Round one of the inaugural Longines Global Champions League Super Cup is on the books.
Eight teams have advanced to Friday’s semi final with the Paris Panthers, Doha Fursan Qatar, Shanghai Swans, Madrid in Motion, Berlin Eagles, Scandinavian Vikings, Monaco Aces, and Montreal Diamonds all making the cut.
Four more teams saw their dream for the 10 million euro purse evaporate in thin air at the O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
You can read the play-by-play of the high stakes drama and the occasional disaster here. We’re going to skip to the highlights—and lowlights—of the history making class.
Highlight: The pre-game show
Acrobats by the dozen entertained the crowd for the pregame spectacle all of which was streamed on GCT TV. One fellow was twirling from the ceiling by his hair. Because that’s a thing.
Lowlight: The ribbon segment of the pre-game show
Giant pink swaths of fabric dropped from the ceiling to be collected by performers in the ring and… shook around a bit? Maybe it was more magical in person. It didn’t really translate on the live stream.
Highlight: The dramatic entrance
Most shows control the ring entrance with a single plank gate. At the GCL Prague Playoffs, digital doors plastered with the team name and logo opened to reveal the next competitor. It was all kinds of awesome.
Lowlight: Blips in the live feed
Occasionally the GCT and GCL logo would pop up mid feed. Presumably it’s a default screen for lags in the stream (an alternative to the endless buffering circle). But the interruption always seemed to happen at the most inopportune times—mid course. But it was a small price to pay for an exceptionally well executed production. Also, #LiveStreamingIsHard
Highlight: Gregory Wathelet delivering the first clear of the evening
Eighth to go in the order, the Belgian rider proved the course was jumpable. Only seven more would follow suit with clear rounds.
Lowlight: David Will’s heartbreaking round
The first horse to contest the course, David Will’s Forest Gump did not “run, Forest run” like his titular namesake. The 12-year-old bay gelding stopped out at the Czech flag planks mid course, putting an end to the New York Empire’s bid at the Super Cup just as it began. (Every score counts in this team competition.) It’s hard to say who looked more gutted: Will or his teammate Scott Brash.
Highlight: Immediate team totals
Each team of three performs in succession, and every score counts. It’s a disadvantage for the riders, as it limits how much they can consult with their teammates between rounds and eliminates the luxury of a drop score. (See: David Will and the New York Empire.) It’s fantastically straight forward for the fans: no convoluted math required to figure out where your team stands!
Lowlight: “The dodgy double”
The most challenging combination on course proved to be the last line—a very forward four stride (some riders squeezed in five) into a double of verticals. The line put an end to many a nearly clear round.
Highlight: Danielle Goldstein’s hair
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Israel’s Danielle Goldstein made a feathered tribute to Prague with her ever more voluminous extensions.
Lowlight: Home team failing make the cut
The crowd was on their side. Lady luck was not. The Prague Lions were met with rapturous applause but it wasn’t enough to will them into the semi final. Four fault performances from Niels Bruynseels and hometown hero Anna Kellernova put the team at risk. A stop at the Czech planks by Peder Fredricson and Hansson WL was the nail in the coffin. The Prague Lions finished in ninth, just missing the cut off for the semi final.
There are many more highlights of the night, the 1.2 million euro prize money included. And the pressure and prize money doubles tomorrow.
Tune in Friday at 3:00pm ET for the semi-final in the GCL Super Cup on GCT TV.