11 December 2016, Geneva, Switzerland – In December the world of international show jumping turns its attention to the last equestrian Major of the year, CHI Geneva. Staged over four days, a record 42,000 spectators cheered on the world’s best riders with the excitement drawing to a close on Sunday 11 December with the climax of the competition, the Rolex Grand Prix.
The tension in the Palexpo Arena was justifiably high with Rolex Testimonee Scott Brash amongst the starters, entering the competition as the live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The stakes were especially high for Brash who had already written his name into the history books having completed this extraordinary feat at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ in 2015.
Home favourite, Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat, brought a further dimension of emotion to the event having announced that the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva would be the last competitive appearance for his prize horse, Nino des Buissonnets. However, fortune favoured Brazilian rider Pedro Veniss and his brilliant stallion Quabri de L’Isle, who produced an astonishingly quick jump-off time to reign victorious as the 2016 Rolex Grand Prix winner.
The start list saw 40 of the sport’s finest riders challenging for one of the most revered competitions on the international circuit and course designer Gérard Lachat made full use of the world’s largest indoor equestrian arena, challenging these elite athletes in every corner and at every jumping effort. The vast obstacles tested the riders to their limits, and only 16 combinations conquered the first round of the course faultlessly, taking them through to the jump-off. Swiss national hero Steve Guerdat, Scott Brash, and world number one Christian Ahlmann were amongst those to advance through to the second round, heightening the excitement of the competition.
ROLEX GRAND PRIX JUMP-OFF
The crowds were kept on the edge of their seats as each combination tackled the shortened course, dramatically cutting corners to produce as fast a time as possible. The eventual Rolex Grand Prix winner, Veniss, was fourth to go and set an exceptionally tough time to beat of just 38.96 seconds. Despite valiant efforts from all challengers, it seemed no one could cut any more time off Veniss’ impressive round. It was left to the last two riders, Rolex Testimonees Kevin Staut and Scott Brash, to challenge one of equestrian sport’s most prized trophies. Staut produced an outstanding round of elegance and precision, stopping the clock after 40.04 seconds, but this was not enough to knock Veniss from pole position. The crowd hushed as the current Rolex Grand Slam live contender entered the arena and waited with baited breath for the outcome. Cheering Brash through to the last fence, the clock stopped at a time of 39.41 seconds, four hundredths of a second slower than Veniss and placing the combination into third, respectively. First and third place were separated by just 0.4 of a second, highlighting the importance of accuracy and precision timing at the very top of the sport.
After a tense and dramatic competition came to a close, a delighted Veniss spoke of his victory, “I am so happy; it is a dream come true to win the Rolex Grand Prix in Geneva. Quabri jumped fantastically in the first round and so I thought, we can go for it in the jump-off. I really tried like never before and pushed to go fast. Quabri responded perfectly.
“I will work really hard ahead of CHIO Aachen , thinking ahead to the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, but for now, I want to give this victory to my family and all of the people who are behind me.”
NINO DES BUISSONNETS’ RETIREMENT
Sunday 11 December was especially emotional for Rolex Testimonee Steve Guerdat, who placed twelfth in the Rolex Grand Prix, which was to be the final competition for Nino des Buissonnets ahead of a well-deserved retirement.
“The farewell was so special; it was so intense, powerful, so emotional. It was much more than I expected. The stadium was full, everyone stayed after the Rolex Grand Prix and I am very grateful to all of the public and the show, for that. It will always remain in my heart.”
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