The European Champion wins the FEI Rolex World Cup stage in Lyon. What a beautiful conclusion of 2011. It’s Rolf-Göran Bengtsson’s first big victory after his title in Madrid in September.
The Swede was the most agile competitor in a jump-off with eight other contestants: two Swiss, one Brit, one German, two Frenchmen (Kevin Staut and Michel Robert) and the only woman in the jump-off, the Ukrainian Katarina Offel (who actually has German origins and changed her nationality in order to make her selection for the Championship easier.
This runner-up position is her best result in the French circuit. “Cathleen is in a good shape at the moment, she placed second in the Riders Tour of Hannover last week and today I was not far away from victory.” In fact, she was only 7 hundredths of a second behind Rolf-Göran Bengtsson: “But I cannot see where I could have improved my course so I don’t feel any regret. Rolf-Göran was terrific today and to be the runner-up to the European Champion in such an important class, that’s a beautiful result.”
“Casall made the difference in taking the turns really sharply today, I didn’t dare go too fast on the long lines because that’s why I had made a mistake last week”, explains today’s winner. Yet the Swede stays pragmatic when interrogated about his victory: “It’s my job. Life does not stop once you have a title, one has to continue winning and make sure that the horses keep a good performance.”
Steve Guerdat (a loyal EQUITA fan) and Frenchman Kevin Staut placed third and fourth. What they both had in common was that they were riding horses that were a little less experienced on this ultimately high level, too little in order to take all the risks in such a jump-off: “Nino des Buissonets did not perform too well in Scandinavia and if it hadn’t been Lyon, I would not have come. I was already happy to be in the jump-off and it’s true that I did not take all the risks, but Nino is naturally fast. I knew that my time would put pressure on the others.”
For Kevin Staut, his fourth place in Lyon means that he places fourth in the general ranking of the World Cup, and he perceives the situation differently: “I have the impression that I gave everything with Zeta, but the mare just does not really speed up. To be more serious, this result puts me in a position in which I can give my leading horses, Sylvana and Crack, a break. I am particularly glad that this happened in Lyon, which is considered by all riders to be the best indoor of the world. I do not want to make Sylvie Robert blush, as she still has a lot of work on the map for the preparation of the World Cup finals that she and her team will organize in 2014, but it’s true that Lyon is an event that’s perfect in every respect.”
Proof of this perfection: a sold out Hall 66, which means approximately 25.000 spectators and a beaming Sylvie Robert: “We already have reservations for the 2014. I take it as a sign of acknowledgement for all the work we invest ever since the competition became international, of course boosted by the FEI Rolex World Cup label.”