While the sun shone with all its might in the Mannheim sky, the arena, where action of the 2007 FEI European Jumping Championship began today, was no less bright. Indeed, Christa Jung, the first woman to design a European Championship course, had filled it with dazzling reds and blues to go with the gigantic yellow sunflowers decorating fence 7 set in the middle of the arena.
After a first and very exciting competition, in which the leader kept changing until the very end, Switzerland’s Christina Liebherr on L.B. No Mercy scored the fastest time (67s18) and is in the lead. Home nation all time favourite Ludger Beerbaum on Goldfever was 2s21 slower and with 1.11 penalties lies in second. Twenty-five year old Stefan Eder of Austria riding Cartier PSG is third (1.12 penalties – time 69s42).
“I’m very pleased with today’s result. That’s what I had aimed at all the way,” Christina Liebherr said. “I took some risks but that’s what you have to do, otherwise you won’t win.” She is lucky to have a very fast horse in No Mercy, so fast that he can actually be uncontrollable at times. “But Jumping is in the head and we pulled it out today,” Christina declared. She suffered a bad fall and was concussed at Aachen. To overcome that, she has done some mental preparation using special training techniques and this is clearly paying off today.
Ludger Beerbaum was also understandably pleased and hopeful to remain at the top. His 16-year old stallion Goldfever, who was almost on his to semi-retirement earlier this year, is in a surprisingly good shape. He was very convincing in the Grand Prix of CSI 5* Cannes and then at Aachen and after Ludger’s other top horse Couleur Rubin, who was originally to compete at Manneheim had been taken ill with thrombosis, a rare condition for horses, Goldfever was back in the arena.
The news of the day is the third place of Stefan Eder who was himself surprised to be in such a prominent position. He sees, however, his mission to be team-oriented as Austria is seeking qualification for next year’s Olympic Games.
Despite a scary start, Germany is first in the team competition (total score 5.18), followed by Switzerland (7.13) and The Netherlands. It was Aachen 2006 all over again for Marcus Ehning’s ride Noltes Küchengirl who had two refusals at the blue dolphin-shaped brick wall and was eliminated from today’s competition. However, the German team were able to pull together and secure a very promising beginning.
The 13-obstacle, 16-jumping effort course, which opened on an interesting curvy line with a four-metre wide water jump at fence three, was unusual in that it offered no less than three different options (at fences 4; 7a-b and 8; and 11a-b). This required good planning from the riders as, in a speed competition like today’s, shorter routes were obviously to be preferred but they lead to more difficult lines and any mistake costs expensively indeed. Another challenge came from the mixed field: it had to properly test the world’s best riders while allowing those who are less experienced to also compete safely.
The 2007 FEI European Championship continues tomorrow with the first round of the Nations Cup in which all 82 competitors will be taking part.
Today’s competition was conducted over a big Table A course and judged under Table C at a speed of 400 m per minute. The scores obtained by each competitor were converted into points by multiplying the time of each competitor by the coefficient 0.50. The competitor with the lowest number of points after this conversion (Christina Liebherr) was given zero penalties, the other competitors being credited with the number of penalties representing the difference in points between each of them and the leading competitor. If a competitor is eliminated (e.g. Marcus Ehning today), he/she was awarded the same number of penalties as that incurred by the competitor who was the most severely penalised, plus 20 penalties. Adding the 20 penalties was done after the time difference had been converted into penalties.