Fairytale Finish as Sweden’s Fredricson Wins Jumping Title

Photo: Peder Fredricson and H&M All In. (FEI/Richard Juillart)

Dutchman Smolders rockets up to silver medal spot; Ireland’s O’Connor adds bronze to team gold

It was a dream come true for all of Sweden as Peder Fredricson (45) and H&M All In claimed individual Jumping gold in front of Her Royal Highness Queen Silvia and over 15,000 noisy fans at Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg (SWE) to bring the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 to an emotional end.

Leading from the outset last Wednesday, the pressure was immense on the man who took individual silver with his brilliant gelding at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. But he held his nerve over two thrilling rounds that had spectators on the edges of their seats to finish just ahead of The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders (37), while Ireland’s Cian O’Connor (37) claimed the bronze.

A clear first round again ensured that the host nation hero would be feeling the maximum weight of expectation as he brought this fabulous week of top sport to a close when last to go. But Fredricson could handle it.

“Like any athlete you are not enjoying the pressure but you just have to be comfortable with it and try to not let it get to you. Focus on what you should do and focus on your horse and your team, and try to make all the preparations right and deliver on the day and not start thinking about other things. I’m really happy I could give my horse this gold medal!” — Peder Fredricson SWE

Carrying just 2.25 points, O’Connor, who helped Ireland to team gold on Friday night, was his biggest threat as the last round began, while Smolders had rocketed up from ninth to lie third with 5.52 points after producing one of eight first-round clears. And over the final 10-fence course that included a massive 1.80m-wide oxer three from home, and a really testing penultimate treble, Smolders and Don VHP Z stayed clear yet again.

Second-last to go, O’Connor’s single mistake allowed the Dutchman to edge ahead of him, so Smolders was now the man that Fredricson had to beat. He had a fence in hand as he set off, but there was a gasp of horror when All In hit the middle element of the triple combination. Fredricson didn’t flinch, however, adding only one further time penalty to finish on a final tally of five, just 0.52 ahead of Smolders.

““I wanted to put my stamp on this Championship. To win a medal is always hard, and I must give credit to Peder for his horsemanship and to All In who is almost unbeatable – he’s the horse of a lifetime I think!” — Harrie Smolders NED

“My horse has been placed in every Grand Prix he’s jumped this year; Harrie’s horse percentage-wise jumps more clear rounds than any horse in the world if you look at the stats, and All In is probably the best horse in the world!” said O’Connor.

When asked if last summer’s silver medal success helped him in any way, Fredricson agreed that it did. “I was a bit annoyed that I was too slow in Rio in the jump-off. It has been my main goal since Rio to be a quicker rider, and this year I’ve won more than ever before. It helped me get this gold that I was fastest on the first day and for sure I’m happier with this colour medal than silver!”

Peder Fredricson SWE (Gold), talking about riding under pressure this week: “I knew I was going to be under pressure when I came here, but riding in a Championship in Sweden in front of this crowd has been amazing! Ever since I arrived and unloaded my horse a week ago everybody I met said, ‘Best of luck; I hope you win!’ It’s been a long week and this has been my goal for the whole week but at the same time I knew I had only one thing to do – go in and jump clear inside the time!”

Talking about his horse, All In: “I bought him when he was seven years old. I saw him at the World Championship for Young Horses; he was ridden by Nicola Philippaerts, and he was already then I think one of the best horses in the world. Of course you never know with a seven-year-old how they are going to develop, but he has been a super horse and any questions I have asked him he has given me a fantastic answer!”

Harrie Smolders NED (silver): “After the first day I was in almost an impossible position for a medal but I knew from other championships that with five or six points you are often on the podium and I also knew that my horse gets only better when it’s bigger. He had a really good feeling also on the first day so I knew he could do it, and he showed it now to everybody. He has blood but he is a little slow in his movement and he’s very, very scopey and he’s very consistent the last two years. He has jumped so many clear rounds all over the world, and in different circumstances, so I had a good feeling before this championship.”

By Louise Parkes

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