Germany’s Simone Blum (29) etched her name into the record books when becoming the first woman in the 28-year history of the FEI World Equestrian Games™, and only the second female athlete in the 65-year history of the World Jumping Championships, to take the individual title when coming out on top in the Bank of America Championship at Tryon, North Carolina, USA today.
In a finale that kept spectators on the edges of their seats she produced two more fantastic clear rounds with the extraordinary mare, DSP Alice, to put the result beyond doubt. And it was a super day for the Swiss when Martin Fuchs (26) claimed silver with Clooney and Steve Guerdat (36) and Bianca bagged the bronze.
“This was a perfect day. Alice jumped great for the whole week, she had no fault in five rounds of competition, she was unbelievable! And she’s so careful….she has the biggest heart and I think this week she knew that she could win the hearts of all of the sport….she really wanted this win today!” Blum said.
Simone Blum (GER) & DSP Alice
In pole position as the action began, Blum (GER) made Alan Wade’s first-round course, that caught out so many of the other 25 starters, look like a walk in the park.
Steve Guerdat (SUI) & Bianca
Guerdat (SUI) was one place off the medal podium in fourth spot and just over a fence off the leader. and he was on fire today with the mare Bianca, never putting a foot wrong but unable to overtake compatriot Martin Fuchs (SUI) who collected two time faults in an otherwise blissful tour of the track.
Max Kuhner (AUT) & Chardonnay
When Austria’s Max Kuhner slipped out of silver medal spot with two fences on the floor from Chardonnay then Blum had a fence in hand and Fuchs and Guerdat were now stalking her. She couldn’t afford both a fence and a time fault however, but she wasn’t quite clear about that going into the US Trust arena for the last time.
Simone Blum (GER) & DSP Alice
“Actually when I came into the course I was so focused that I wondered – can I have one down or not? Maybe I should try to ride a clear round!” and that’s exactly what she did, never looking in any danger as the incredible Alice soared high and wide before galloping through the finish with just a single time-fault to add.
Going last and keeping her head is all in a day’s work for the rider who, during her early career, was often specifically chosen as anchor rider on teams because of her coolness. And although this was her very first major Championship, she was selected for Tryon because she has shown incredible form at top level in recent years, winning the German Ladies title in 2016 and then coming out to top the 2017 German Men’s Championship in which the best German ladies are also entitled to compete.
Martin Fuchs (SUI) & Clooney
The sense of achievement of all three who were presented with their medals this afternoon by IOC President Thomas Bach and FEI President Ingmar De Vos was tangible. For Fuchs it was particularly special moment because his 12-year-old gelding Clooney underwent colic surgery this spring, but has made a tremendous recovery.
And 2012 Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, was elated – hardly surprising as Bianca produced two breathtaking tours of two enormous tracks.
“My biggest pride today is for my horse. We had a few championships where I think she jumped better than any other horse but we kept just having one down and I always went home a bit disappointed because I really wanted to give her the medal that she really deserves. And I thought it was going to go the same again this year – she was jumping amazing since the beginning of the week, she touched two fences all week..so I tried to get it together today and I’m so proud of her and so happy that today the world can see how special she really is!” he said.
From left to right: Martin Fuchs (SUI), Simone Blum (GER) and Steve Guerdat (SUI)
And asked if it felt special to have two Swiss riders on the podium he replied, “yes, but to have like another brother is even more special! I think everybody knows that I’m the son of Philippe Guerdat and I have an amazing family and I have an amazing brother, but everyone also knows how special Family Fuchs is to me. We train together, we are neighbours, we talk every day. They are like my second family and they treat me like I’m their third son so that makes it as special as it gets!”
For Blum, who also collected team gold on Friday, there is now another very big day ahead. She said she owes her success to her fiancee, Hansi Goskowitz because “he found Alice, and he is the most wonderful man for me in the world and its just because of him I am sitting here! I will marry him in the next four weeks – he will become Mr. Blum!”
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Source: Press release by Louise Parkes for FEI – Fédération Equestre Internationale
Photos: © FEI / Martin Dokoupil