Double Olympic team gold medalist and five-time Olympian Ingrid Klimke was announced as winner of the Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete award at the FEI Awards Gala in Moscow on Nov. 19
The glittering gala awards ceremony, which took place in the splendid surrounds of the Kremlin State Palace in the Russian capital, was attended by more than 400 distinguished guests, including top sporting legends, national federations, FEI partners and stakeholders.
Tonight’s award is the latest in a series of accolades for German eventing legend Klimke, who was also nominated for the Best Athlete honor in 2015 and 2017.
In September, the 51-year-old successfully defended her title at the Longines FEI Eventing European Championships on home turf in Luhmühlen with SAP Hale Bob OLD, becoming only the second person in European history to win back-to-back titles on the same horse. Klimke’s stunning performance in Luhmühlen also led Germany to team gold.
Klimke is the third German female to win the award, following in the footsteps of six-time Dressage Olympic gold medalist Isabell Werth in 2017 and FEI World Equestrian Games (North Carolina) show jumping champion Simone Blum in 2018.
“I’m really proud that after Isabell Werth and Simone Blum, I’m now winning,” Klimke said. “It’s three women from Germany from three different disciplines. I’m very proud to be here and to win the Peden Bloodstock FEI Best Athlete Award.”
The evening saw Semmieke Rothenberger also flying the flag high for Germany when she took home this year’s Longines FEI Rising Star Award. The 20-year-old has won 22 FEI European Championship medals ranging from ponies through to young riders.
“To win the Longines FEI Rising Star Award it’s really special for me as it sums up this year perfectly,” Rothenberger said. “What makes it really special is that my brother has won it before. So now we’ve got two people in this family who’ve won the Rising Star award. That just makes me very, very happy. My future goal, after following in the footsteps of my brother, is to compete in the Olympic Games. Now that’s a very big goal, but it would be a nice thing to work towards.”
The Cavalor FEI Best Groom Award was presented to Madeleine Broek of the Netherlands in recognition of her tireless efforts behind the scenes for Dutch Olympian and jumping star Marc Houtzager. The award is given each year to grooms who work behind the scenes providing the best possible care for their equine athletes.
“It’s not really a job but a way of living and you get so much back from the horse, so that’s why it will never be a boring day or a boring week,” Broek said. “Winning the Cavalor FEI Best Groom Award means a lot to me because you feel really appreciated for everything you do. It’s a lot of work and I feel really appreciated.”
This year’s FEI Solidarity Award went to Uno Yxklinten of Sweden, who is the educational leader of the first farriers’ training program in Zambia, set up with the aim of increasing the know-how of farriers in order to improve the well-being of horses in the African country.
The award is given each year to an equestrian development project or an individual or organization that has demonstrated skill, dedication and energy in expanding equestrian sport. “Winning the FEI Solidarity Award 2019 is of course something big,” Yxklinten said. “I’m humbled, and I’m so happy that we actually got this prize. It makes a difference in Zambia for many people.”
Taking the FEI Against All Odds Award was Chinese rider Zhenqiang Li, who started riding at the age of 27 and became a professional athlete just two years later. He was the first Chinese equestrian athlete to obtain the minimum eligibility requirements for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. In 2009, his horse Jumpy passed away from cancer leaving Zhenqiang without his beloved equine partner and in financial trouble. Zhenqiang recovered from those difficult times, setting up an equestrian center in Guangzhou.
“I hope that other Chinese riders will now follow the title of this award, Against All Odds, to work together to overcome the challenges of developing Chinese equestrianism,” Li said. “Thank you to the FEI for supporting the sport in China and for all the people who voted for me at home and abroad. Your support and encouragement will inspire other Chinese riders to reach their goals.”
FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez presented the award to Li’s children Yaofeng Li and Zuxian Li who were in the Russian capital on their father’s behalf. Zhenqiang Li competed with his son Yoafeng Li, a former Youth Olympic Games athlete, to earn China’s qualification earlier this year for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The FEI Against All Odds Award is for someone who has pursued their equestrian ambitions despite a physical handicap or extremely difficult personal circumstances.
“Each year we receive a high caliber of nominees for the FEI Awards,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “Our winners this evening are perfect examples of the excellence, commitment, dedication and courage that are required in equestrian sport.
“When my predecessor HRH Princess Haya introduced these awards 11 years ago, our hope was to celebrate not just sporting achievement but also the unsung champions of our sport. This evening’s winners have inspired everyone at tonight’s gala here in Moscow as well as a new generation of athletes who need heroes to emulate.”