Germany’s Gerrit Nieberg secured a watershed victory in the eleventh leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2022/2023 Western European League on home ground at Leipzig today. The 29-year-old rider who took the sport by storm when winning the prestigious Aachen Grand Prix last summer showed once again that he’s a real force to be reckoned with when galloping home in a tense jump-off to pin compatriot Richard Vogel into runner-up spot.
Nieberg watched 11 others go before him against the clock, including 25-year-old Vogel who produced a spectacular second round from the fabulous mare Looping Luna who is still only nine years old. Their time of 37.08 seconds looked impossible to beat, but Nieberg had other ideas.
“I watched him on screen and I could see he was really fast, but I had a really good feeling with my horse in the first round so I thought I’d try a bit more and he did an amazing job!”, he said after posting the winning round with the 11-year-old Blues D'Aveline CH.
Frank Rothenberger’s 13-fence first-round track produced 12 clears and six of them were German. Marco Kutscher, double-European champion back in 2005, was first to come home on a zero scoreline second time out with the 10-year-old Aventador S, but his time of 39.76 seconds was blown out of the water by compatriot Vogel who followed him into the ring.
Vogel’s mare, who he describes as “a naturally fast mover”, was spectacular first time out and it all looked like a walk-in-the-park again in round two as she easily forged the lead when well over two seconds quicker. Three horses later, Brazil’s Yuri Mansur and Vitiki were also clear and pushed Kutscher down the order when crossing the line in 39.34 seconds and although Sweden’s Wilma Hellström and the extraordinary one-eyed Cicci BJN gave another of their exhibition jumping performances to return with a clean sheet, their time of 40.68 seconds didn’t threaten for the lead either.
Second-last into the arena, Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer and Vancouver de Lanlore looked fast, but their fault-free run in 38.81 seconds still left Vogel out in front and then there was only one man left to go. Nieberg had his eyes on the prize, and with laser-like focus the pair took every tight turn and scorched down to the last to clinch it. The packed stadium went wild with delight.
Suit him well
The Leipzig arena seems to suit Niebergs well. Riding his other top horse, Ben, he finished a very creditable 13th at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final last year at this same venue, and today’s result has firmly secured his place at the 2023 Final in Omaha (USA) next April.
His father, Lars Nieberg, was twice an Olympic team champion and twice finished second at FEI World Cup™ Finals - in 1995 with the great stallion For Pleasure and in 1998 with Esprit FRH. Yesterday Lars said that if Gerrit could pick up 10 points towards the 2023 Final in today’s competition that would be good but that of course the maximum 20 would be even better. “You see my kid does what I tell him!”, he joked this evening after Gerrit clinched it.
The final result saw Vogel in runner-up spot followed by Schwizer in third and Mansur, Kutscher and Hellström in the next three places.
Talking about the super-talented Looping Luna Vogel said “it was the first time for her jump that kind of course and I didn’t expect to be in the top placings, certainly not second today!” He has been competing in Florida and returned only for this one World Cup show with the intention of returning to the US immediately afterwards.
But today’s result has left him with a bit of a quandary because he finds himself in tenth place on the Western European Leaderboard and well in sight of a qualifying spot for Omaha if he remains in Europe to compete at some of the remaining three legs. Riding United Touch S he won the fifth leg of the series in Stuttgart (GER) in November, gaining maximum points there so now with a total of 37 he’s not far off the qualification zone as the top 16 riders will make the cut. It’s a bit of a dilemma.
There’s no confusion for Gerrit Nieberg however. “The World Cup Final has always been our main goal and now we are going!”, he said this evening. He is spoiled for choice with either Ben or the brilliant Blues D'Aveline CH to ride.
Talking about the 11-year-old gelding he said “we are a team for 2.5 years now, he did his first World Cup in Helsinki and was second so although he’s quite new on this level he has been very good. He’s a great horse, he always wants to give his best in the ring and he has scope and attitude. But the best part of his character is that when he knows I need him then he tries harder - and then I do too!”
The Western European League now moves on to the third-last leg in Amsterdam (NED) next weekend with more points up for grabs and world champion Henrik von Eckermann from Sweden still heading the standings followed by Frenchmen Julien Epaillard and Kevin Staut in second and third, Germany’s Daniel Deusser in fourth and Nieberg now in fifth place.
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