23 augustus 2009

WC Kecskemet: Double Dutch gold

After a nerve-wrecking obstacle driving competition, the Dutch took home both individual and team gold. Marathon winner Harry Verstappen was on silver before the cones competition, but leader of the standings Zoltán Lázár gave his gold medal away with three balls down and time penalties. Verstappen got the gold, Lázár dropped to bronze and Beat Schenk from Switzerland went home proudly with the silver individual medal. The Dutch team kept their lead after dressage and marathon and won the golden team medal for the first time since the first Open World Championships in Montemaggiore in 1983. Host nation Hungary took the silver and Germany won the bronze medal.

Final individual results:
1. Harry Verstappen (Ned) 143,92
2. Beat Schenk (Sui) 146,54
3. Zoltan Lázár (Hun) 148,18
4. Ben Gosschalk (ned) 149,09
5. Jacek Kozlowski (Pol) 150,99
6. Mathias Henkes (Lux) 151,91
7. Sebastian Warneck (Ger) 152,36
8. Hans-Georg Schröder (Ger) 156,29
9. François Dutilloy (Fra) 156,82
10. Zsolt Selyben (Hun) 157,13

Final nations results:
1. The Netherlands 282,3
2. Hungary 286,2
3. Germany 306,4
4. Switzerland 307,2
5. Italy 324,20
6. Poland 329,5
7. Czech Republic 330,8
8. France 334,8
9. Romania 341,1
10. Slovakia 345,9


Harry Verstappen (Ned):
“I was very proud that I had won the marathon and I never expected to win the gold medal. I will fully enjoy being the World Champion for the next two years!
The cones competition went well for me, although the two balls I knocked down were not necessary. I worked a lot with my horses this morning, they were very fit after the marathon and they needed to get a little tired. I was not nervous as all, the feeling was good and I was relaxed. I was not afraid of the cones course; I thought it was a nice and sportive course. I still can’t believe that I am World Champion now, it will take some time before I will fully realize it!”
Harry drove his pair of prominent pinto Dutch warm blood horses Roelanda Petronella (v. Marco) and Tsambikos (v. Larino) in the dressage. In the marathon and cones, Tsambikos was replaced by Olivier (v. Zakerno).

Beat Schenk (Sui):
“My goal was to end in the Top Five so I am very happy with my silver medal. Next time I hope to be one step higher! I had a mistake in the last obstacle in the marathon, which was a pity. But at a World Championship, everything has to fit and you cannot afford to make mistakes. The marathon has been difficult for everyone, both the horses and the drivers. I really enjoyed the competition in Kecskemét.”
Schenk competed with German and Dutch warm blood horses. His dressage pair Nero (v. Wilotte) and Lancina (v. Lanciano) has been together for two years and are Schenk’s dressage pair since the start of this season. His marathon and obstacle driving pair Lancina and Warlok (v. Wanderlust) were driven by Schenk already at the 2007 World Pair Driving Championship in Warka.

Zoltan Lázár (Hun):
“When I entered the arena and saluted, the clock started to count down but I had not heard the bell. I was hesitating what to do. The bell rang loud afterwards and I started, but it was hard to concentrate again. But I don’t blame anyone else than myself for knocking three balls down. This is something that I have never done before.”
Zoltan, who will go back to competing with a four-in-hand again next season, drove a pair of Lipizzaner horses, owned by the Lázár family. In the dressage and cones competition he used the 12-year-old gelding Maestoso X-9 and the 13-year-old stallion Favory Cudar. In the marathon, the 10-year-old stallion Favory-XXXVIII-11 replaced Maestoso X-9.

– 69 competitors from 21 nations competed, of which 17 nations teams.
– the field included 5 (former) individual World Champions in Pair Driving: Zoltán Lázár (HUN, World Champion in 1997), Vilmos Lázár (HUN, World Champion 1999, 2001, 2007), Riny Rutjens (NED, World Champion 2003), Mieke van Tergouw (NED, World Champion 1995) and Rainer Pointl (AUT, World Champion 2005).
– eldest competitor Lisa Singer (USA), age 61
– youngest competitor Laszlo Juhasz jr., age 23

Instead of the heat that has hit Kecskemét in the past days, today the clouds were grey and rain showers made the footing in the football stadium of Kecskemét wet but not slippery. In contrary to the dressage days, the stands filled with driving fans on the last competition day.
The World Championship remained an open contest until the very last moment.
Beat Schenk, the 37-year-old carriage-driving teacher from Seewil in Switzerland, was in third position after the second place in dressage and the 13th place in marathon. The multiple Swiss Champion could afford the two balls he knocked down and secured his bronze medal. The 51-year-old demolition contractor Harry Verstappen had 11 points advantage to Schenk and secured his silver medal even after two knockdowns and time penalties. The difference between Verstappen and Zoltan Lázár, the 1997 World Pair Champion, had increased to over eight penalty points. After a somewhat hesitant start, Lázár was waiting for the bell after the count down had started but the bell didn’t ring, the youngest of the famous Lázár brothers passed the finish line with 13,02 penalty points behind his name. This dropped him to the bronze medal and put down the strike result for the Hungarian team.

From left to right: Beat Schenk (Sui), Harry Verstappen (Ned) and Zoltan Lázár (Hun)

As World Championship course designer Christian Iseli had already said before the obstacle driving competition, it would be not an easy, but an Iseli course. With two zigzags, sharp and technical lines and a very tight time frame, the course could be described as extremely challenging. Only one driver out of the 67 starters today managed to drive the course without faults within time. This honor was taken by Peter Varga, an individual driver from Hungary.