The Final Four
Photos top to bottom: World champion Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) aboard Casall Ask; crowd favourite Patrice Delaveau (FRA) riding Zenith SFN; Beezie Madden (USA) with Casall Ask; Rolf-Göran Bengtsson riding Orient Express HDC. (JA photos)
The final day and the most exciting event of all: the Final Four! Always a highlight, this particular edition was especially thrilling, with four riders from four different countries and France's own Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express part of the action. The crowd was, predictably, giddy with excitement and despite the announcers asking for calm, the audience exploded when he entered the arena and after each of his clear rounds.
It was interesting to watch each rider get familiar with the new horses in the three minutes and two jumps permitted. Rider typically opted to canter, stop and back-up, ask for a couple of lead changes, then try a jump before discussing strategy with coaches.
Rolf and Beezie each had rails on their first two mounts, leaving Patrice and Jeroen the early leaders. By the last round of swapping, Jeroen had the lead, with Patrice just one time fault away, so when he entered the ring on Casall Ask, it was his championship to lose. The Sydney Olympic champion kept all the jumps up for the win, leaving Patrice second.
While the championship was decided, Rolf with 14 faults and Beezie with eight still had one more round to go to determine the bronze. Rolf went clear, but Beezie still had a rail and time fault in hand when she entered on Orient Express for the last round of WEG. She did have the B element of the triple – which came down in all but one round of her rounds today – but with no time faults she earned the bronze.
The only horse not to have a single rail, Cortes 'C', was declared the most valuable horse. "I always believed he was a championship horse and he proved that today," Beezie commented after.
With competition over, the countdown begins for Bromont 2018. This event certainly provided a lengthy list of potential complications to avoid: transportation, crowd control, and communication among the most problematic. Technical problems aside, Normandy showcased top sport in a beautiful country with a wonderfully appreciative audience ... all elements that Canada can offer in spades!
~ Jennifer Anstey