Swiss Star Times It To Perfection For Victory In Opening Jumping Class Of FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018

Sep 20, 2018 - 12:03 AM

For Immediate Release

Tryon, NC USA – September 19, 2018 – Switzerland’s former Olympic champion Steve Guerdat showed his class to claim a scintillating victory in the opening competition of the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Jumping Championship at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG).


Guerdat, who won Olympic Gold at London 2012, was drawn 123rd from 124 starters at Tryon International Equestrian Center and produced a scorching performance to match the occasion on 12-year-old bay mare Bianca.

Steve Guerdat and Bianca


 Brazil’s Pedro Veniss and Quabri de l’Isle were long-time leaders in the one round speed class, but Guerdat clipped 35 hundredths of a second off his time to clock 76.33 seconds and land the $33,325 USD top prize, while Australian Rowan Willis took an impressive third spot on Blue Movie and Germany’s Marcus Ehning fourth aboard Pret A Tout.


In terms of the team competition, it was a dream start for early leaders Switzerland as Guerdat’s colleague Martin Fuchs finished fifth with Clooney, although the Netherlands are looming large as two riders – world number one Harrie Smolders and Marc Houtzager – are in the top 10, and eighth-placed McLain Ward leads the United States’ challenge.

Pedro Veniss and Quabri de I’Isle
Less than two seconds separated the top seven finishers, setting up another thrilling day of action at the U.S. Trust Arena on Thursday, which will end with the top 10 countries contesting Friday’s team medals and the leading 25 riders going forward to Sunday’s Individual Final.


The Swiss quartet of Guerdat, Fuchs, Janika Sprunger and Werner Muff head the team competition at its early stage, with the Netherlands (Smolders, Houtzager, Jur Vrieling and Frank Schuttert) in second and the Brazilian group of Veniss, Luiz Francisco de Azevedo, Pedro Junqueira Muylaert and Yuri Mansur holding third.

Rowan Willis and Blue Movie
The top six team finishers will also secure prized qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with the three remaining places currently being filled by the United States, Australia and France, who secured the gold medal at the Rio Games two years ago.


“I think to be honest, it is an advantage in a speed class going at the end,” Guerdat said. “We walked the course, and nine hours later we rode, so it was a long day, but we knew that before we came so we were ready for it.”

Steve Guerdat and Bianca in their presentation ceremony.

“I was confident because the course walked well and there was nothing crazy going on. There were fast clear rounds, but not crazy fast, and the fast horses were not leading, so I knew if I stuck to my plan I would have a good chance of being in the top three,” he continued.


“Everything went very well, she was great. I actually really enjoyed my round and she felt like she really enjoyed jumping, so I can’t ask for much more. The course was really fitting my horse, the distance worked for me and there was not a crazy option that I had to take. I was just able to stride out without losing time. That’s why I can say I felt confident and stuck to my plan without doing anything that I wasn’t comfortable with, just basically the natural speed of the horse.”


Further down the leaderboard in a star-studded top 30 were the likes of American Laura Kraut, current and former European Champions in Peder Fredricson and Kevin Staut, respectively, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor and 2008 Olympic Individual Gold medal winner, Canada’s Eric Lamaze.


There was universal praise from the riders for course designer Alan Wade (IRL), whose track adequately tested the competitors while also guaranteeing exciting sport for an audience that lapped up both the action and the glorious weather.

A Golden Day For The Dutch As Rixt Van Der Horst Enjoys Para-Dressage Glory In Tryon
Netherlands star Rixt van der Horst reflected on the “amazing” feeling of winning another Gold medal after she headlined day two of Adequan® Para-Dressage at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018.


Rixt van der Horst and Findsley
Van der Horst, who took double Gold at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in France, sealed top spot in the Grade III Individual Championship on her bay mare Findsley.
Their score of 73.735% edged long-time leader Natasha Baker, of Great Britain, into second place as she excelled with new top horse Mount St John Diva Dannebrog, while American Rebecca Hart and El Corona Texel collected Bronze to become her country’s first world Para-Dressage medalist.
Natasha Baker and Mount St John Diva Dannebrog

“I am really thrilled,” Van der Horst said. “It is so amazing to be world champion again. During my test, I didn’t realize it was that good.


“I was just riding my test and doing what I do and it was not until afterwards that I realized it was good. In the beginning I was nervous, but I relaxed during the test and it got better and better. It’s our first international competition together and I am so proud of her.”

Rebecca Hart and El Corona Texel


Baker, a mainstay of Britain’s all-conquering Para-Dressage teams in recent years, was similarly delighted with the performance of her horse in what was a major championship debut for the partnership, as it had been for Van der Horst and Findsley.


“She was amazing, so, so, good and she went in there like she owned it,” Baker said. “I am just so proud of everything that we have achieved in such a short space of time.

Rixt van der Horst, Natascha Baker, and Rebecca Hart in their presentation ceremony.

“It is an honor to get called up for the team, especially after such a short space of time. I’ve only had her since January, and to have done everything we have and for the selectors to have the trust in us to come and do our best is fantastic.”

Sara Morganti and Royal Delight


Italy’s Sara Morganti came out on top in the Grade I Individual Championship, winning an anticipated head-to-head battle with Singapore’s current world number one Laurentia Tan.


The pair were drawn as the last to two to ride in Tryon Stadium, and did not disappoint, with Morganti’s score of 74.750% on Royal Delight enough for victory as Tan and Fuerst Sherlock finished on 73.750%. Germany’s Elke Philipp claimed the bronze medal aboard Fuerst Sinclair with 73.143%.

Laurentia Tan and Fuerst Sherlock

“It was wonderful,” said Morganti, who won world Individual Gold and Silver medals in 2014.


“It’s incredible. I’ve had a very difficult year because of health problems and for a moment I thought I couldn’t go on.

Elke Philipp and Fuerst Sinclair

“My horse was amazing and I have to thank my trainers who have been with me all along the way. I am happy because I wanted to get a medal for me, but also for them.”


Tan, meanwhile, added, “It’s really important to get a medal for my country. I felt relaxed and I just had to keep going.”

Sara Morganti, Laurentia Tan, and Elke Philipp in their presentation ceremony.
Philipp could scarcely believe the scale of her achievement as she completed the medal podium.


“I can’t have any words for this,” she said. “I hoped that I would win a medal, but now I have a medal! The arena is perfect for me and my horse and I think we did a good job.”

Long Standing Partnership Catapults Sheena Bendixen to Christie’s International Real Estate Vaulting Freestyle
Denmark’s Sheena Bendixen won the Individual Female’s Freestyle of the Christie’s International Real Estate’s Vaulting competition at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 on Wednesday, her score of 8.539 piping Germany’s Janika Derks and Sarah Kay.


The 25-year old Bendixen, ranked in the world’s top ten, danced to victory and credited her long-standing partnership with black gelding Klintholms Ramstein and lunger Lasse Kristensen for the success. She won her first European Bronze medal with the same duo seven years ago in 2011.

Sheena Bendixen and Klintholms Ramstein
“One stand was a bit shaky, but I just continued and smiled”, Bendixen said, earning top score for the Trakehner breed horse Ramstein, owned by her groom.


“We call him the psycho mouse. He loves the arena and always says ‘Here, look at me!’ I wanted to dance my emotions at this WEG, relaxation, power, elegance, harmony – everything should be in it”, Bendixen said.


“I had warned her that there is nothing more difficult than really dancing on a horse, not only with expressive hands, but also with your feet and she did it”, Kristensen said, a former world class Vaulter himself.

Janika Derks and Carousso Hit
Janika Derks scored 9.473 for her technique, the best of the morning. For her Freestyle she used the music “La Terre en Ciel” that had already brought a Bronze medal on ice, dancing for Germany.”I wanted it to look easy, soft and fluffy, quite a contrast to my usual vaulting. I am a very technical and strong vaulter and to show elegance and harmony is the hardest for me,” Derks said. 

“It is always the same, the easier something looks the harder it is,” Derk’s lunger Jessica Lichtenberg said.


Several female competitors managed to dance a complete story. U.S. athlete Tessa Dirks danced to the music of the movie “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Sarah Kay and Sir Valentin 5


“I am kind of an upbeat person and I had to pretend to be afraid which is not quite like me. The panic of the wolf is more like the panic of the vaulter of not finishing on time.”


That fear was unnecessary because she finished on rank 7, with lunger Christoph Lensing, a double WEG Silver medalist himself.

Germany’s Thomas Brüsewitz Turns in His Second Vaulting Win at Tryon 2018
Germany’s Thomas Brüsewitz won the Individual Freestyle at Christie’s International Real Estate’s Vaulting discipline at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 on Wednesday, duplicating his success from Tuesday’s compulsory. Vaulting for a score of 8.987, he kept France’s Lambert Leclezio and Jannis Drewell for Germany at bay.


It was fireworks in the arena when world No.3, Brüsewitz did his Freestyle following the theme of the movie Truman show.

Thomas Brüsewitz and Danny Boy OLD
“The person in the show is a star because he is true to himself, a real person. Our vaulting is true as well. I thought this a fitting theme for the world championship here.”


Brüsewitz did not go the limit and kept it safe, omitting one handstand.

Jannis Drewell and Feliciano 44
“When I had my signature movement out of the way, the flic flac backwards, I felt I should play it safe. I will keep it up my sleeve for the final Freestyle,” the student at a sports university in Cologne, Germany said.


FEI World Cup™ winner Jannis Drewell “danced with wolves” for his Freestyle, collecting 8.924 with four scores of 9 from the judges panel.


“I had this theme ten years ago for my very first national youth championship and I thought it was a good moment to come up with it again. It was much better than ten years ago.”

Lambert Leclezio and Poivre Vert
French Lambert Leclezio was not happy with his performance, finishing on 8.832.


“Two big movements did not go to plan, but maybe people on the outside did not notice.”

Austria’s Lindner/Wacha Set to Defend Their Pairs Title in Vaulting
The sparkle of 15,000 rhinestones lit the Indoor Arena in the Christie’s International Real Estate’s Vaulting competition at Tryon 2018, when the world’s best pair met for their first round of Freestyle.


Austria’s Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha look set to defend their WEG title from 2014. They scored an average of 9.138, topping their Freestyle performance at WEG 2014.


Wearing a black-and-white costume, they interpreted the theme of the literature piece Chess Novel. It was the first time the freestyle was shown in public. It has been a work in progress since they started planning it two years ago.

Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha for Austria aboard Dr. Doolitte
“It was a wonderful feeling to go out and to know it will stun everybody. When you then get it all together at the right time the feeling is just hard to describe,” said Lukaas Wacha.


Their costumes had been handcrafted by both of their grandmothers, who are tailors in Vienna and Salzburg. It had been Jasmin Linder’s job then to attach the close to 15,000 rhinestones.

“Luckily Svarovski sits in Tyrolia where those two come from”, said team chief Manfred Reber.


The world’s highest ranked pair Italy’s Lorenzo Lupacchini and Silvia Stopazzini set the tone for a great competition. Vaulting as a pair for two years, they came out first into the competition and vaulted for a 9.057, earning six scores of 9’s.


Breathing down their necks, only 0.001 point behind, are Germany’s Janika Derks and Johannes Kay. Her neon pink costume stood out against horse Dark Beluga when they showed their stunning lifts and elevations, defying gravity.


For more information on the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 and to view start lists and results, please visit

To purchase tickets or for more information about the WEG, please visit

Click here to watch the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 promo video!

Media InquiriesFor media inquiries about the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018, please visit or contact one of the following press officers:

National Press Officer – Carly Weilminster at or +1 (828) 863-1144

International Press Officer – Gayle Telford at or 0044(0) 203 176 0355

For more information from the FEI, please contact Shannon Gibbons at or 0041-78-750-6146.

Photo Credit ©Sportfot. These photos may be used once in relation to this press release with proper credit.


About the Tryon International Equestrian Center
Tryon International Equestrian Center at Tryon Resort, host of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018, is one of the world’s premier equestrian lifestyle destinations, with first-class facilities for all eight FEI disciplines. From carousel to competition, the mission of Tryon Resort is to celebrate the magic of the horse, grow equestrian sport, and increase access to this majestic animal. Tryon Resort is a spring, summer and fall haven for equestrian competitors and enthusiasts, and a year-round destination for connoisseurs of diverse cuisine and shopping, lodging getaways, and family entertainment. Learn more at
About the FEI World Equestrian Games™
The FEI World Equestrian Games™, held every four years in the middle of the summer Olympic cycle, is the property of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the world governing body for horse sport organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is one of the biggest events on the global sporting calendar, combining World Championships in the Olympic disciplines of Jumping, Dressage and Eventing, the Paralympic discipline of Para-Equestrian Dressage, as well as Driving, Endurance, Vaulting and Reining.
The inaugural FEI World Equestrian Games™ were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, and Aachen (GER) in 2006. The first Games to be organized outside Europe were the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky (USA) 2010. The Games came back to Europe for the 2014 edition, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy (FRA), which attracted more than 500,000 on-site spectators and a worldwide television audience of 350 million, as well as delivering an economic impact of €368 million to the French economy.


The Tryon 2018 Games offer qualifying slots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The FEI World Equestrian Games™ History Hub can be viewed here.
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