Herning, Denmark—Aug. 14
Two hours before Sunday’s final competition in the Agria FEI Jumping World Championship, Henrik von Eckermann wasn’t feeling so great. His nerves were acting up and he couldn’t eat. He was jittery in anticipation of today’s two rounds that would determine the individual world champion. King Edward, his partner for team gold, hadn’t touched a pole all week, but less than a rail separated the Swedish pair from the rest of the top five riders.
As soon as he put his foot in the stirrup, swung into the saddle and patted King Edward’s chestnut shoulder, von Eckermann said, all his nerves faded away.
“When I come up on my horse, it all turns on the focus and concentration,” he said. “I try to really stay focused and do the best round for my horse—then it’s OK.”
Von Eckermann managed just that, staying clear for both rounds over Louis Konickx’s tracks to win the individual world championship.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “For the moment I’m just empty. I’ve been trying to push down emotions and not get excited and just focus on what [I was] doing. Now that it’s done, it’s like pulling the plug out of it. It’s a day to remember.”
Belgian Jérôme Guery and Quel Homme De Hus never dropped a rail all week either, but logging a single time fault on Friday meant they finished in second. Maikel van der Vleuten and Beauville Z N.O.P. leapfrogged up the standings from eighth to bronze after two clear rounds today. Great Britain’s Ben Maher finished just off the podium in fourth with Faltic HB.
Twenty-five riders qualified for today’s two-round individual final, and 21 started. Thirteen were faultless in the first round—three more than Konickx expected.
“For me it’s clear that the [challenge] should be second round and that the first round should be a nice round, a fluid round—big enough but not too complicated,” he said.
But in the second round he bumped up the difficulty.
“We built it up,” he said. “It was a little more technical, the time was short and you can see that we had nice jumping.”
In Round 2, second-ranked Jens Frederikson fell from second place to 10th when Markan Cosmopolit ticked three rails and notched a time fault. Last to go, the pressure was on von Eckermann and the crowd, full of Swedes, fell silent.
“I just knew that Jérôme was clear, I thought, ‘OK, we have no mistakes to do,’ ” said von Eckermann. “I was a little bit [back and forth] with two verticals, [whether to do] four strides or five strides. Jérôme usually takes out a stride [but he added]. I said, ‘Stick to the plan’ which we walked, which was four strides, which was easy for me. I tried to stay focused. From the first round, a very good feeling made me confident.”
And sitting on King Edward, Dufour Stables’ 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Edward 28—Koningin De Lauzelle, Feo), just added to that confidence.
“The horse felt fresh, like the first day, going into the last round,” he said. “I felt before I went in that if I ride good and I have a fault, I can live with it. I didn’t want to go in there and not ride to plan, and that’s why I had a fault. I’m happy; I’m happy it worked.”
Guery was thrilled to finish as the runner-up to the Longines World No. 1 rider aboard Quel Homme De Hus.
“He’s really confident in himself,” he said of the 16-year-old Holsteiner stallion (Quid De Revel—P-Hawaii, Caudillo 3). “He gives everything, always. For him nothing is difficult; everything is easy. When it’s difficult for other horses for him it’s easy and he’s more focused. I like when it’s difficult. For me most difficult was the speed because he’s not a fast horse.”
Van der Vleuten, who rides for the Netherlands, is a championship veteran but cherished his individual bronze.
“King Edward is a horse who’s not beatable—he’s unbelievable at the moment,” said van der Vleuten. “Congratulations to Henrik to make it come true—King Edward deserved that medal. Beauville deserved also a medal. He jumps his heart out, and the hardest part is to keep him in the middle, that’s the only thing, but the rest he really tries and he’s extremely careful. He deserved the bronze medal.”