WEG: Le Jeune Rides To Gold In Show Jumping World Championships

After five days of competition, six different courses, and a total of 115 jumps, Belgium's Philippe Le Jeune took home the gold medal in the Show Jumping World Championships, presented by Rolex, at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Aboard all four horses, including his Vigo D'Arsouilles, Le Jeune was the only rider to finish with zero faults over Saturday night's four rounds.

Abdullah Al Sharbatly of Saudi Arabia took the silver medal with eight faults on Saturday evening (Oct. 9), and Canada's Eric Lamaze took home bronze with nine faults. Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa, the 1998 world champion, was a close fourth with 12 faults.

"I had no difficult moments," said Le Jeune, 50. "I was very concentrated. When I sat on every horse, I had decided to go their way and not that they had to go to my way. I wasn't going to try to ride like Eric or Rodrigo. I have my own way of riding, but the other three were blood horses, more blood horses than Vigo. I had decided to feel how they were going to go, and it paid off."

Le Jeune has ridden in three previous World Equestrian Games and was on the bronze-medal Belgian team in 2002 aboard Nabab de Reve, the sire of Vigo D'Arsouilles. He is the second consecutive world champion from Belgium; Jos Lansink, who rode on the Belgian team here, earned gold four years ago in Aachen (Germany).

Le Jeune said he always takes the time to pat each horse and try to get to know it before he rides it, which is something he did yesterday with each of his mounts.

"When I was a young boy, my father taught me to love animals," he said. "I love animals more than people. My life is dedicated to my horses. I have two sons--they are my flesh and my blood--but the rest I dedicate all my life for the horses. I prefer to have fun with the horses at home; competition I really like, but the first thing for me is to get on the horses, feel them, and love them."

The Rolex Top Four is unique among equestrian sports--each rider rides each of the four horses over the same course. They have three minutes to warm up with each horse and can jump two jumps. Each horse was accompanied to the ring by the groom, chef d'equipe, and trainer.

"I think in the beginning the horses are a little bit surprised," said Pessoa. "They are not used to that--and standing there and all the people and everything."

Al Sharbatly, 28, and Pessoa, 37, picked up faults in the first round on their own mounts. But Al Sharbatly, who had two rails aboard his Seldana Di Campalto, didn't earn a single fault on the other horses. Pessoa picked up four faults aboard his HH Rebozo and then another eight aboard Vigo D'Arsouilles. Lamaze was clear until he added a rail and one time fault aboard HH Rebozo, and then another rail aboard Seldana Di Campalto.

Al Sharbatly, the youngest competitor in the Rolex Top Four, was the only competitor to start tonight's competition without knocking down a single rail during the competition. He was also by far the least experienced of the group and is proud to have won the Middle East's first medal at a World Equestrian Games.

"It was a great moment for me and for my country that I win a silver medal, because it's the first time in history that someone from the Middle East can reach the top four in the world championship," he said. "It's a great thing for my country, and I'm so proud and so happy."

Best horse honors went to Canada's Hickstead. The 14-year-old stallion was the only horse to complete the course four times with no faults at all.

"I think we already knew Hickstead was the best horse before today," said Lamaze. "Now these three other riders know it for themselves."

At the beginning of the week 121 riders started this competition, from 41 nations.

Saturday's attendance was 44,954, bringing the 15-day total at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games to 468,340.

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