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Marie-Juliette Michel reports on the events from the Showjumping World Cup Finals in Paris

 

For the first time since 1987, the jumping and dressage World Cup Finals were held in Paris. Created in 1978, the World Cup Circuit is the winter tour par excellence: divided into leagues all over the world, it is without any doubt the most prestigious indoor tour that currently exists.

After months of qualification, two Irish riders won their ticket to Paris: Tipperary’s Denis Lynch and Co. Louth’s Mark McAuley. Two men but with two very different profiles. Lynch is far from being a novice in the area, he took part in no less than one Olympic Games, two World Equestrian Games, three European championships and five World Cup finals. With a gold medal in the team competition at the last European championships in 2017, and winner of the Grand Prix of Aachen in 2009, one of the most difficult competitions that exists, Lynch had all the experience needed. McAuley, on the other hand, has been rising quickly for the past few years, being a reserve for team Ireland at the last European championships and winning the Grand Prix of Lyon’s World Cup Qualifier in November, and now qualifying for his first World Cup final.

However, for both men, the final in Paris was an objective when they started the indoor show season: “The World Cup tour is an objective for this winter,” said McAuley, “Of course I wanted to qualify for the final,” added Lynch for French media Jump’inside. The last Irish rider to have reached the podium during a World Cup Final is 22 year-old Bertram Allen, who won bronze in 2015 with Molly Malone at only 19 years of age in Las Vegas.

It is therefore with the utmost determination that the two riders came to Paris last Tuesday. Lynch had chosen to ride no other than his loyal All Star 5, a 15-year-old stallion with whom he won his gold medal at the Europeans and took part in three World Cup Finals already. McAuley took Miebello, a 14-year-old gelding who brought him to the top spot for the past year.

The championship was divided into three classes taking place on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. On the first day was the Speed Class, an event during which the thirty-seven qualified combinations had to be the fastest to complete a course of 1.6 metre fences, with 4 extra seconds added to the time per fence down. The course was difficult and only eight riders managed to do a clear round. Like many others, Lynch and McAuley got tricked by the course designer, McAuley finishing 19th while his compatriot ended 27th.

Unfortunately for both men, things did not go better on the second day of competition. The Friday evening class was very different, more technical and more precise. Riders had to complete a first round and the lucky ones who had not touched a fence would compete once again during a jump-off. While the first part of the course went well, the situation got more complicated during the latter one for Lynch and All Star and the pair ended up being eliminated. McAuley was a bit luckier as he knocked two poles down and got one time penalty.

The final event took place on Sunday, a 1.5 -1.6 metre competition in two rounds. Fifth to enter the arena, McAuley and Miebello had two rails down and finished 23rd overall while Lynch ended 36th. After leading throughout the entire championship, USA’s Beezie Madden and Breitling LS were crowned champions of the World Indoor Championship.

Although the Irish men did not manage to reach the podium this year, they will need all the support they can get in the months to come with the World Equestrian Games (outdoor championships) coming up soon. With the European champion title above its head, team Ireland, led by chef d’équipe Rodrigo Pessoa is determined to obtain good results at the World’s in September and win their ticket to the 2020 Olympics.

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