After a thrilling final decider to the team competition at the European Showjumping Championships at the San Siro racecourse in Milan, Italy (30 August-3 September), Sweden have come out as the new European champions.
Such was their dominance in the third and final round of team jumping, the gold medal was secured fairly early on, leaving their rivals to fight it out for the remaining medals. In the end it would be Ireland who claimed silver, with a real surprise in the bronze medal position as Austria earned a historic first European Showjumping Championships team medal.
Sweden won the gold medal at the World Championships in Herning last year, to add to their Olympic crown from Tokyo the year before. Somewhat surprisingly Sweden had never claimed the European crown, but in Milan, Italy, they conquered all once again, becoming the first nation since Germany 25 years ago to hold the world, European and Olympic titles at the same time.
“I’m lost for words,” said Swedish chef d’equipe Henrik Ankacrona. “It’s the first time Sweden holds the European title in showjumping.
“I’ve been trying to bring up new combinations and to get riders to try new horses and to look long-term. The big goal is the Paris Olympics, so these championships are very important. We knew that if everyone performed their best, and raised the bar a bit even, we could be on the podium, but to be here in the gold medal position is unbelievable.
“To be European, Olympic and world champions? I didn’t even realise, someone just told me about that. But it certainly doesn’t get much better than that.”
European Showjumping Championships: Swedish dominance
In the final day’s competition on Friday (1 September), Swedish pathfinder Henrik von Eckermann and Iliana, opened with four faults which would be the drop score because three clears then followed, from Wilma Hellstrom (Cicci BJN), Jens Fredricson on Markan Cosmopolit and Rolf-Goran Bengtsson riding Zuccero.
Despite just one penalty separating the top four teams coming into this medal decider, Sweden’s team total score of 9.51 ended up nearly nine points clear of Ireland, with Austria climbing up the leaderboard to finish third after both Switzerland and Germany both dropped out of contention. Great Britain finished in ninth place.
“We were having so much fun,” said Wilma Hellstrom. “Uliano Vezzani builds very fair courses – for sure the jumps are bigger today than yesterday. But that was absolutely amazing. My mare felt like she was jumping 1.40m. She was just playing around. I didn’t feel any pressure, I was actually feeling very kind of zen for some strange reason. Even when Henrik had one down I said ‘OK, I have to do this’. We know each other so well and I just had to go in and do my job. I have no words for this horse, she does everything for me, it gives me goosebumps.”
Jens Fredricson, who also leads the individual standings with Markan Cosmopolit, said: “That was just amazing. I’m so happy, this was a real team set-up.
“It is always a surprise when you win – you always you try to do your best, but you can do nothing about the other riders. So if the other riders were better than us, then they would have won. But this time we were the best.”
A remarkable plan for Team Sweden
Jens continued: “Championships are always unpredictable. I wasn’t worried that [final rider] Rolf would lose his concentration if we told him we’d already won gold, but actually he asked so he also knew and he did amazing. This is just great.”
Sweden have set out a remarkable plan looking ahead to the Paris Olympics and will surely be the ones to beat again next year.
“I think one thing that is so good about the Swedish team is that we each have a very early plan for our horses,” revealed Jens, who was part of the gold medal-winning team at last year’s World Championships alongside his brother Peder Fredricson.
“Even as far back as November, I knew what shows we were going to this year and that I was doing three teams – Rome, La Baule and Aachen, fantastic shows and I knew I was going to have my horse in the best form for these European Showjumping Championships. So that’s one thing we have – the best horses have a certain plan and we stick to that. I think that’s a very good thing.”
After a rest day on Saturday (2 September), the European Showjumping Championships conclude with the individual final on Sunday (3 September) where the top 25 individuals will jump in the first round, with just 12 going forwards to the individual medal decider.
Horse & Hound has a team of reporters covering all the European showjumping action. To keep reading on our website after five articles, readers will need to buy a subscription. Visit horseandhound.co.uk/join to buy a Horse & Hound website unlimited subscription or, for great value, visit magazinesdirect.com for a combined magazine and website subscription. If you are already a magazine subscriber, the cost to upgrade your subscription to include full website access is minimal – call 0330 333 1113 to find out more.
You may also be interested to read…