Ahlmann is the
Master at
Mechelen

30 December 2018

Christian Ahlmann and Boyd Exell claimed victories on a thrilling final day of FEI World Cup™ action in Belgium...

Christian Ahlmann of Germany took home the gold medal in Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ competition at Mechelen this weekend, beating out three of the world’s best riders in an exhilarating jump off to cap Leg 9 of 13 qualifying events for the Western European League.

 

France’s Kevin Staut took second place at the Belgian competition, happily gaining more points to punch a ticket to the Gothenburg finals in April. Rounding out the podium was Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands, currently ranked No.1 in the world.

 

In FEI Driving World Cup™ competition, reining World Cup™ and FEI World Equestrian Games™ champion Boyd Exell of Australia took another win at Mechelen, his fifth in eight legs of nine heading towards Driving Finals in Bordeaux in February. Bram Chardon of the Netherlands took second place, and Chester Weber of the USA snagged third, thrilled to finally land on what has been an elusive spot on the podium for him this season.

The Jumping event began with 39 competitors on a course by Eddie Geysemans of Belgium, a track that tested the mettle of every single combo, from the first fence to the last, in a daunting 71 seconds.

With four incredible equestrians making it into the jump off, the audience at Nekkerhal Stadium were presented with a stunning display of Jumping equitation.

 

Up first, Kevin Staut, 2016 Olympic Team gold medalist at Rio, attacked the abbreviated course with vigor aboard new ride Edesa’s Cannary to lay down a time of 40.98 seconds for the rest to beat.

 

Try as they did, Harrie Smolders and his stallion Don VHP Z couldn’t quite top that at 41.42 seconds.

 

Next up, veteran rider Ludger Beerbaum had a great start but lost his line on the last two obstacles, passing the penultimate fence on 15-year-old Casello and racking up 14 penalty points.

 

 

With the door to victory open to him, Christian Ahlmann knew he had to keep young stallion Clintrexo Z locked on the fences and beat Staut’s super fast time. His four-time Olympic participation and former FEI World Cup™ title held him in good stead, and he hit the finish line in 38.97 seconds for the win.

 

Sunday’s triumph in Mechelen pushed Ahlmann to sixth place in the current Western European League standings. Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat holds the number-one position on 58 points, followed by Daniel Deusser of Germany and Kevin Staut, both on 51 points.

 

Just ahead of Ahlmann, Peter Devos of Belgium and Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia hold the fourth and fifth rankings, respectively.

 

With legs still to come in Basel, Leipzig, Amsterdam, and Bordeaux, there are still lots of Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ qualifying points up for grabs, so stay tuned.

Driving qualifying points are another matter, however, with only one leg remaining in Leipzig before the Finals in Bordeaux in February.

Boyd Exell showed the festive late night crowd in Nekkerhal Stadium why he’s the king with yet another super-fast clear round in the Mechelen drive off.

 

Jeroen Houterman’s tight, winding course on Sunday included a bridge and a chicane, demonstrating that the backsteppers on each team were as vital as the drivers in navigating the tricky array of obstacles.

 

Nowhere was this more apparent than when Frenchman Benjamin Aillaud fell from his carriage, his arm tangled momentarily in the reins. Without blinking, his navigator hopped into the driver’s seat and brought the slightly panicked horse team to a stop as they ran on through the course.

 

Fortunately, everyone emerged unscathed from the accident, but it showed the tremendous teamwork necessary from all in this exhilarating but sometimes risky discipline!

 

In the second-round drive off, American Chester Weber was up first, entering the arena to the strains of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” With only one ball down for 4 penalty points, he finished in 143.11 seconds, for a total of 147.11 and laid down the gauntlet for Chardon and Exell.

 

Young up-and-coming Bram Chardon, son of Driving legend Ijsbrand Chardon and a WEG Team medallist, had a swift round next, crossing the line in 132.46 and no penalty points.

 

It seemed like Chardon’s time would be impossible to beat, but Boyd Exell showed extraordinary control and speed to pull off a finish in 130.95 seconds for the win, his backsteppers hanging precariously off the carriage and practically lifting it around the corners.

 

After this weekend in Mechelen, Boyd Exell remains in the lead for the FEI Driving World Cup™ qualifying standings. Bram Chardon is now tied with countryman Koos De Ronde for second place, followed by Jérôme Voutaz of Switzerland who finished a disappointing seventh on Sunday after a costly hang up on one of the obstacles.

 

Who will punch a ticket to Bordeaux? Catch all the action on the road to the FEI Driving World Cup™ Finals on FEI TV.

 

Words by Patricia Salem

Images by Dirk Caremans

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