The Championship battle has intensified as GCL Šamorín R1 left just one pole separating Valkenswaard United and the Shanghai Swans going into the final showdown on Saturday.
As the sun set the first part of the conclusion to a roller-coaster GCL season kicked off in the spectacular venue of the X-Bionic Sphere. It was a tough, full up 1.55m course built by Uliano Vezzani as the championship race reaches its climax. The first few lines were all quite open and it was difficult for the horses to get balanced to the triple combination while the penultimate fence was crucial, costing many teams a clean sheet.
Scandinavian Vikings propelled themselves into pole position after Evelina Tovek and Frank Schuttert were the only team to jump double clear onboard Winnetou de la Hamente Z and Kinky Boy van het Gildenhof.
In a drama-filled day, the Shanghai Swans currently 2nd on the ranking finished with an uncharacteristic 9 faults after Christian Ahlmann and Dominator 2000 Z had one down along with a costly time fault. Jumping her first round indoors this season Malin Baryard-Johnsson and & H&M Indiana were under huge pressure to produce the clear if they wanted to stay in touch of the Championship. The GC Prague Playoffs plank fell and so did the team's chances of overtaking Valkenswaard United leaving it all to play for on Saturday.
After her round Baryard-Johnsson said to GCTV: “It's not what we wanted, both horses jumped well but we were unlucky. Fortunately, there were many faults so we are not that far behind. It is a shame Christian got the time fault as that could be expensive. It is a new day on Saturday and we will try to make up for it. It’s a good thing Edwina also got a time fault. We need to jump a double clear and hope they have fences down. We are going to fight for it for sure.”
With teammate Marcus Ehning watching on and riding every fence with them Peder Fredricson proved once again why he is world number one right now after he had a big rub on the 10th vertical but delivered the goods under extreme pressure and secured a solid clear round for Valkenswaard United. Looking for redemption after last weeks dramatic refusal Edwina Tops-Alexander came forward with Fellow Castlefield once again. The penultimate fence fell and a dramatic time fault put United on a total of 5 faults but crucially ahead of Shanghai Swans.
The battle for the top 4 commenced as London Knights fielded Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga v/h Dingeshof to go first. It wasn't their day and two down meant the Knights were on the back foot and gave Berlin Eagles room for error. Ben Maher and Explosion W saved the day once again with a flawless clear keeping the team on 8 faults going into the Final.
Olympic Gold Medalist and London Knights team manager Ben Maher explained: “It wasn’t the start we wanted and it's not normal for Philippaerts’ mare to hit two back rails. But I am confident we can pull through on Saturday. You can lose it on the first day but you can’t win it. We are going to stay positive and we are only one fence behind the Berlin Eagles. We will stick to the original plan and ride exactly the same team for round 2.”
Berlin Eagles formidable combination Ludger Beerbaum and Mila and Philipp Weishaupt on Coby blew away the competition in a jaw-dropping class today by gaining advantage on the London Knights in the battle for the final spot in the top 4 this season. Beerbaum had one down while a fast clear from Weishaupt kept the team on just 4 faults.
Philipp Weishaupt explained: “We are under pressure this weekend. We really want to finish in the top four, it will be very hard for us but we will give it our best this weekend. Everything is still open, London Knights had 8 faults so we are still ahead of them. If we manage to stay in the top four we can start directly in the GCL Super Cup Semi Final in Prague which makes a big difference. We get to save our horses for one less ride. If you have to jump against Explosion normally 99 percent of the time you have no chance, but it makes it more exciting. With Ludger in the team it feels great we are just focusing on ourselves."
After round one how it stands in the Championship:
- Valkenswaard United would win the Championship and even extend their lead on Shanghai Swans from 11 to 13 points
- London Knights would claim the last spot in the top 4 and finish just 1 point ahead of the Berlin Eagles
Find out how all the action unfolds in the final GCL competition of the 2021 championship this Saturday at 16:30 local time. Tune in to GCTV to watch what is set to be a thrilling final showdown and see the 2021 champions crowd.