Last year, they gave away the victory at the very last obstacle. This year, the team from Belgium took revenge and celebrated the longed-for triumph in the renowned Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup and thus secured themselves the prestigious Nations’ Cup victory. Exactly 60 years ago, the collaboration between the car manufacturer and the CHIO Aachen began. In this anniversary year, the show-jumpers delivered a battle worthy of the occasion, which ended with the victory for the team of national coach, Kurt Gravemeier. Pieter Devos with Dream of India Greenfield, Olivier Philippaerts with Cabrio Van De Heffinck, Jos Verlooy with Domino and Gregory Wathelet with Conrad De Hus only picked up six faults after two rounds over the 510-metre long course built by Frank Rothenberger.
Wathelet, who jumped clear twice laid the foundation for their success. The rider who is currently placed 14th in the world rankings – incidentally the only Walloon among three Flemings in the team – only bought his intentional Championship horse, Sea Coast Forlap DC, two weeks ago in the Ukraine. Now, he is can simply carry on celebrating victories with his second horse.
“Aachen is always an exciting event, there is nothing better. Especially, when one heads the field with such a young team, that really fought hard right until the end. I am incredibly proud of the lads and I am delighted. With the World Equestrian Games in mind, we will continue working in a focused manner, but first of all we want to celebrate this victory this evening,” commented the national coach, who already won in Aachen with the German team four times in the past. This was just the first stroke with Belgium. “But it won’t be the last one,” said Gravemeier with a grin.”
USA came second. The team comprising of Lucy Davis with Barron also jumped double clear, Reed Kessler with Cylana, Lauren Hough with Ohlala and Kent Farrington with Willow, finished on a total score of eight faults, followed by last year’s winners from the Netherlands (10). The German team, who performed brilliantly in the first round – all riders jumped clear, in the second round Marcus Ehning with Plot Blue, Daniel Deusser with Cornet D’amour and Ludger Beerbaum with Chiara each picked up four faults, which meant a final score of twelve faults. Katrin Eckermann, who competed in a Nations’ Cup for the first time in Aachen, made a mistake at the water ditch, which ended in a catastrophe. Just after landing, the 24-year-old took a fall with Firth Of Lorne. The accident, which led to the pair being disqualified, but fortunately the horse and rider were not seriously injured. Nevertheless, it did put an end to the dream of victory for the host nation that is trained by Otto Becker. “The most important thing is that Katrin didn’t injure herself. Which is the case, thank God,” the 55-year-old said. “We had a fantastic first round. People already started congratulating us, but then we had some bad luck with a lot of unfortunate mistakes,” he added. Last week in Falsterbo, Sweden, his team managed to move up into first place after a moderate first round. This time it went the other way. “Of course, it would have been much better if we had succeeded in winning in Aachen. But, we didn’t manage to carry it off in the end. We will have to live with that. But overall the overriding impression is that all of the horses jumped well,” Becker commented. He added “Next year, we will give it another crack.” Germany triumphed on home ground at the CHIO for the last time in the year 2008.
The US coach, Robert Dover, was very happy with his riders. “It is a great privilege being able to ride here. We already had a good day yesterday and today was even better.”
The Oranje trainer, Rob Ehrens, was also pleased, rather than disappointed. “The first round went very well, but in the second round things didn’t run as smoothly. But it was still wonderful in this fantastic setting and we are satisfied at coming third,” the 56-year-old stated.
The CHIO organisers were also well satisfied: In total, 50,300 visitors came to the Soers on Thursday.
photos: Karl-Heinz Frieler