Stockholm Hearts powered by H&M We Love Horses triumphed for the second year at GCL Stockholm presented by Fastator securing back-to-back home victories. Once again Peder Fredricson and Malin Bayard-Johnsson emerged victorious on their home soil with Hansson WL and H&M Indiana in front of an electric crowd.
Held at the iconic Stockholm Olympic Stadium, local fans witnessed an incredible showcase of excellence, with teams from across the globe competing for top honors. In a display of remarkable skill, teamwork, and unwavering determination, last to go Stockholm Hearts stood head and shoulders above their competitors as the only clean sheet of the day.
Joining them on the podium, Stockholm Hearts were accompanied, by the Scandinavian Vikings, with fellow countrymen, world number one, Henrik von Eckermann and Evelina Tovek in second place. Current Championship leaders, Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland, extended their lead, picking up valuable ranking points in third place from Philipp Weishaupt on his return to GCL after injury, and the ever consistent Christian Kukuk.
In the best timed comeback of the year, Stockholm Hearts proved that performance under pressure are words to live by. Speaking on GCTV, an ecstatic hometown hero, Malin Baryard-Johnsson commented on the team’s performances in 2023 so far: “We’ve been struggling a little bit this season, we’ve been jumping well but we haven’t had any podiums. We really needed this, and to do it here on home ground, it’s just incredible.”
Echoing Malin’s sentiments and speaking of his 2023 debut for the team, crowd favorite Peder Fredricson said “I am really happy to be back, it’s been really a great day. The pressure was on and we really wanted to do well - we have all our friends here, our families, owners… It was great to win today.”
In true honesty, second place finisher, Philipp Weishaupt told GCTV: “My fault was expensive enough in the end - who knows what could have happened but a double clear could’ve put more pressure on the Stockholm Hearts, but those two are so experienced, so we could’ve just gone a little quicker and beaten us anyway.”
From the get go, the fully packed Olympic Stadium was on the edge of their seats during GCL of Stockholm Round 1. There was drama from start to finish as season second place holders, Paris Panthers, were eliminated after two refusals from Gregory Wathelet and Beau Gosse du Park at the notoriously spooky Aurua Lights Plank. As Panthers wouldn’t return for Round 2, crucial championship points were lost, providing the opportunity for Madrid In Motion to leap over them into second place.
Only three teams entered round 2 on a clean sheet, Istanbul Warriors powered by Carpe Diem, Championship leaders, Riesenbeck International and home favourites Stockholm Hearts taking pole position.
Entering the arena carrying 8 faults from Round One, all eyes looked to Prague Lions’ Pieter Devos and Fernando Martinez Sommer. Pieter Devos, having now secured a staggering 70% clear round rate in 2023’s GCL, with 10 rounds and 7 clears, yet again posted a clean sheet aboard the ever consistent Mom’s Toupie de la Roque. Coupled with a picture perfect double clear from Cor Bakker and Martinez Sommer, the team rocketed up the final list, ultimately earning valuable championship points landing them inside the top six.
Shanghai Swans made both a horse and rider change for Round 2, as Daniel Deusser came off the bench. This tactic didn’t pay off as they didn’t jump a single clear round in Stockholm, pushing them out of the top 10 and costing them their chances of the Championship.
After the poles kept falling it was the Scandinavian Vikings duo of Henrik von Eckermann and Evelina Tovek riding King Edward and Winnetou de la Hamente Z that managed to produce a double clear, finishing on just their four faults from R1 and in a lighting fast time.
Istanbul Warriors powered by Carpe Diem were on track for their second podium of the year giving the other teams a run for their money. But a gut-wrenching pole for Derin Demirsoy and Koblenz vd Middelstede after a clear from Abdel Saïd and Bonne Amie, left them just off the podium in 4th place overall.
The tension could be cut with a knife as Riesenbeck International powered by Kingsland entered the arena as the penultimate team. A clear from Christian Kukuk and Just Be Gentle stood them with a strong chance of taking their fourth win of the season, but Philipp Weishaupt and Coby risked it too much, knocking a pole having to settle for a fast four faults and giving room to the last team to go.
In a thrilling finale, the hometown favorites, Stockholm Hearts, powered by the unwavering support of H&M We Love Horses fans, stole the spotlight as the last team to go. With impeccable precision, the power duo of Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana faced a slight touch mid course, but their determination paid off as it miraculously stayed up. They proceeded to clear the following fences with breathtaking finesse, ultimately finishing flawlessly. The pressure then shifted to Peder Fredricson and his trusted companion, Hannson WL. Under the watchful eyes of the team owners, the seasoned Swedish Olympian showcased his expertise, skillfully maneuvering his gelding to all the right place knowing he only needed a clear to win. Their faultless performance resulted in a double clear, securing the coveted victory at GCL Stockholm and igniting an overwhelming sense of joy among the delighted crowd.
2023 Championship Standings after stage 7:
1st Place: Riesenbeck International: 153 points
2nd Place: Madrid In Motion: 134 points
3rd Place: Paris Panthers: 128 points
4th Place: Stockholm Hearts: 126 points
The Championship now heads straight to the buzzing capital of France, Paris 23 - 25 June where the 8th round of action will take place under the Eiffel Tower.