Countdown to Paris 2018: the youngest winner ever

Mario Deslauriers, the youngest-ever winner of an FEI World Cup Jumping Final
Credit : Jan Gyllensten

Thursday 01 February - 11h22 | Ian Clayton

Countdown to Paris 2018: the youngest winner ever

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final and FEI Dressage Final, scheduled for April 11-15 in Paris, France, GrandPrix-Replay is looking back at some highlights in World Cup history. Today, the teenage phenom who won the 1984 Final.

 - Countdown to Paris 2018: the youngest winner ever

Mario Deslauriers and Westbrook in 2017
Credit : Sportfot

19 years old! In 1984, Canada’s Mario Deslauriers became the youngest rider ever to win the World Cup of Show Jumping, at the Scandinavium arena in Gothenburg, Sweden. It's a record that still stands today – and by a long shot. Riding his seven-year-old German Hannoverian mount Aramis, the teenager overcame experienced rivals Nelson Pessoa of Brazil with Moët & Chandon Larramy and American Norman Dello Joio on I Love You to capture the title.

In the years following the inaugural World Cup Final competition in 1979, also in Gothenburg and won by Austria’s Hugo Simon on Gladstone, Americans had dominated the podium, winning in 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1983. But in 1984 at the sixth World Cup Final – and third in the southwestern Swedish city – it would be Canada’s turn to raise the trophy.

At the outset, 39 starters from seven different leagues took to the ring in Gothenburg: 19 Europeans; 13 Americans; three Canadians; two Australians and two South Americans. And it was the U.S.’s Leslie Burr and her nine-year-old Dutch-bred Corsair who raced out to an early lead, capturing the opening speed class. “I was lucky not to run out at the last,” Burr said afterwards. “After all that turning and jumping my horse expected another turn, not a fence.”

Pessoa was in second at this point with Britain’s Michael Whitaker and Red Flight in third. But Pessoa felt that the obstacles were too small at this stage of the competition: “This puts the pressure on riders to take too much risk,” he commented subsequently. “Good horses who jumped well could be left too far behind.” Indeed, Pessoa’s sentiment was reflected by the refusals of three horses to jump after their British riders went too fast.

Over the course of the competition, Aramis and Deslauriers, a student of Ian Millar since the age of 17 (and subsequent teammate of ‘Captain Canada’ over the years) were as far back as eighth place, several seconds behind the leaders. But in the end, the young rider who had been inspired by Canadian Michel Vaillancourt’s Individual Show Jumping medal at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games came out on top with four penalty points, ahead of Dello Joio and Pessoa, tied at 5 each.

"I was tremendously nervous, but I managed to concentrate on the fences and solved problems as they came up,' Deslauriers told the media after his victory. For his part, the veteran Pessoa said, “I count my second place as one of my greatest victories."

That same year, Deslauriers went on to compete in his first Olympics for Canada, in Los Angeles (where the country finished fourth in the Team event), before returning for the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea. He began to ride internationally for the United States in 2009 after obtaining U.S. citizenship and being recruited by American horse owner Jane Clark.

But recently, the 53-year-old has been competing for Canada again, including at the Spruce Meadows Masters CSIO 5* tournament in 2017. "Always at heart, I was a Canadian,” he told the Globe and Mail newspaper last year. “It feels like the right way to finish my career."

For more information on the 2018 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final and FEI Dressage Final, including ticket details, see here. 

 - Countdown to Paris 2018: the youngest winner ever

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