A bright new face lit up the sport of show jumping on Sunday, January 28, 2018, at the Mercedes-Benz CSI Zürich. Newcomer Stephanie Holmén (27) of Sweden simply out-rode a field of 39 to win the eleventh leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017/2018 Western European League, which took place in Zurich, Switzerland.
The feature event of the three day competition saw a 13-obstacle-course designed by Switzerland’s Guido Balsiger, Gérard Lachat, and Edi Hofmann, with 14 combinations returning to the shortened track. In only the second World Cup qualifier of her career, Holmén and the 12-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare Flip’s Little Sparrow (Cardento 933 x Robin Z 723) crossing the timers in a speedy 38.79s to secure 1st place.
Having been second to go in the order, Holmén endured an agonising wait as the sport’s best took on her target-time: “At first I thought for sure they are going to beat me and the longer it went on it was harder and harder — this was the worst part of my day! With only two riders left I was so happy to be in the top three, and when there was only the last rider [Belgium’s Jerome Guery] who I know is really fast, I was thinking how so many times at home in Sweden I’ve been in the lead and the last rider has been faster. This is just too good to be true!” Holmén added.
For the past four years, Holmén has been based with fellow countryman Peder Fredricson at his Grevlunda Stables in the south of Sweden. She has been partnered with the 12-year-old mare since last June.
“Peder told me to go outside my comfort zone, to be faster than I’m used to and to take the turns tighter, especially the inside turn after the white vertical. I watched him competing her for many years and I never thought she’d jump with me like she did with him, but he believed in us,” said Holmén. This was like the perfect jump-off round, and I think it was Sparrow’s gift to me because it was my birthday yesterday!”
Second place went to host nation’s Pius Schwizer and the nine-year-old KWPN mare About a Dream (Clinton x Indoctro), who posted a time of 39.90s. Schwizer been twice-winner of the Longines qualifier in Zurich in recent years but was happy with today’s runner-up spot.
France’s Kevin Staut piloted the 12-year-old Selle Francais stallion Silver Deux de Virton H D C (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Heartbreaker) to 3rd place in 40.72s.
“Silver is improving a lot but is not a really fast horse”, Staut pointed out. “Stephanie was fantastic, it’s great to see new faces in our sport and it’s also great to be part of the last edition here in Zurich”, he added
After 30 years on the sporting calendar, the curtains have closed on the final edition of CSI Zurich. FEI Director of Jumping, John Roche, thanked the show organisers for the major contribution the event has made to the sport: “You were the first OC to combine top-class sport with entertainment, a concept that has been copied by many others around the world”, he said.
With just two qualifiers remaining ahead of the Longines 2018 Final in Paris (FRA) in April, the Western European League now moves on to Bordeaux (FRA) next week with Staut holding the head of the leaderboard with a massive 77 points. He also intends on competing at the last leg in Gothenburg (SWE) later in February, where Holmén will be hoping to spring yet another surprise.
The full results can be viewed here.