Video: the day SFN Zenith became European Champion

Jeroen Dubbeldam and SFN Zenith during the European Championships at Aachen
Credit : Sportfot

Friday 08 February - 15h42 | Yeelen Ravier

Video: the day SFN Zenith became European Champion

This week, veteran Dutch show jumper Jeroen Dubbeldam – one of only two riders in history alongside the late Hans Günter Winkler to have won Individual Olympic, World and European Championships – announced the retirement of his mount SFN Zenith. Two-time World Champion (Team and Individual) in 2014 and two-time European champion the following year, the temperamental and delicate bay is to date the only horse to have won back-to-back international titles. A look back on an August 23 which has gone down in history in equestrian sports. Video below.

August 23, 2015, 10 a.m. In six hours, the Individual finals of the European Show Jumping Championships will kick off in the legendary Soers Sport Park in Aachen, Germany. After the traditional day of rest and recovery, the twenty-five best horse-and-rider combinations of the week are preparing to compete in the final Individual event over two rounds. Back at their top level for this championship, Spaniard Sergio Alvarez Moya and his mighty Carlo 273, back with Moya after time with Nick Skelton, are leading the provisional standings. The Ukrainian Cassio Rivetti and his fabulous Vivant van de Heffinck are within one point of the leaders, closely followed by Dutchman Jeroen Dubbeldam and SFN Zenith. And yet, before the start of the championships, almost nobody would have dared bet on these top three... Not even on the latter – despite his two gold medals the year before at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.  

And with good reason… Jeroen Dubbeldam and SFN Zenith have been quite discreet during this 2015 season, and their performances have not stirred the public. Pulling out of the CSI5* Grand Prix in both Amsterdam and Knokke, 26th in the CSI 3* of Lanaken, and with no clear rounds in the CSIO5 * Nations Cups of Rome (4 + 4) and Rotterdam (4 + 8)... The duo's only top performances have been a second place in the CSIO5* Grand Prix in Rome and a sixth place in Aachen. And anyway, who would dare bet on a pair who had just won two gold medals in the previous year’s major international championship? The statistics speak for themselves: no combination has ever won a gold medal in big championships twice in a row, not even the German Hans Günter Winkler, who racked up his titles with Orient, Halla and then Sonnenglanz.

Jeroen Dubbeldam and SFN Zenith at the summit of their art

And yet, this August 23, 2015, SFN Zenith and Jeroen Dubbeldam seem touched by grace, carried by something almost divine. After an initial delay, the bay seems untouchable in the first run. Flying over Frank Rothenberger's imposing course, he is masterfully guided by Jeroen Dubbeldam in the terrible 6–7 triple river line, where a number of champions have stumbled before him. In the second round, the pair, riding last, just get over the vertical number 3 and then quietly recover. With imperturbable calm, they end up completing a perfect course and snatch the gold medal. Half-stunned and undoubtedly floored by the situation, Jeroen Dubbeldam raises his helmet in the air and takes in a thunderous standing ovation. SFN Zenith is the first horse in the history of show jumping to have won two international titles in a row. Thank you for this moment! Video below.

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