FEI World Cup 2002 Postcard: Final

Germany prevailed at the World Cup Final in a dramatic finish that ended with Otto Becker on top. Americans Ward and Howard tied for fourth.
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Germany prevailed at the World Cup Final in a dramatic finish that ended with Otto Becker on top. Americans Ward and Howard tied for fourth.

Germany's Otto Becker and Dobel's Cento wound up winning the FEI World Cup in Leipzig, Germany, after a dramatic final which saw major changes in the standings. Becker and his athletic Holstein stallion were also members of Germany's gold medal team at the Sydney Olympics. Ludger Beerbaum finished second and Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet de Rouet, three time winners, recovered from seventh place to be third: McLain Ward and Leslie Howard ended in a tie for fourth place.

The focus was so much on leading rider Ludger Beerbaum, the challenge that America's McLain Ward made evident through his excellent performances, and the fate of former World Cup winners Markus Fuchs and Rodrigo Pessoa, that no one noticed the quietly consistent results of Becker and his talented grey partner. .They finished the first day in sixth place; the second day, with a careful jump-off that did not push the horse, they were third, and they went into the two-round final third in the standings, three penalties behind leader Ludger Beerbaum. When Beerbaum and Gladdys S faulted in both rounds of the final, that left the door open for both Becker and McLain Ward, who carried three and two penalties respectively.

In his only mistake for the entire competition, Dobel's Cento pulled down the massive oxer at the second to last fence in the second round. The four faults plus the two points carried over put them ahead of Beerbaum but gave McLain and the valiant Viktor one fence in hand.

But Viktor had made a maximum effort in the first round over Frank Rothenberger's enormous course. He could not duplicate the performance, a crushing disappointment for McLain with the victory within reach. Their 12-fault total moved them down to a tie for fourth with Leslie Howard on Priobert de Kalvarie.

In the most amazing comeback of the event, Leslie and 'Bear' as he is known in the barn, put in the only double clear of the day to move from fourteenth to fourth at the end, and they were the winners of this day's competition "My horse injured himself on the second day,"said Leslie. "He pulled a ligament on his back. But we are fortunate to have great veterinary and chiropractic support and thanks to them he was able to compete today. They have been working on him for the last 48 hours straight.. He is an incredibly brave horse to go in there and jump the two rounds like he did today."

Ray Texel and Fleur climbed from twenty-sixth place to thirteenth with only four faults over the two rounds. Frank Chapot said earlier, "Traditionally the American riders do better each day of the World Cup competition as our horses get acclimatized to the indoor venue." This was certainly the case for Fleur who was disappointing the first two days but amazing in her determination to clear the massive oxers that course designer Frank Rothenberger presented on the final day.

Lauren Hough's Windy City showed what a tough competitor she is with only four faults in the first round and eight in the second to earn fourteenth spot overall. For Laura Kraut, Anthem had only one down in the first round but tired completely in round two for 20 faults and seventeenth place overall. "He tried so hard over these courses but he just ran out of steam," said Kraut.

Margie Goldstein Engle chose not to continue with Hidden Creek's Perin after a four-fault first round. Will Simpson and Addo Annie with 16 faults also called it a day.

Frank Rothenberger's courses in both rounds of the final were enormous and tricky as indicated by the number of faults, but were widely praised by the riders and the coaches. However, Rothenberger's reputation suffered a blow earlier this week when the German media broke a story that the German riders may have seen the courses in advance. Apparently, some of the riders had schooled at Rothenberger's place the previous week, a not unusual occurrence. In order to avoid any possibility of unfair competition, whether the rumour was true or not, World Cup Director Max Ammann requested the night before the competition that Rothenberger completely redesign the courses.

" It's a load of rubbish" declared an irritated Ludger Beerbaum.

For more detailed results, go to www.engarde.de.