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World Equestrian Games 2006 - Driving
3 September 2006
The Driving competition of the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games came to an exciting climax on Saturday 2 September with the Individual title going to Belgian driver Felix Marie Brasseur (146.3). The silver medal was won by IJsbrand Chardon of The Netherlands (149.18); and the bronze by Christophe Sandmann from Germany.
The winner, who admits to preferring books to obstacle Driving and is yet the undisputed master of it, performed a faultless test through the technical cones course, which combined with his 4th position after Dressage and 2nd after the marathon, helped him to secure the final victory. So precise and fluent was he, that to some the course seemed as though it had been tailor made for him.
It clearly was not IJsbrand Chardon?s day. A mistake he never usually makes - his left wheeler horse jumped sideways - deprived him of a gold medal.
Germany takes the team gold (311.84 points) followed by Belgium (316.55) with silver and The Netherlands (319.32) getting bronze.
It was a remarkable career end for home nation?s driver Michael Freund, for whom this is was the last international competition. ?I will continue training my American friends Tucker Johnson and Chester Weber as well as my son, who is now nine. I hope to be back in Aachen in ten years to see him compete,? he said with emotion. With fellow team-mate and good friend Christoph Sandmann also considering the end of his international career, the face of German Driving will soon be changing. A glorious period is coming to an end, but sport is always is full of surprises and surely there is young talent lurking behind a fence or a cone.
The first phase of the Driving competition, the Dressage, took place over two days. At the end of it, Chester Weber (USA) was in the lead with 38.78 points. IJsbrand Chardon (NED) was second (41.22 points) and Germany?s Michael Freund was third - less than 0.4 of a penalty behind (41.60 points).
Chester Weber was very pleased with his horses, who had performed a remarkable test despite the somewhat deep footing. IJsbrand Chardon also congratulated Chester on his performance. This test had a peculiar meaning to Michael Freund, for whom this was the very last international competition. Having competed for over 30 years, 12 of which had seen him as one of the world?s most successful drivers, he had announced his resolution to withdraw a few years ago. And today, under the warm applause of a full stadium, this decision is coming into effect. ?Better to leave the party when it is at its best,? Freund commented. The father may be leaving but the next generation is knocking on the door. Michael?s nine-year old son is already in the sport, driving Shetland ponies.
The team classification corresponded exactly with the individual scores: the USA were in the lead (82.04 points), followed by Belgium (88.07) and Germany (88.19). In Driving, a team consists of a minimum of two and a maximum of three drivers. The two best scores are added together to produce the team score.
The second and very exciting part of the competition, the marathon took on Friday 1st September. The course was very technical, with eight highly imaginative and colourful fences. Preparation for the marathon has been rather complex, given the fact that the land where the course was built does not belong to the ALRV - the organiser of the event. It is the property of local farmers and is used only under very strict conditions. Therefore, sanding, which would have been of help because of the heavy rain, was absolutely out of the question. The track, 10 m wide and 6 km long, is the same as for the Eventing Cross Country. In agreement with the landowners and the city of Aachen, the ground underwent extensive preparation to make it stable and reliable.
At the end of a thrilling Marathon day, The Netherlands' IJsbrand Chardon took the lead with a total result of 145.30 after two competition days. Felix Marie Brasseur of Belgium was in runner up position (146.37); Thomas Eriksson was third (153.24).
There?s no end to Aachen?s wonders and the marathon course was one of them. The marathon, the object of which is to test the fitness, stamina and training of the horses and the driving skill, judgement of pace and general horsemanship of the drivers, consists of three sections: A, D and E. The total length of the course was 16.6 km, which is close to the maximum of 17 km authorised by the FEI.
Section A was 7 km long; the choice of pace is up to the competitors. Section D is 1 km long and has to be covered in walk. The third and most exciting one is section E, 8 600 km, which comprises obstacles. Today?s fences were imaginative, well built and horse friendly, allowing for good contact between the competitors and the public.
The first obstacle, FEI WEG 2006, built on a light slope and consisting of wooden barriers placed on the letters ?WEG 2006? was a challenging technical test, which proved of difficulty to many. Two carriages overturned, causing minor injuries to one driver and one groom. Luckily, these accidents did not upset the competition. Fence 2, the Sunflowers, was straight from a Van Gogh painting leading the way to the first water, the impressive Rolex complex, the Seaside Resort. The distinct Roman arches of Aachen?s cathedral provided the demanding setting of fence 4. The next obstacle, which can only be described as a mad Mikado maze, consisted of bright poles thrown seemingly in disorder in the manner of pick-up sticks. The fence caused many difficulties and only very few were able to make the short route. Then on to the Dreil?dereck (the cross roads where three countries meet) all strewn with the logo and the graphics of the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games, the Arabian Oasis complete with a water point and palm trees to the final eighth fence and the dainty Eifel village and its painted houses covered in ivy and wisteria.
Unfortunately, British drivers did not fare so well. After a disappointing dressage, Karen Bassett was in 48th place (80.13). Dick Lane finished better in 31st place (65.15) and George Bowman, the best of the British Team was 9th (50.3).
Marathon day saw a better performance from Karen, finishing a respectable 15th (120.37), George Bowman was 25th (128.81) and Dick Lane in 41st place (183.27).
The final placings, after the cones competition for the individual drivers were: George Bowman 23rd (196.3), Karen Bassett 25th (204.93) and Dick Lane 35th (254.94).
In the team competition, Team GBR finished in 9th place.
The full results can be downloaded as a series of PDF files: