Nothing can beat the pure joy of crossing the finish line as the winner — whatever sport you compete in — but celebrating before you’ve even touched down over the final fence takes that euphoria to a whole new level.
Qatari showjumper Sheikh Ali Al Thani simply couldn’t contain his excitement as he and the 12-year-old gelding First Devision cleared the last obstacle at the end of a four-way jump-off to decide the World Cup qualifier at the Qatar International Show Jumping Championship.
He needed to remain clear to beat the only other faultless combination, his trainer Jan Tops’ wife Edwina Tops-Alexander (Inca Boy Van’t Vianahof) and with a significantly faster time on the clock, victory was in his sights.
We all know that sometimes victory celebrations can come prematurely, but fortunately for Sheikh Ali his confidence was well founded and victory in this prestigious class was his. And this picture is a brilliant souvenir of the occasion.
“Everyone is asking me how I did it but the truth is I don’t know!” Sheikh Ali told H&H. “It certainly wasn’t the plan — it just came out, it was just a fantastic reaction to the situation.
“Of course, winning in my home country means a lot for me and this is one of the biggest classes. We are preparing for the World Cup final so winning here was really important. But also for our supporters.”
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Thirty-five-year-old Sheikh Ali took up showjumping at the age of 17 and is based in Europe for much of the year at Jan Tops’ Valkenswaard stables. Among his most notable achievements is finishing sixth individually to Nick Skelton at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
This win for Sheikh Ali Al Thani continued a terrific run of form for the Qatari riders after Sheikh Ali’s team-mate Bassem Hassan Mohammed’s victory in the Longines Global Champions Tour grand prix of Doha the previous weekend.
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