Defending champion and two-time title holder, Beezie Madden (USA) was likely aiming a little higher than a tenth place finish in Round I of the Longines Jumping FEI World Cup™ Final at Gothenburg Horse Show, Sweden.
But she’s not letting a little thing like a long climb get in the way of a podium finish.
Madden and Breitling LS posted the fastest time of the day in Thursday’s opening speed class, clocking in at 60.74 seconds. But a rail at the last, and three added seconds to their time, pushed them to tenth.
Was she deterred? All signs point to no.
“I thought my horse was excellent,” said Madden after the class. “Everything went according to plan. He got a little off going to the wall, but he made a great recovery on the line and through the triple. I think it was all good; I think I just pushed a little too hard in the last fence, but there is still a long way to go…I felt like he was jumping great, and he is generally great at jumping a lot of rounds in one week, so fingers crossed.”
That optimistic outlook served her in today’s jump-off class. Madden and the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion returned with a clear to qualify for the eight-horse jump off in Round II of the individual championship. Once again, they posted the fastest time of the day—this time by almost three seconds!—and once again they faulted at the final fence.
The result puts them in fourth going in to Sunday’s two-round showdown.
Now some riders might say they’re relieved or cautiously optimistic after jumping six positions up the standings. Some might admit to being frustrated at faulting twice in the same spot. Madden’s response: “So fun!”
“[Breitling LS] felt great in the warm-up and felt great going in. I have a horse that is on his game,” said the two-time Olympic gold medalist. “We had a little touch at the first fence, and I think after that he kicked into gear and was amazing. I think this is one of the more difficult second phases [I’ve seen]. Yesterday was a little bigger than normal, and today was quite difficult—big and technical. I was tense; we need to do a little catching up, so this is good for me—so fun!”
Sitting on just three penalties, America’s leading podium hope is tied for fourth with Niels Bruynseels (BEL), Olivier Philippaerts (BEL), and Martin Fuchs (SUI) in the overall standings. Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar leads on a zero score. Sweden’s Peder Fredricson is a single penalty behind followed by yesterday’s first-round winner, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat on two penalties.
Less than one rail separates the top five riders from the leader headed into Sunday’s final.
But as course-designer Santiago Varela pointed out, the game is far from over.
“I want to say congratulations to the riders, they did a great job tonight. Today was a new day but a lot can change on Sunday because we have two more rounds. We are only half-way through this evening.
“There’s a lot more jumping to do.”