Tomas TorgersenCredit : Haide Westring
Tuesday 02 October - 10h44 | Ian Clayton
The Longines FEI World Cup Jumping series is now underway in North America, and over the next 5–6 months riders will criss-cross the continent qualifying for next spring's Final in Gothenburg, Sweden – in many ways the spiritual home of the competition. After Beezie Madden's victory at the last Final in Paris in April with Breitling LS, a look ahead at the next host of the event (which will also feature dressage), and at the organizer whose roots in the Swedish city run deep. Originally published as part of Grand Prix's GP 50 list of individuals shaping the equestrian world today.
Austria's Max Kuhner and Chardonney 79 at the 2016 World Cup Final in GothenburgCredit : Scoopdyga
Over the years, Tomas Torgersen's equestrian career has taken him around the world, from Hong Kong to Aachen. And even though he was born in Norway (where he was chef d'equipe for the national show jumping team in 2011) and now lives in Västerås, near Stockholm, where he worked at the national equestrian federation, one place remains constant in his life: Gothenburg. It's here, in the second largest city in Sweden, where the 59-year-old grew up and is now director of the renowned Gothenburg Horse Show – a position he has held since 1997. "My family had no connection with the horses until I started riding at the age of 8 or 9," he explains. "We were on holiday in Spain, where I hurt my leg and could not swim. One day we passed a stable and said, 'I'd like to try that...' When we got back to Sweden, I enrolled at the riding school closest to my home, whose club [Clarebergs Ridklubb] organized the first Gothenburg Horse Show later with the Scandinavium arena.” At that time, Torgersen adds, equestrian sports were becoming more popular in Sweden after former cavalry officers had started riding schools in the countryside. However, Torgersen recalls that his father had his own ideas about riding: "My first horse was a two-year-old stallion. Since my father had no experience with horses, he thought it was a good idea for the horse and me to learn at the same time. So I learned the hard way.” (Laughs) Continued below.
Slottsskogen parkCredit : Goteborg.com
"In 1975-76, I was in the United States as a student exchange, and when I returned to Sweden, the idea had already been proposed to create this big event which everyone was working on – so I just had to jump in. And the CEO of Volvo [the first title sponsor] had daughters who rode, and he had become interested in equestrian sports. It was amazing to start an international horse show at that time because there were no mobile stables, no recipe for the ground surface ... Obviously we had no obstacles to jump – we were building them in our garages. It was so much from scratch that it's amazing when you think about it today. There was a lot of creativity.”Indeed, this port city on the west coast of the country – site of the European Championships in 2017 – is now considered one of the world's equestrian sports capitals, a status to which Torgersen has greatly contributed. Currently, he is working with his team on the next edition of the Show, which will take place on April 3-7, 2019 and will host the FEI Finals of the World Cup Jumping and Dressage in the same Scandinavium Arena where they first started in 1979. In fact, next year will mark the 15th time that Gothenburg organizes this prominent event.And even when he is somewhere else, Torgersen still carries the city with him: "The people of Gothenburg never lose their accents," he says, chuckling. "We love when other people recognize that we come from here.” Continued below.
Héloïse Cuny/Shutterstock (modified)
Below, a quick tour of Tomas Torgersen's Gothenburg.Hisingen – Ramberget: “I always like to have an overview of a place. Gothenburg is divided by the river. We have a big island where there is a lot of industry and where many people live called Hisingen. There is a hill on this island, Ramberget, and when I have foreign visitors, normally I take them to this hill, where you can see the river upstream and in the other direction to the sea. When you go, we can see why the city was located where it is.”Haga: “There is a well-restored historic district called Haga. It is very nice, with lots of small shops and cafes. There are no cars on the streets so you can walk there. It's a very nice part of the city.” Slottsskogen park: “It's really beautiful - there are a lot of people there. This is where people go for fresh air and recreation, where kids can play - it's very, very beautiful.” Kometen restaurant: “There is a restaurant called Kometen (The Comet) which was created in the 1930s and managed for years by a famous chef, Leif Mannerström. They have a traditional menu and it is a great place to eat. At the same time, you can not go there every week if you want to continue riding horses! But from time to time, this is the perfect place – even when you go there alone, there is always someone you can talk to. It's a beautiful atmosphere and has a great history.”Eriksberg and Lindholmen (river walks): "Historically, Gothenburg was a trading port, so the city has always been connected to water, port activity, ships and shipbuilding. Walking around these areas allows you to get a sense of that."
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