and came from third place to go clear in the final round with a time of 67.50 seconds and only six penalty points.
Sweden’s Henrik Von Eckermann, aboard his mare Toveks Mary Lou, was in second place going into Round B of the Grand Prix but knocked a rail down early in the course.
Even though he finished with a fast time of 66.07 seconds, Von Eckermann wound up with eight penalty points and landed in third place for the bronze medal.
It was a suspenseful day of competition on Sunday at the Accor Hotels Arena in Bercy, Paris. Designer Santiago Valero Ullastres of Spain set two incredibly difficult courses, each of which required rhythm, balance, quick thinking, and rider harmony with the horse.
With 12 obstacles and 15 efforts, the first course necessitated exceedingly tight lines and careful strategizing over stride count.
In Round A, a few riders managed to go clear of penalty points, including Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, who also went clear in Round B, snagging him extra prize money even though he failed to make the podium.
The clock was a factor for many, and while a couple of riders succeeded in negotiating the course without touching a rail, they accrued one penalty point for being over the allowed time of 65 seconds. Such was sadly the case for Michael Whitaker of Great Britain, amazingly, riding in his 25th FEI World Cup™ Finals.
The second round of riding saw a few riders move up into podium contention, but luck wasn’t with them on this fine April day in the City of Light.
An equally demanding course, this time to be completed on a more fatigued horse, got the best of many athletes, who struggled with both the highly technical layout and the allowed time of only 68 seconds.
Tension and exhilaration were palpable in the arena, as one by one, the podium and top 10 places were decided.
Fourth place in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals went to McLain Ward of the USA, the defending champion. Ward entered the Grand Prix tied for fourth place, and he cemented his ranking in the second round, even with a bar down on each of the two rounds of competition.
Champion Madden praised her USA team for their success at this year’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals in Paris. “Really congratulations to the whole American team to have 3 in the top 4 is quite a showing here this week. It bodes for a strong year for us hopefully,” she said.
Olivier Philippaerts of Belgium, also tied for fourth going into Sunday’s event, had to settle for fifth place. Like Ward, he ended on 16 penalty points, but with a time of 66.49 seconds to Ward’s 65.72, couldn’t quite squeak past the American.
Two other 16-faulters gave Ward and Philippaerts great chase in the Grand Prix. Eduardo Alvarez Aznar of Spain finished in sixth place, while Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo of Colombia took seventh.
Rounding out the top ten finishers were Daniel Deusser of Germany, Pieter Devos of Belgium, and Switzerland’s Guerdat, respectively.
If the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals is any indication, the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina in September will be another event to remember.
With so many young riders moving up the ranks to challenge the seasoned pros, the competition is sure to be as exciting as Paris.
Final results here.