Mill Spring, N.C.—Sept 23
The world’s best and most experienced horse-and-rider combinations came to the Tryon International Equestrian Center to contest the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Show Jumping Championships at the FEI World Equestrian Games. But in the end a 29-year-old WEG rookie climbed on top of the podium.
Simone Blum and DSP Alice were the only pair that didn’t touch a rail all week on their way to individual gold. Blum added just 1 time fault to her total in the second round today to become the first woman to win an individual show jumping title at any World Equestrian Games.
Watch their final round:
DSP Alice, an 11-year-old German Sport Horse (Askari—Landblume, Landrebelle), took Blum to her first five-star shows and helped her become a breakout German star.
“Alice jumped really great the whole week,” said Blum, Bavaria, Germany. “She had no [rails] over five rounds, and I think that’s really unbelievable. She was jumping every round so well. She’s so careful and always fighting with the biggest heart. This week she knew she could win the hearts of everyone in the world, and I think she wanted really this win today because she felt so great. She was jumping her heart out for me.”
Swiss riders Martin Fuchs (Clooney) and Steve Guerdat (Bianca) climbed atop the podium today with Blum, earning silver and bronze respectively. McLain Ward finished less than a rail behind Guerdat to take fourth.
Course designer Alan Wade built a true championship course for today’s second round, with four fences that stretched up to 1.65 meters, and a snug time at that. Fuchs added a pair of time faults in his second round, but he was thrilled with Clooney, who was out for several months this year recovering from colic surgery.
“I had a really good feeling with Clooney throughout the whole championship,” said Fuchs. “Today he felt great in the warm-up before going into the final round. I didn’t think too much about the time allowed, because Simone was way ahead. I could have a time fault and still be in front of Steve. He felt great and jumped brilliantly.”
Guerdat credited his supermare Bianca for his bronze medal. They started strong with a win in the opening speed round, then ticked a rail apiece in each of the team rounds. They added nothing to their score today to finish overall on 8 faults.
“Yes, my biggest pride today is for that horse,” he said. “We had a few championships where she jumped better than every other horse, but we kept getting one down. I’d go home disappointed because I wanted to give her the medal she deserves. She was jumping amazing all week. She touched two fences all week, and they both came down. I’m so proud the world can see how special she is.”
All four U.S. riders qualified for this morning’s round, and three returned in the top 12.
Ward’s fourth-placed finish is his best performance so far at a world championship. In 2014 he was fifth on Rothchild, and twice he took seventh with Sapphire. His mount this year, the agile Clinta, had a rail in this morning’s round and jumped clear in the final round over fences, though they picked up a single time fault. Even if they’d been clear against the clock it wouldn’t have been enough for an individual medal.
“I thought she was brilliant,” Ward said. “She jumped the same both rounds. Like I said, we could have used a little bit of fortune in the first rounds. She came to these championships amazing. It’s a little bittersweet not to be in the medals individually, but I’m thrilled with Clinta. I’m proud of this team; this is a great championship for us, and with a little good fortune I think this mare is going to win a gold medal in Tokyo [at the 2020 Olympics]. I think she’s on the way up.”
It was the sixth round of jumping for all the U.S. horses after they had to jump-off for the gold medal in the team competition, and combined with the heat, Laura Kraut could feel it starting to tax her mare Zeremonie. Two light rubs resulted in rails, and they also had a time fault.
“Both of [the rails] were so, so light, even lighter than the other day,” she said. “I think it was hot. I had to ask a lot of her. It was hot and difficult. She started beautifully. She jumped into the triple great, maybe with more momentum than I even needed for a vertical, oxer, oxer, and she just lightly rolled that. Then I actually had the plank no problem; she just must have just touched it behind. I haven’t really had a chance to think about it. She must have just barely touched it and jumped the rest great. She’s had a super week I think.”
Adrienne Sternlicht came back first, ticking a single rail and picking up a time fault with Cristalline, good enough to move up a position to 11th.
“All I wanted to do was perform well out there and give her the best ride that I could,” she said. “I feel never-ending gratitude for my horse for bringing me here. She makes me better than I am. She makes me look good, and OK, I think we had a little bit of an unlucky back rail at the triple bar. I was trying to correct the mistake that I made on Friday.”
The final U.S. rider, Devin Ryan, finished 16th overall.
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We’ll be onsite for the full two weeks of WEG to bring you all the news you need to know plus gorgeous photos and insight into the competition. Be sure to check out the Oct. 8 issue of the Chronicle for detailed analysis.