André Thieme Wins Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen

Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof

The second Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major of the calendar year concluded with a yet another sensational Rolex Grand Prix in front of a capacity crowd of 45,000 people at the CHIO Aachen. This year marked a number of momentous anniversaries for the iconic equestrian venue, as they not only celebrated 100 years of history, but also 25 years with Rolex as the Main Sponsor.

Forty of the world’s best horse and rider combinations, who had qualified for the Rolex Grand Prix over the proceeding days, tackled the Frank Rothenberger-designed course with the hope of adding their names to the coveted list of riders who have been crowned victors of the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen, a venue which is often described as the Wimbledon of the equestrian world. Interestingly, six of the last 10 riders to have won the Rolex Grand Prix have been German, and with over a quarter of the riders representing the home nation, crowds were hoping for yet another German victory.

Held over two rounds, with a jump-off if riders are tied on penalties, the Rolex Grand Prix is a true test of endurance, scope, and talent that requires the highest level of harmony and trust between the horse and rider.

Third to enter the arena, Argentina’s José María Larocca set the standard early with a smooth clear, as did the next rider to take on the expertly designed course, the Rolex Grand Prix reigning champion, Germany’s Marcus Ehning, much to the delight of the home crowd. The current live contender of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Willem Greve, riding the mount with which he won the Rolex Grand Prix at The Dutch Masters, was hoping to do what only two riders have achieved – to win two Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors in row. He was, however, unable to repeat his form from The Netherlands.

With the 18 top riders from the opening round proceeding into the next round, those who could produce a fast-four faults would stay in contention for one of the sport’s most coveted prizes. In total only 9 riders jumped clear in the first round, including Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca, three-time Slam winner Martin Fuchs, and home-favourite Richard Vogel, winner of the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHI Geneva in December.

Starting in reverse order based on the results from the first round, it was tenth to go, American rider McLain Ward, who jumped the first double clear of the class and put pressure on the remaining eight riders in the second round. Out of those riders, only Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, Germany’s André Thieme – the individual 2021 FEI Jumping European Champion – and World No. 10 Richard Vogel joined the American as those who would proceed to the jump-off.

Anticipation was heavy in the air in the Aachen Soers arena as McLain Ward cantered into the packed stadium as first in the jump-off. The two-time Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major winner flew around the shortened course clear in a time of 41.02 seconds. Fuchs took almost two seconds off the American’s time; however, it was not meant to be as the penultimate fence fell. The crowds exploded with cheers as Thieme then took the lead in a time of 39.77 seconds, with just one left to go. It looked like last to go, Vogel, would claim his second Major as he crossed the line over one second faster than his compatriot, but it was heartbreak for the young German as the final Rolex vertical fell, leaving Thieme to take the victory.

Speaking on his win, the German commented: “It is every rider’s dream to win the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen, and to have my name on that list, especially as a German, it is incredible. Two years ago, I won the Nations’ Cup here with the team, and that was a lifetime dream, and now this – I think I should retire from competing here at the CHIO Aachen; it does not get better than this. The atmosphere and crowds are unmatched – there is nothing that can compare.”

Speaking on his jump-off, Thieme continued: “I did more strides from fences one to two – I know my horse does not have the biggest stride, but she is very quick on the ground, so I was able to do a very tight turn to the penultimate oxer, and then to the final fence I took the risk – my horse [DSP Chakaria] is a freak; she is incredible!”

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