DUTCHMAN Jeroen Dubbeldam has earned himself the title World Champion 2014 in stunning style by banking four clear rounds on four different horses. (Photo © Sindy Thomas).
It was the former Olympic Champion’s second gold of these Games and this disk can be added to the team gold he won with his three Dutch teammates on Thursday.
“It’s a dream,” said Dubbeldam, who won Olympic gold at Sydney 14 long years ago. “I’ve had a fantastic week here.”
In this unique World final, in which four riders start by piloting their own horses and then ride their rivals’ mounts, the tension was high.
Sweden’s highly fancied Rolf-Goran Bengtsson scuppered his chances in the first round with a handicap of four faults on his own horse Casall Ask. His three rivals all jumped clear in round one and Bengtsson ended up in fourth on the final scoreboard.
Beezie Madden, the only rider in this contest to have contested a World Games final before (in 2006), went on to have a fence down in each subsequent round to leave her with the bronze medal.
Basically the gold medal tussle reached a crescendo in the fourth and final round between the crowd’s favourite Patrice Delaveau and Holland’s Dubbeldam. You could hear a proverbial pin drop in Caen’s d’Ornano Stadium once each man started to jump.
But when Dubbeldam went clear on his anchor mount Casall Ask, the title was his, as Delaveau had earlier notched up an expensive one-penalty time fault on the same horse when Casall Ask had stopped the clock less than a second over the 64sec optimum. This extinguished any hope the Frenchman may have had of forcing Dubbeldam into a jump off.
“The pressure was on [in the last round],” said Dubbeldam. “It was my own horse who put me under that pressure by going clear with Patrice, but I was happy with that round. My horse has been so good this week that he really deserved to finish with a clear. I’m really proud of him.”
As the realisation dawned on Delaveau that he would have to settle for the silver, in a sporting gesture he became the first rider to congratulate Dubbeldam — with an embrace — as the Dutchman dismounted from Casall Ask.
This thrilling final took place over a slightly shortened course compared to the earlier rounds this week and with a slightly slower speed (of 375m/min), while the maximum fence height of 1,55m was, again, marginally lower than before.
Frederic Cottier had designed eight obstacles for this test, with 10 jumping efforts and just one combination, the treble at 5, which boasted an oxer in, followed by two verticals. This complex turned out to be the ‘bogey’ fence, particularly for the relatively inexperienced Zenith, who took out an element on this three-part complex twice.
What happened in….
Riders jumped their own horses in this round, and as everything was run in reverse-order, Jeroen Dubbeldam, lying in fourth place going into this final, jumped his own horse, Zenith SFN, first. They rattled the first part of the treble, and rubbed the top pole on the last vertical of this complex but left every fence intact for a zero score.
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Casall Ask dislodged the top pole at 5c for an expensive four faults, this pair, like the previous duo, finishing only half a second inside the time allowed.
Beezie Madden and Cortes C never looked like touching a pole and they crossed the finish flags with a classy clear in the bag.
Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express HDC gave 5c a little rub too but it stayed put and their clean round gave the largely French audience plenty to cheer about.
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson rode Zenith SFN, the first rider to put a strange horse through its paces in the specially built schooling enclosure within the arena (all four horses stayed in the arena too in this enclosure throughout the contest).
Each warm up could take no more than 3min, with the riders allowed to jump each practice fence — a vertical and an oxer — only once.
Zenith began rattling fences at the oxer at 2, and he continued to rub poles through the treble, comprehensively knocking the top rail off at 5c with his front legs. There were further time faults to add for a expensive total of six.
Beezie Madden and Casall Ask added their four faults at the middle part of the treble which was fast becoming the bogey.
Patrice Delaveau’s turn then came with Cortes C and Beezie Madden’s mount obliged with a lovely clear round.
Jeroen Dubbeldam rounded up this section with Orient Express. They came home with a clear round despite a hard rub on the front rail of the oxer at 5a.
Beezie Madden, carrying forward her four faults from round two, played pathfinder in the third round with Zenith. The Dutch horse got too close to 5c, hardly took off and the top rail thudded to the floor.
Patrice Delaveau and Casall Ask were next in. They jumped round clear — giving the Frenchman a clear round strike rate of three out of three — but they collected an unwanted time fault.
Jeroen Dubbeldam’s ride on Cortes C came good too, for the Dutch World team gold medallist’s third zero score on the bounce.
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, by now with a hefty 10 faults on his card, looked to be on for a welcome clear with Orient Express but the usually careful jumper caught the front rail of the final Rolex oxer at 8.
Patrice Delaveau appeared in the arena with Zenith. The pressure was intense. A clear round could force the leading Dutchman to make a mistake. A fault accrued and his rival Dubbeldam could be on for his first World title. The crowd’s favourite left up the triple that the horse had dislodged for his preceding two riders and he crossed the finish line clear to a standing ovation and a deafening cheer.
Dubbeldam’s turn came next and his round with Swedish horse Casall Ask was make or break. A slight rub on the top rail of that ‘bogey’ vertical had the crowd gasping, but all the fences stayed up and the Dutchman had secured the gold from Delaveau.
Once Dubbeldam had finished his impromptu lap of honour and the crowd was silent again, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson entered the arena with Cortes C. For the fourth time this extraordinary horse left every fence up to give his short-term Swedish pilot his first clear of the contest.
Madden herself concluded the action with Patrice Delaveau’s Orient Express. She started in the knowledge that she had a cushion of one fence in hand, and she used that up at the middle element of the triple. However, the rest stayed up to leave America’s leading lady with the bronze.
Results World Championship Individual
Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) — 0
Patrice Delaveau (FRA) — 1
Beezie Madden (USA) — 12
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (SWE) – 14