Martin Fuchs became the sixth Swiss rider in the 62-year history of the event to claim individual Jumping gold at the Longines FEI European Championships 2019 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands today.
At last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, USA, and again at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final in Gothenburg, Sweden earlier this year, the talented 27-year-old had to settle for silver despite heroic efforts with his brilliant gray gelding Clooney. Today however he at last stood on the top step of the podium when pinning Great Britain’s Ben Maher (37) into silver medal spot and young Belgian star, 23-year-old Jos Verlooy who was a member of last Friday’s gold medal-winning team, into bronze.
Just 12 of the top-25 went into the second round over another superb track designed by The Netherlands’ Louis Konickx. Some protesters ran into the arena as Dutchman Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof’s Calimero took their turn, but this consummate horseman and his experienced 12-year-old gelding jumped clear to finish in eighth place at the end of the day.
In the closing stages defending European champions Peder Fredricson with H&M All In, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann with Toveks Mary Lou and reigning world champion Simone Blum from Germany with DSP Alice all faulted at the triple combination before it came down to a fight to the finish between the top three.
Watch highlights from the day.
Fuchs had moved up from overnight bronze into silver medal spot when Verlooy and his chestnut gelding Igor made a mistake at the triple combination first time out today, but Maher held onto the lead with yet another extraordinary round from Explosion W.
Verlooy was foot-perfect second time out, collecting just a single time fault, and when Fuchs did exactly the same then all the pressure was on the British rider who was last into the ring. And he looked to have gold in the bag until the pole on water-tray vertical two from home fell to gasps from the crowd. It would be the Swiss celebrating tonight.
“It looked very much like I would be second again, Ben has been great over the past two years and especially at this championship again I didn’t think I would beat him or that he would make a fault, but obviously I am very happy to be winning here and to finally not have only the silver medal!” Fuchs said.
Looking back on how this week of competition has played out he said, “I had a fault the first day in the Speed class, it was my mistake I took a lot of risk and Clooney struggled at the last combination, but he has been great every day, getting better and better over each round which is one of his best qualities. And I was saying today before going into the final, if I do my job and do the small things right he won’t let me down!”
The first person to give him a congratulatory hug was Irishman Sean Vard. “Sean has been with me a couple of years and is a great groom, friend, supporter and the best person that has ever followed me to the shows. And my family, my parents and my owner Luigi – they are always here supporting me.
“Unfortunately my girlfriend Paris couldn’t be here this week, she’s in California and she’s been up all night to watch me and I had a little chat with her before my second round today,” he continued. “She just said don’t worry you will win it, she’s been saying that for the last three days and I kept saying don’t jinx it, touch wood, touch wood!”
He thanked Clooney’s owner, Luigi Baleri who has been awarded the IJOC Horse Owner of the Year title. “He’s always a big support and he’s like a second father, driving me to shows since I was a junior!” said Fuchs whose first major victory was gold at the Youth Olympic Games in 2010.
Clearly disappointed this evening, Maher was still delighted with this week’s results with Explosion W. “On the day I wasn’t good enough to beat Martin, but all of these horses deserve to win – I made this one mistake and I’m very happy that if anyone has to beat me it is Martin!” he said.
Verlooy said he was delighted for his horse, Igor. “He jumped great and I’m very happy that I have given him this medal, he really deserved it. He is by Emerald and he’s really stepping into his father’s footsteps and I’m very proud of that. At the beginning of the week if you told me I was going to have this bronze I would have been fine with that, so I’m not complaining!”