Sanne Voets (NED) and Sara Morganti (ITA) both retained their Para Dressage Freestyle World titles in Grades I and IV respectively for the third successive time at the Orifarm Healthcare FEI Para Dressage World Championship 2022, in Herning (DEN) today. They did so in the same venue at which they both won their first major international titles nine years ago, at the FEI European Championships of 2013.
“Usually I think of something to say when I get off the horse and come here but I’m pretty much speechless today,” Sanne said. “There are a few moments in your career where you just enter the arena and raise your hand and from that moment on you are just in another dimension and don’t really experience what’s going on in that moment. Today was one of those days.”
On Royal Delight, Italy’s Freestyle queen Sara Morganti danced to a score of 80.653% to take gold in Grade I ahead of Latvia’s Rihards Snikus with 78.400% on King of the Dance. Just a whisker away from that, by 0.013%, was Ireland’s Michael Murphy, who was able to finally put the lid on a disappointing Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games with another bronze in Herning, on Cleverboy, with 78.387%.
Having first won the title at the FEI World Equestrian GamesTM in Caen (FRA) in 2014, Voets rode Demantur RS2 N.O.P. to score 82.485% in this year’s Grade IV competition.
The silver medal went to a delighted Kate Shoemaker (USA), on Quiana with 80.275% while Brazil’s Rodolpho Riskalla edged the bronze medal on Don Henrico, with 78.385%. His medal had extra emotion being his last ride on the soon to retire Don Henrico after a partnership which saw them pick up two World and a Paralympic silver medal, and two further bronzes here.
Katrine Kristensen and Tobias Thorning Joergensen (DEN) delighted their home fans by taking the Freestyle titles in Grades II and III, prompting a sea of red and white Danish flags to be waved around the arena in celebration.
Katrine set the ball rolling by winning the Grade II Freestyle riding Goerklintgaards Quater to music dominated by Queen songs, and scoring 80.354%. Great Britain’s Lee Pearson and Breezer took the silver with 77.860%, while his teammate Georgia Wilson won a delightful but surprise bronze medal with Sakura, and 75.834%.
In the Grade III contest, a world record 86.513%, on Joline Hill, put Tobias nearly 10 points clear of the silver medal, which went to The Netherlands’ Lotte Krijnsen, on Rosenstolz with 76.673%. And breaking her World Freestyle jinx, Great Britain’s Natasha Baker took the bronze, on Keystone Dawn Chorus, with 76.620%
Belgium’s Michèle George reclaimed the Grade V Freestyle title she last won at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2014. On her amazing mare, Best of 8, she scored 82.860% for gold. Frank Hosmar (NED) once again performed to a medley of 80s pop classics to take the silver, on Alphaville N.O.P. with 80.775% – his best score at a World, European, or Paralympic competition – while Great Britain’s Sophie Wells was third, on Don Cara with 79.255%. This was her ninth World or Paralympic title. “I’m so happy I can do this again with another horse,” she added, “because it’s not always easy. It’s not easy to get to the top, and it’s more difficult to stay there. But I’m back, and this is only the start.”
At the end of a brilliant World Championship week for Para Dressage, Denmark has topped the medal’s table with four golds and a silver. The Netherlands are second, with three golds, three silvers and a bronze, with Belgium in third place securing two golds.
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Last Friday night they helped Team Sweden to victory in the Team event, and today Henrik von Eckermann and his brilliant chestnut gelding King Edward added Individual gold to their haul of loot with another extraordinary performance at the Agria FEI Jumping World Championship 2022 in Herning, Denmark.
The dynamic duo were under the ultimate pressure, out in front on the final day with two rounds of jumping still to do and less than a fence separating them from the four combinations chasing them on the Individual leaderboard. Belgium’s Jérôme Guery took the Individual silver medal and The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten claimed the bronze.
A total of 21 combinations tackled the first round and 14 jumped clear, but it was a very different story second time out. Course designer, Dutchman Louis Konickx, explained his thinking about how to let a champion shine. “The first course was fluent and big enough but not too complicated. For the second round we built it up and it was more technical. The time (87 seconds) was short. It was great to see King Edward win, he was clear every day and he has so much scope. I think we have seen wonderful sport!”, he said.
Just 12 came back in the second round and this time only four left all the poles in place. Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Stargold kept themselves in the running with a clear when first into the ring this time out, but another five faulted before van der Vleuten and his individual Olympic bronze medal winning ride Beauville Z NOP followed suit.
Lying fifth in the closing stages, Great Britain’s Ben Maher dropped out of contention when Faltic HB clipped the 1.65m vertical at fence seven, and when Austria’s Max Kuhner and Elektric Blue P kicked out the second element of the spooky water-tray double at fence ten, and added two time faults, there were only three left to go and van der Vleuten was moving rapidly up the scoreboard.
Lying in bronze medal spot Belgium’s Jérôme Guery and Quel Homme de Hus didn’t buckle under the pressure however, and when the 16-year-old stallion and his 42-year-old rider raced through the finish there were already ecstatic scenes in the Kiss and Cry because the pair were now definitely destined for a place on the podium.
Second-last to go however, von Eckermann’s team-mate Jens Fredricson saw silver slip from his grasp when Markan Cosmopolit left three fences on the floor and the only question now left was whether von Eckermann could hold his nerve. He said this evening that he was very grateful to the many Swedish supporters for not going wild when he entered the ring because King Edward is such a sensitive horse.
And setting off with complete focus the pair delivered a copybook tour of this final 12-fence track to put the result beyond doubt. He could hardly believe he had precious gold in his grasp. In the 69-year history of the Jumping World Championship no Swedish rider had ever taken an Individual medal, and to make the first one a golden one was all the more special.
Talking about King Edward, he said, “he has jumped so many clear rounds and done so many good things, it’s just a privilege to ride him. I knew Jerome was clear so I could have no mistakes….I had a really good feeling from the first round so that gave me confidence and the horse felt as fresh as he was the first day.”
Von Eckermann admitted he feels nervous before a big competition. ’It’s always the same with me, two hours before I’m really nervous, can’t eat or anything, but when I get up on my horse that turns somehow into focus and concentration and just trying to stay focused and to do the best round for my horse”, he explained.
And how does it feel to be the new world champion? It’s clearly taking some time to process that…
“For the moment I’m empty – you try to keep emotion pushed down so you can focus, and when it’s done it’s like pulling the plug out a bit. But it’s just happiness I think, and this is a day to remember!”, he said with the biggest smile.
These press releases were written by Louise Parkes and Rob Howell for the FEI.
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