The 2019 FEI Longines FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final kicks off today in Gothenburg, Sweden, with the speed round, so we thought we’d look back at the first Final, which took place 40 years ago in 1979 at the same venue, the famed Scandinavium.
The concept of a World Cup series was first introduced during the 1978 World Show Jumping Championships in Aachen, Germany, with the qualifying competitions taking place from October to April.
“The idea behind the FEI’s efforts to introduce a World Cup for jumping riders is to give the present winter shows a cohesive factor,” read a Chronicle report in 1978. “The World Cup concept has increased the popularity of other sports (soccer, skiing, etc.) and will endeavor to make equestrian sport better known and more popular, as well as bring it to new and larger audiences.”
Just two circuits were held that first year: North American and European, but plans were in place to eventually add future circuits. The location of the final would alternate between the two circuits, and the second final took place in Baltimore.
The final would consist of two grand prix competitions with two rounds apiece and a rest day in between. Any ties after two rounds would go to a jump-off. In modern times, competitors start with a speed competition the first day and compete in a grand prix the next. After a rest day, horses jump two additional round and, if necessary, a jump-off.
“The American qualifiers had two weeks after the Anheuser-Busch International in Tampa before flying from New York to Gothenburg, a trip that took only 19 hours stable-to-stable,” Findlay Davidson wrote in his report for the Chronicle. “Several riders used collection exercises as taught by Bert de Némethy to get their horses used to jumping in a small ring during the intervening period.
“The Europeans, or many of them, were still campaigning in Geneva, just four days before the show opened in Gothenburg. So on the one side of the Atlantic, horses had had a brief rest, but were not used to jumping indoors, and, on the other side, the spring campaign may have told, but both horses and riders were ready to take fences almost every fourth stride as a matter of course. As one American said, ‘There is a hell of a difference between a 300-yard track and one of 800 yards that we are used to.’ ”
Eight riders from North America and 19 Europeans contested the first FEI World Cup – Volvo, with Austria’s Hugo Simon taking the win on Gladstone over U.S. rider Katie Monahan and The Jones Boy. Both riders took a win and a second-placed finish in the two rounds, necessitating a jump-off, but when The Jones Boy rolled a rail at the penultimate fence, victory went to Simon.(You can read about Monahan’s memories of the competition here.)
“The crowd carried on shouting for all their favorites during the second final,” read the Chronicle report. “All those with four or less faults went into the second round, 20 of them. This included all the American squad less Dennis Murphy, who had a rather surprising 12 faults with Tuscaloosa, possibly beginning to suffer from a chill that had got to some other horses.
“Nine double-clears went into the Barrage [jump-off], with only Katie going clear again on The Jones Boy. This gave her 10 points to add to the 8 she had gained in the first final. However Hugo Simon, who had faulted going into the combination with Gladstone, was the only one with just four faults, so he gained 8 points to add to his earlier 10. A jump-off to decide the title became necessary.
“After Frank Chapot, the technical delegate, had tossed what looked like a silver dollar, Katie had the right to choose who went first. She allowed Hugo to do so. He went clear over the six remaining fences in 24.5 seconds, and when the penultimate fence’s top rail rolled under The Jones Boy’s forelegs the title went to the Austrian.”
Unlike today, few Americans came to Europe on a regular basis—trans-Atlantic travel was reserved for special occasions like championships—so Judy Richter, a well-known U.S. rider at the time, penned a column entitled “World Cup Impressions” for the Chronicle: “Landing at Gothenburg is like dropping through heavy grey clouds into a Bergman movie—a bleak landscape, tall evergreens and frozen lakes. The airport is modern, spacious and quiet after the madness of Miami and London. From the airport, an express bus took us to town—and a brisk walk to the stadium (Scandinavium). There it was like a Washington Capital Center turned into a magical botanical garden—spring flowers from Holland—tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and great sprays of forsythia were everywhere.
“All is foreign, yet familiar,” she continued. “Grooms walking the horses up and down, riders clustered together, joking and planning strategy, and even though it’s just a warm-up class on Thursday afternoon, the stands are full of noisy fans whose numbers and volume increased as the week went on. The course looked simple and straight-forward, with straight lines, narrow jumps (10′ rails and flat cups) and lots of flowers. Soon, the first class is over, and we are OK! The horses were good; the riders rode well, and everyone was less nervous.
“ ‘Quarantine Stables,’ is the nickname of our barn because The Swedes still don’t quite trust our vaccinated horses! The stalls are very airy and comfortable. Here, it feels almost like home, but different in that rivals at home are teammates in Sweden.
“Suddenly it’s over. Simon, Katie Monahan and Eddie Macken, winners of the Volvos, are drag racing around the ring as the crowd goes mad. Then back to the barn and pack up a quiet dinner with the English and Irish, goodbyes the next morning at the airport, and home again.”
Ann Martin also put pen to paper to share her thoughts on the inaugural event: “Hugo Simon is the antithesis in style of the classical performances for which the USET, under the guidance of trainer Bert de Némethy, are so respected in Europe.
“Watching Hugo is never dull,” she continued. “He is an ebullient rider, sits well back in the saddle with a long length of rein whilst attacking the fences with vigour. Flailing arms disguise an excellent eye, and the fact that his groundwork is very thorough or he would be unable to ride in this dashing style without disastrous results.
“The World Cup is here to stay, but it is not yet certain that the final will be held in the United States in 1980 as originally planned, and still hoped. The organizing committee left Gothenburg with the venue unsettled. It is hoped to take a decision subsequent to a report back to Director Max Ammann in May. Immediate problems are finding a U.S. sponsor to carry the cost of the final, and also transporting the European horses across the Atlantic.
“From the competitor’s angle, the show is certainly a success, but there are certain points to be ironed out. For example, top U.S. qualifier Conrad Homfeld received approximately the same prize money for this placing as David Broome, who finished third in the European Qualification list, and the fact that there were more European qualifiers hardly seems an adequate reason.”
Fun Facts: With 15 World Cup Finals to its name, Gothenburg is the most frequent host of the event. Las Vegas comes in second with six finals.
• The course for the 1979 World Cup Final was designed by “Micky” Brinckmann, however Roland Nilsson had to build it in his absence, as Brinckmann suffered a heart attack three weeks before the show in Dortmund, Germany.
• Prize money for the finals totaled 100,000 Swiss francs. Prize money was also awarded to qualifiers based on their placings in the preliminary events. Volvo awarded $25,000 to North American qualifiers and $60,000 to the European league.
• Volvo underwrote the flights for the North American finalists and their horses to Gothenburg.
The 2019 Longines FEI Show Jumping and FEI World Cup Dressage Finals are taking place this week, April 4-7, in Gothenburg, Sweden. The Chronicle has a reporter on the ground, so follow along with our coverage through Sunday night!
Here’s what you need to know to follow along: