There are moments in life when a few hundredths of a second can really hurt. In the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup the German team experienced one of those moment, whilst Sweden celebrated a perfect victory thanks to a superb round by their European Champion.
Sweden finished on an overall score of 4 faults to claim the victory in the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup 2019. One single time fault from the first round prevented the German team from celebrating their fourth triumph in succession. Third place went to the partner country, France on a total score of eight faults. The French team comprised of Pénélope Leprevost with Vancouver de Lanlore, Olivier Robert with Vangog du Mas Garnier, Guillaume Foutrier with Valdocco des Caps and Kevin Staut with Calevo.
The German/Sweden duel
After the first four riders all jumped clear, everyone was amazed: Had the course design Frank Rothenberger underestimated the horses and riders that much? Not at all. It turned out that on the contrary he had done a perfect job. Henrik von Eckermann kicked off the competition with Toveks Mary Lou for Sweden, the pair that will enter the ring on Saturday in the Rolex Grand Prix as contenders for the Grand Slam, after they won the Grand Prix in s’ Hertogenbosch. If the mare jumps like she did tonight, their chances of picking up an extra bonus are pretty good. The Westphalian-bred Montendro daughter jumped superbly. But the same also applied for the first German pair, the World Champions Simone Blum and Alice: Clear round, the Soers exploded.
Next in the ring for Germany was the “Nations Cup returnee”, Christian Ahlmann, who like Daniel Deußer was representing the team for the first time since 2016, after they both recently signed the athlete agreement of the German Olympic Committee again. His Clintrexo put in a fantastic performance. Up until the last fence, where the pole fell. In retrospect Ahlmann explained: “I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t make the time. So, I rode a little faster to the last obstacle. Then I wanted to pull him a bit, but he didn’t react the way I thought he would. The take-off to the last fence was right, but we didn’t have enough momentum and we knocked the top pole.”
Daniel Deußer was the next to ride for Germany with the twelve-year-old, Chacco Blue son, Calisto Blue. He flew over the course in huge leaps and reached the finish line clear. But unfortunately, he picked up one time fault and one already speculated that this could be decisive, which ultimately turned out to be the case.
Because like Christian Ahlmann, Marcus Ehning also picked up four faults at the last fence with his self-bred Funky Fred. After the first round five teams were all on a total interim score of four faults and Germany was lying in sixth place behind them on five faults.
The second round
The course designer, Frank Rothenberger, raised three of the fences before the second round, this time the riders started in reverse order. The combination between the higher fences, the growing darkness and the floodlights and the dwindling strength of the teams evidently faced the teams with new challenges. More and more mistakes were made, including also refusals. The Swedish team on the other hand remained constant and the German riders also put in excellent performances.
Henrik von Eckermann and Mary Lou jumped double clear. The newcomer Angelie von Essen, who runs a training and sales yard in England and who competed at the CHIO Aachen for the first time after 16 years also jumped clear with her AES gelding, Luikan Q. After jumping clear in the first round, the youngster of the Swedish team, the 26-year-old Evelina Tovek, picked up four faults in the second round with Dalila De la Pomme.
And the German riders? Simone Blum, Christian Ahlmann and Daniel Deußer all stayed clear. As such, Marcus Ehning didn’t need to ride again, because he wouldn’t have been able to improve the team’s result. It all depended on the performance of the other teams.
Ultimately, the Swedish European Champion of 2017, Peder Fredericson and his Namelus R son, Christian K decided the outcome of the Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup. Everything started well for them, but then they had a few hairy moments, like when the gelding fell into trot in middle of the triple combination. But luck was on their sides and miraculously none of the poles fell, zero faults. That meant the victory for Sweden and second place for the German squad. The crowd celebrated the Swedes with standing ovations and cheered just as loudly for the Germans.
So, it was hardly surprising that Dr. Carsten Oder, Chairman of the Executive Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales Germany, explained: “It is an honour for us to have been the partners of the CHIO Aachen for 65 years.”
Christian Ahlmann was visibly stirred after his comeback as a member of the national team: “It is something very special when you enter the ring and it is that quiet you could hear a pin drop. It is better than any Championships!”
And Marcus Ehning, who contributed to all three Nations Cup victories in the past years added: “I am very glad that the two of them are on board again! I don’t want to undermine the performances of the riders of the previous years, but no team in the world can afford to do without such riders!”