In sport, time is often the difference between victory and defeat, and in a display of supreme individual horsemanship, the Netherlands Jeroen Dubbeldam today sealed a growing reputation within the sport of Show Jumping by claiming the Individual World Champion title at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy by less than half a second, the equivalent of a horse's stride.
Going into the Final Four competition at the Stade d’Ornano in Caen on the last day of the Games, Dubbeldam was undoubtedly favourite in many impartial observers’ eyes, but Patrice Delaveau had the majority of the 20,000 crowd behind him, and many asked whether this home advantage would power the Frenchman to the title.
Unique within the sport, the Final Four competition format places the emphasis on the rider’s ability to connect within a three minute time allowance, with a horse which they have never ridden before, and then attempt to go clear over the 10 obstacles, which included a treble. It became a competition of nail-biting intensity, and the atmosphere within the stadium buzzed incessantly. The crowd were magnificent; expectant before the riders entered the stadium, but complete quiet as soon as the riders started jumping; silence broken only by a collective intake of breath when a poll was rattled, and a huge sigh of relief as it stayed up.
Each rider initially rode their own horse, with only Rolf-Göran Bengtsson knocking one pole down in the treble combination, and then the first change took place. Only Dubbeldam and Delaveau, riding Cortes ‘C’ and Orient Express HDC respectively went clear at this stage. But it was in the third stage of jumping that Dubbeldam was shown a possible route to the Gold Medal. Delaveau riding Casall ASK went clear but was agonisingly 0.43 seconds over the allocated time, and therefore accumulated a 1 point time fault. The spotlight returned to Dubbeldam, but the cool Dutchman, riding Cortes ‘C’ this time, held his nerve and rode his third clear round. With both Beezie Madden and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson both accumulating further penalty points, and thereby effectively relegating themselves to 3rd and 4th place, the final stage would be a straight shoot-out between Delaveau and Dubbeldam.
Delaveau entered the ring first on Zenith SFN and rode superbly to go clear, and was immediately followed by Dubbeldam, riding Casall ASK. Knowing that only a clear round would win him the title, the unruffled Dutchman showed once again why he is one of the coolest customers on the circuit, with his fourth clear round winning him the individual World Championship title.
Following his victory, Jeroen Dubbeldam said, “I have had an incredible week, I was already very happy with my Team Gold Medal and I did not think I had a good chance for the Individual as I thought my horse would be too inexperienced to do it the whole week for me, but he did it, he brought me into this Top Four and I’m really, really proud of him.”
Final Result from the Individual Show Jumping Competition:
Gold Medal: Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED)
Silver Medal: Patrice Delaveau (FRA)
Bronze Medal: Beezie Madden (USA)