Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) riding King Edward – winners of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2022/2023 – Basel (SUI)
Copyright ©FEI/Stefan Lafrentz
By Louise Parkes
Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and the horse he calls his “masterpiece”, King Edward, clinched their second superb victory of the season at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2022/2023 Western European League qualifier in Basel, Switzerland today.
Just as it did when they won at the third leg of the series in Verona, Italy in November, today’s competition came down to a seven-horse jump-off against the clock and, second into the ring in the deciding round, the Swedish star and his wonder-horse set the rest a merry dance.
However Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Stargold came very close to toppling them from the top step of the podium when racing home just 0.06 seconds slower to fill runner-up spot ahead of Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer and Vancouver de Lanlore in third.
Just four countries were represented in the jump-off, with three riders from Germany, two from Switzerland and one each from Sweden and The Netherlands. And one of the most heart-warming moments of the day was witnessing 29-year-old German Pia Reich take her turn in the jump-off.
She earned her place in Basel with consistently impressive recent results, but the athlete ranked 279 would be taking on riders ranked considerably higher, including the man who holds not only the number one slot but the title of World Champion – von Eckermann. And she did herself proud when opting for a careful second clear with her 13-year-old mare PB Chaconie to finish in sixth place at the end of a very exciting competition.
No mean feat
It was no mean feat to make the cut, thanks to a sharp first track set by course designers Gerard Lachat from Switzerland and Gregory Bodo from France. The time-allowed of 66 seconds played a major role as today’s winner explained.
“They did a very good job – the time-allowed was a big factor so you couldn’t take your time, you were always under pressure, you always had to move forward and of course with this pressure the faults were coming. If we had even two seconds more we would not only not have had the time faults but we would have had more clears. It suited my horse quite well, but I always knew in my mind that I had to keep going and I couldn’t take my time anywhere”, von Eckermann said.
It was last summer’s Aachen Grand Prix winners, Germany’s Gerrit Nieberg and Ben, who led the way against the clock and they set a good early target when leaving all the poles in place in 34.19 seconds. This time around there were two long runs on the course and the rollback to the planks at fence 11 – advertising the Longines FEI World Cup Finals which will take place in Basel in 2025 – proved pivotal as von Eckermann explained.
“It wasn’t easy, especially after the long run to the previous jump when you picked up speed and then of course had the turn-back and then the combination (double), and you also had to get the angle right to that combination. So there were a few things you had to think about, but it was good sport!”, he said after breaking the beam in 33.43 seconds.