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And emotions ran high as winning team member, Ludger Beerbaum, said goodbye to this great sport with a trademark foot-perfect performance. You could hardly hear a pin drop during his last-to-go round with Casello which ensured the two-way showdown that would seal victory for his country.
Team USA claimed the third step of the podium when finishing with just four faults on the board, but they were hotly pursued by Italy, Ireland and Switzerland who each finished with five as the time-allowed played its part. The defending champions from Belgium had to settle for sixth place ahead of the Dutch whose form seems to have deserted them in recent months.
The top three teams all called up new recruits today for their four-member sides.
GB brought in Jessica Mendoza and Spirit T in place of John Whitaker and Ornellaia, but with 12 faults for the youngest team member it fell to Scott Brash to rescue the situation with a clear from Ursula which saw his side post the first zero score of the competition.
19-year-old Lillie Keenan from the USA pulled it back for the States with a fantastic clear from Super Sox. Called in at the last moment when Lucy Davis’ Barron wasn’t quite himself, Keenan really measured up under pressure. This young lady is going to make a name for herself and is definitely one to keep an eye on in upcoming months.
Check out the highlights of this incredible final and see for yourself...
Skelton was first with a terrific time of 41.82 seconds to set the target, but Ehning said afterwards that he already knew he could beat the Olympic champion. “I watched him go and I knew I could be faster than him. I was really under pressure - I wanted this win for Ludger as it was his last Nations Cup” he explained.
Ehning used his turning skills to full effect, cutting corners everywhere and galloping down to the last more than two seconds up on the clock to clinch it.
Janne Friederike Meyer said “Ludger has always been a great idol for my generation and I was so proud to be with him in his last Nations Cup. There are some special days and today was one of them. Every single fence, everybody jumped with him and then he was clear and everyone went crazy!”
Beerbaum admitted that tonight’s prizegiving brought back memories of his individual gold medal victory with Classic Touch at the Real Club de Polo during the Barcelona Olympic Games back in 1992. And he was very touched by his team-mate’s tributes. “The way they expressed their thoughts, their feelings, their emotions about our performances in the past months, the good luck, the bad luck, the good moments but also the disappointing moments that says it all. They were really fighting for me today and it’s unbelievable to have this support. For me it couldn’t be a nicer end”, he said.
1. Germany 0 in first round
2. Great Britain 0 in first round
3. USA 4 faults
4. Italy 5 faults
5. Ireland 5 faults
6. Switzerland 5 faults
7. Belgium 16 faults:
8. Netherlands 20 faults:
This was Déjà vu for Ludger as this was the same arena where he collected his individual gold medal victory with Classic Touch during the Barcelona Olympic Games back in 1992.
8 teams qualified for the second and deciding Final competition, and it came down to a jump-off between the eventual champions and Great Britain when each were tied on a zero score after the first round.
Great Britain was represented by the horse-and-rider partnership that claimed individual gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games last month - Nick Skelton and Big Star.
German veteran, Ludger Beerbaum, made his final appearance for his national team tonight a winning one, producing a vital clear with Casello to ensure a jump-off.
According to the special rules applying to the Furusiyya Final, countries were permitted to call up reserve riders for tonight’s competition and each of the podium placed teams did so.
Team USA finished third when posting a four-fault result.
Text by Louise Parkes & Paul Stretton/FEI
Photography by Richard Juilliart/FEI