At the age of 60, and after a long and successful career, the hugely popular showjumper Geir “Jimmy” Gulliksen finally won his first World Cup qualifier on Sunday (24 February). Then, proving horses are always the best levellers, the Norwegian rider promptly hit the deck in dramatic fashion during the prize-giving ceremony.
“I feel fine actually — except for my arse!” said Geir, who bounced back to his feet and left the ring with a big smile. “I wouldn’t change anything that happened today. Even to fall off, it doesn’t matter, I couldn’t be happier. This is the highlight of my career.”
The 14th and final qualifier for the Western European League took place in Gothenburg, Sweden and the veteran rider’s career-defining victory with the 14-year-old “pony” VDL Groep Quatro came after a five-way jump-off.
His biggest threat came from 22-year-old Swiss rider Bryan Balsiger, riding the 13-year-old mare Twentytwo Des Biches, who produced the only other double clear of the competition to finish runner-up.
“I’ve been coming to this show for 27 or 28 years and I always hoped for a day like this,” said Geir, who bought Quatro from Dutch rider Mikael van der Vleuten two years ago.
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“I think no one thought he would jump like he jumped today. He doesn’t have all the scope, but he is so athletic and he believes he’s just as good as any other horse. There was no place on the course today where I thought he would struggle — he just makes it happen. He’s a bit like a pony, and he never stops — he amazes me more and more.”
Earning maximum points in Sweden, Geir finished the series in 10th place and secures his place as one of 18 riders from Europe heading to the World Cup Final in Las Vegas, USA, in April. The world number one Steve Guerdat ended up as the league leader and heads to America to defend his title for the fourth time.
Read all about Gothenburg, and the rest of this week’s international highlights, in the next issue of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 27 February.
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