Team 'Valkenswaard United' 2016 finals winner of Showjumping Team Competition -and- swedish Rolf-Göran Bengtsson winner 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour ! - NAANII GLOBAL Luxury Family Lifestyle MAGAZIN 'en Vogue' - NAANII GLOBAL Luxury Family Lifestyle - MAGAZIN 'en Vogue'-

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Team 'Valkenswaard United' 2016 finals winner of Showjumping Team Competition -and- swedish Rolf-Göran Bengtsson winner 2016 Longines Global Champions Tour !

A) 2016 LGCT:  Showjumping - Springreiten - Saltos equestres,  results:
1. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (Sweden)
2. Edwina Tops-Alexander (Australia)
3. Christian Ahlmann (Germany)

B)   Showjumping 2016 Team Competition  'Global Champions League', results:
1) Team Valkenswaard United
( Rider: John Whitaker, Bertram Allen, Emily Moffitt and Eduardo Menezes)
2) Antwerb Diamonds
3) Monaco Aces

'Global Champions League' 2016:

Jan Tops, Co-Founder of the Global Champions League:
“You can see there was a lot of pressure to take this important title today. John and Bertram had a great season. Emily Moffitt (Under-25 rider) is in her late teens and young riders have a chance to experience this and it is young people that will drive the sport forward. That’s what the concept is about. It is a great concept and attractive for the media. Owners really enjoy it and want to do better next time even if they did not win this time. It is about taking the riders and horses that are going to win and that will come more and more into play in the future.”

In a nail-biting showdown, Valkenswaard United took a sensational debut Global Champions League title, with winning riders John Whitaker and Bertram Allen declaring the first ever GCL season “fantastic” as the team combatants vowed to go into battle again in 2017.

Throughout the 15 leg series, the team - John Whitaker, Bertram Allen, Emily Moffitt and Eduardo Menezes - remained consistently at the top of the overall rankings, racking up a record four wins over the course of the championship, which offered up an incredible €7.5 million in prize money. The blue, white and orange team secured the lion's share of the €4.5 million bonus in a dramatic night under floodlights at the magnificent stadium, a member of the Qatar Foundation.

It had been a scintillating inaugural season for the innovative new GCL team competition, as the team contest first played out on the beach in Miami, to the super yachts in Monaco harbour, in big grass arenas, small sand arenas, by day and by night. And it all came down to the wire in Qatar.
Like all great championships the suspense held until the final moment of the season, with the leading teams fielded heavyweight combinations in a clear sign of the fierce determination to make history and take the first-ever Global Champions League title.

Since the start of the season tactics came into play. Valkenswaard United’s top duo of John Whitaker and Bertram Allen threw down the gauntlet from the word go, winning in Miami Beach. As the 15-event circuit progressed strategy was more and more to the forefront as teams fielded their best rider and horse combinations to suit different arenas and venues. Youth also played a strong part in the GCL format, with under-25 riders in the teams playing their part and winning valuable experience. Talented young Emily Moffitt, of Valkenswaard United, stood on the podium with John Whitaker and Bertram Allen and the GCL trophy sending a clear message about the important of developing future talent in show jumping.

A dramatic first round of the final left only two teams in contention for the overall title after a shock exit by one of the favourites. Heartbreakingly, Monaco Aces dropped out of the title race after Daniel Bluman and Apardi clocked up 12 faults despite team mate Leopold van Asten’s clear round on VDL Groep Miss Untouchable, with the team strong contenders going into the final. In another shock in the thrilling team competition John Whitaker and Bertram Allen of Valkenswaard United picked up four faults apiece leaving the team just scraping into the second round in eighth place, while closest rivals Antwerp Diamonds carried through four faults from Harrie Smolders as teammate Jos Verlooy jumped clear.

The first round result meant the Championship remained on a knife-edge right until the last moment, as Antwerp Diamonds and Valkenswaard United faced each other in round two to see who would make history with the first Championship title. Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Nicola Philippaerts of Paris Jets performed stunning clears rounds, leaving them with an enviable clean sheet going into round two. Laura Kraut and Laura Renwick of Rome Gladiators and the heavyweight Cannes Stars combination of Roger-Yves Bost and Marco Kutscher also pulled off faultless rounds under intense pressure, leaving them on a zero score. Joining them would be the Cascais Charms duo of Andreas Kreuzer and Philip Houston, Shanghai Swans’ Janne-Friederike Meyer and Alexandra Thornton and Danielle Goldstein and Lauren Hough for the Vienna Eagles.

The stunning floodlit arena  was the perfect backdrop for the final stages of the Global Champions League, as the team riders took to their horses for the final time in the 2016 season. The explosive growth of show jumping in Qatar, continues and tonight Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, brother of the Emir of Qatar, was at Al Shaqab to see the GCL final and national riders of all ages competing.

First to go in the second round, John Whitaker, put in a speedy clear with his top mare Ornellaia, throwing the gauntlet back down to the Antwerp Diamonds and keeping their Championship hopes alive. The pressure was on the U25 rider Jos, who then picked up a further four faults, putting the two teams on an equal score. An anxious wait ensued as the GCL of Doha played out before the next 2nd team riders took their turn, with the pressure rocketing sky high as it all came down to the final rounds. Friend and rival Bertram Allen rose to Jos' challenge, but an unusual refusal from Romanov saw Valkenswaard United drop back down the order, with the pressure heaped back onto the shoulders of final Antwerp Diamond, rider Harrie Smolders.

Knowing he had to jump clear to be in with a chance of winning the title, the Olympic Dutch rider flew around the challenging 1.50/1.55m course with top stallion Emerald N.O.P., but rolled a pole at the penultimate fence putting the team in third. This meant Valkenswaard United would claim Championship victory in what has been a rollercoaster of a season battle, with the formidable combination of John Whitaker and Bertram Allen contributing to three of the team’s four wins this year.

The Doha leg of the GCL was won by Paris Jets with Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Nicola Philippaerts blasting away the opposition, jumping double clear a full seven seconds ahead of the rest of the field in a stunning display of horsemanship and skill. The slow but steady tactics of Cannes Stars saw them take silver in the Global Champions League of Doha. Despite a strong season, Rome Gladiators had a disappointing night, after a refusal from Laura Renwick’s Bintang II eliminated the team in the second round. But because of their impressive performances over the series they still finished fourth overall in the Championship, just behind the Monaco Aces.

Team spirit has grown and evolved as the season unfolded around the globe as riders from different countries had the chance to compete together for the first time ever in the sport. And after tonight’s final, riders were already looking ahead to another round of team combat in 2017.

Jan Tops, Co-Founder of the Global Champions League: “You can see there was a lot of pressure to take this important title today. John and Bertram had a great season. Emily Moffitt (Under-25 rider) is in her late teens and young riders have a chance to experience this and it is young people that will drive the sport forward. That’s what the concept is about. It is a great concept and attractive for the media. Owners really enjoy it and want to do better next time even if they did not win this time. It is about taking the riders and horses that are going to win and that will come more and more into play in the future.”

John Whitaker, Valkenswaard United: "I think it has worked really well. We tried to help each other out today. I was really disappointed with my fence down and that put pressure on Bertram to get a fast clear to keep us up there. We only just made the second round. I jumped clear and I thought: ‘we are in with a shot’ again. I’m very relieved to win, we have had a great season. Bertram had the speed when we needed it. That’s what it is all about."

Bertram Allen, Valkenswaard United: "It’s been brilliant, it’s been a long season. We were battling out the whole year, it’s been a fantastic [season]. If you’re not consistent and fully revved up and concentrate, you have a bad result and that will compromise the end of the season.”

Harrie Smolders, Antwerp Diamonds: "We have to thank team Coulter and Copernicus Stables for this great experience and we are looking forward to continuing next year. With the experience of Axel (Verlooy) and me, we know which horses to have. Well done to Valkenswaard United."

Jos Verlooy, Antwerp Diamonds: "I had the experience to ride in the same team as Harrie and that would never have been possible and I am very thankful for that. To Valkenswaard United, well done and see you next season!"

Leopold van Asten, Monaco Aces: "We already had a very consistent season, but unfortunately we were not in the 2nd round at the final. We competed this year with all of our riders and were happy with our performance. We hoped for more on the day, but that was our fault."

Daniel Bluman, Monaco Aces: "It has been a fantastic experience to ride with riders from different countries, it has been really great. It was a bit disappointing tonight and unfortunately we were not where we wanted to be."

Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, Paris Jets: "It has been a great start to the event for us. We did not get going at the beginning of the series but finally we did a good job here. It is nice for young riders to get experience on the team."

Nicola Philippaerts, Paris Jets: “I’m very happy, we had a good team. It’s very special [teaming up with Rolf]. Normally we always ride with your own country and always the same people. Now you can ride with the world’s best riders, and for sure it’s nice as a young rider to get experience with these good riders in the team."


Longines Global Champions Tour 2016:

Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, 2016 LGCT Champion of Champions: "It was an evening you can dream of, but for it to come true you never think it is possible. My horse Casall ASK is just amazing. Still jumping at 17 years. He likes it and makes everything possible. What he has done for me is amazing. I am really, really happy. If he jumps like this it is hard to stop. We are going to have a discussion in the team but I feel with Casall right now it would be a shame to put him in a box and say it is all over. On the other hand you can’t make it better than today. I have a great feeling if we manage we can continue but for how long we have to see."

Edwina Tops-Alexander, 2016 LGCT Runner Up: "I am overall very happy. I am disappointed with myself today - I decided to do one less down the line to the double, a little bit off plan, and I paid heavily for it. My horse is in great shape, and was maybe a little bit too fresh. I am here, second for a reason and I didn’t deserve to win. Rolf absolutely deserve to win, he’s had an amazing year - he saved the horse up especially for this final, which has paid off. He has had an amazing weekend winning the Grand Prix and the overall title today and the Global Champions League team competition."

Christian Ahlmann, 2016 LGCT Third Place: "I was really happy with Taloubet, he jumped two great rounds. I was hoping for better than 7th from seven in the jump off but I am really happy I can take my 3rd place (overall). Big congratulations to Edwina and Rolf. I agree 100% he is a really deserved champion this year."

It was a night of dreams and the story of those who never give up, as Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and the phenomenal 17 year old stallion Casall ASK claimed both the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix of Doha win and the prestigious 2016 LGCT Champion of Champions title in a magnificent showdown in Qatar. Describing the Title win as “a dream come true”, Rolf heralded his magnificent horse Casall as “just amazing”, with their 11 year partnership one of the most respected in the world.

His powerful season performance propelled him into pole position in the ranking for the final leg in Doha and Rolf’s victory saw him take the lion’s share of the €1 million bonus prize money as he takes his place on the list of LGCT Champions. On a Tour that saw the world’s top show jumpers visit 15 incredible destinations, kicking off in Miami Beach, and reaching spectacular cities such as Mexico City, Monaco, Shanghai and Rome, it was the culmination of a fantastically consistent season for Rolf and Casall, with the pair taking wins in Valkenswaard and Paris, as well as podium finishes at other stops on the circuit.

In a night of high drama, Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) narrowly missed out on making history by becoming the first rider to win a hat-trick of titles, after a shock exit in the first round with fiery mare Lintea Tequila saw their Championship hopes dashed. The leading Australian rider settled for silver, and was delighted for Rolf, saying “he truly deserved it tonight”. World Number 1 and former long-time leader of the LGCT Ranking Christian Ahlmann (GER) was able to keep hold of his third place in the rankings after a strong performance from top stallion Taloubet Z, despite the threat from fellow Olympic athletes below.

In the press conference following the Grand Prix, it was revealed that the prestigious final event of the Longines Global Champions Tour will be staged at AL SHAQAB for the next three years. His Highness The Father Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani attended the final to witness the climax of the 2016 series, which was followed by the announcement of the new three-year agreement.

Sheikh Joaan also joined the prize giving awarding the Champions trophy to Rolf-Göran Bengtsson in a sign of Qatar’s commitment to the promotion of world class equestrian sport and the increasing popularity of show jumping and riding in the country.

The magnificent AL SHAQAB equestrian centre was the perfect backdrop for a night of top level sport. Course designer Uliano Vezzani set a challenging first round, throwing questions to the 41 starters to open the LGCT Grand Prix of Doha. Despite first rider to go Marco Kutscher (GER) jumping a clean clear with Clenur, thrills and spills came thick and fast, with John Whitaker (GBR) almost unseated at the final Liverpool fence by top mare Ornellaia. With a stop that would have dropped many of the best riders, John was able to sit tight, but the unfortunate fault knocked him out of the running. Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) also had a hairy moment at fence three, a gappy oxer, with Dejavu knocking the popular Qatari rider off balance and causing him to loose a stirrup. Despite this, Bassem continued to the complex double combination, jumping a further three fences with just one stirrup before regaining it for the Longines triple. Despite the drama, the pair jumped clear, much to the delight of the local spectators, however picked up a time fault.

But the story of round one was Title rival Edwina Tops-Alexander’s (AUS) shock exit from the competition, after rolling two poles in an uncharacteristic round with Lintea Tequila. The 8 faults meant Rolf would keep his winning lead of 5 points, and be crowned 2016 Champion of Champions.

Further big names were caught out at various elements on the course. Scott Brash (GBR) and Hello M’Lady were unlucky to pick up four faults, Lauren Hough (USA) and the eye-catching Cornet 39 collect a total of 8 penalties, while home hero Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT) also rolled a pole with his Olympic horse First Devision, however was able to progress to round two after making up time with skilful riding. Despite the pressure now off the shoulders of Rolf, he and Casall delivered a stunning round, which left the rest of the field in no doubt of his intent to win the Grand Prix as well as the Championship title.

The top 18 riders would progress to round two, an impressive 9 of whom were German riders, including the full Olympic team, as well as rising stars Philip Houston (GER) and Andreas Kreuzer (GER). After his masterful first round, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) was in pole position and the final rider to go. Laura Kraut (USA) and Zeremonie, World Number 1 Simon Delestre (FRA), Lorenzo de Luca (ITA), Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER), Christian Ahlmann (GER), Daniel Deusser (GER), Janne-Freiderike Meyer (GER) and Marco Kutscher (GER) joined Rolf on zero faults and the chance to create a jump-off.

First to enter Ludger Beerbaum (GER) rode a beautiful clear with Olympic horse Casello, but his four faults carried through meant he would be unable to progress to the jump off. Jos Verlooy (BEL), Harrie Smolders (NED) and Marcus Ehning (GER) all jumped clear, with Marcus the fastest for the four faulters after an impressive round with Funky Fred.

It would be a seven rider jump-off with Rolf and Casall once again in prime position of entering last after another breath-taking display of partnership and trust between horse and rider. Laura Kraut (USA) and her 9 year old grey mare Zeremonie were the first to set the pace, putting in an impressive performance to set the bar at 37.70s to beat. Janne-Friederike Meyer (GER) and the expressive Goja looked strong but clipped a fence, and Christian Ahlmann (GER) with Taloubet followed suit, both out of the running for a podium. Daniel Dessuer (GER) and First Class van Eeckelghem made some incredible turns, with Daniel manoeuvring the long legged horse beautifully in a turn back to the penultimate vertical. The pair crossed the line in 36.84s, raising the bar for those to come. Despite their best efforts World Number 2 Simon Delestre (FRA) and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) couldn’t match Daniel’s time, settling for 5th and 3rd respectively.

The final round, in the final class of what’s been a phenomenal show jumping season belonged to Rolf and Casall. Silence fell as the pair entered the ring, watched on by hundreds of thousands all around the world, through GCT TV, international live broadcast and the Tour’s own Facebook Live. With the Championship title in the bag, Rolf looked determined to add tonight's Grand Prix to his accolades as he galloped the distances between fences one and two. With every stride the tension grew, with spectators whistling and cheering the formidable combination on at every fence. An incredible 180 degree turn back at the penultimate vertical and perfectly balanced stride saw Rolf and Casall leap slightly ahead, as they stretched for the finish line, crossing it in a brilliant 36.44s. With the spectators on their feet Rolf raised his hat in the air in celebration to acknowledge their huge support, with an elated Casall bouncing to the cheer of the guests who gave the pair a standing ovation.

It was a fairytale ending for Rolf, and another incredible year for the Longines Global Champions Tour, which has seen the development of show jumping leap forward once again.

Jan Tops, Founder and President of Longines Global Champions Tour: "I think Rolf really deserves to be champion of the year. Casall and him have been on the podium many times and coming in as a favourite and winning is amazing. He has been close a few years before and really deserves his title. This is not only a beautiful facility but also a horse facility and for the people. Everything you can want is here. The weather is great, the horses like it and they feel loose and they feel good on this fantastic footing. The Tour is really established and with the new League riders are saving their best horses and it has big, big potential."

Omar Al Mannai, Commercial Manager of AL SHAQAB: "I really congratulate the riders. Rolf has done a great job all through the Tour and now he has confirmed he is champion. We are very happy to host Global Champions Tour here in Al Shaqab and because of the exposure we get from this event we have reached an agreement with Mr Jan Tops to have an agreement for the coming three years. State-of-the-art facilities like this need to be shown and to have more activities and more events and one of the most amazing events is the Global Champions Tour."

Fotos: LGCT / S. Grasso, copyright all rights reserved.

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