HENRIK von Eckermann’s week got off to a good start when he was named the Longines FEI world number one. He then helped Sweden to win team gold on Friday night at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning, before going on to claim the individual World Champion title on Sunday afternoon.

Von Eckermann’s equine partner was the wonderful 12-year-old gelding King Edward who, owned by the Dufour Stables AG, was bred to do dressage but turned out to be one of the best show jumpers in the world. He followed up five clear rounds at last summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games, where they also won team gold, with five more clears here, a truly remarkable achievement.

Belgium’s Jérôme Guery took the individual silver medal and The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten claimed the bronze.

After Wednesday’s opening speed round, von Eckermann was in fifth place and, on a score of 0.58, moved up to fourth after another clear in Thursday’s first team round. A clear round machine, they moved into the lead after Friday’s night’s clear and that is where they stayed.

Just the top 25 were eligible to come back for Sunday’s final and only 21 decided to start. Dutch course designer Louis Konickx once again built a big and fluent track which resulted in 14 clears first time out, however, he upped the ante for the final round which saw the best 12 in the world return and only four managed to be clear.

Ireland’s Denis Lynch finished in 20th place after four faults in the final with Molly Ohrstrom’s 13-year-old gelding Brooklyn Heights. Cian O’Connor and Bertram Allen also qualified for the final but decided not to jump as they were out of contention for a medal.

Jérôme Guery (silver), Henrik von Eckermann (gold) and Maikel van der Vleuten (bronze) at the FEI World Championships \ Tomas Holcbecher

Tense moments

Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Stargold kept themselves in the running with a clear when first into the ring in the final 12 and another five faulted before van der Vleuten and his individual Olympic bronze medal-winning ride Beauville Z NOP followed suit.

Lying fifth in the closing stages, Great Britain’s Ben Maher knocked fence seven with Faltic HB and would eventually finish just outside the medals in fourth, and when Austria’s Max Kuhner and Elektric Blue P kicked out the second element of the spooky water-tray double at fence 10, and added two time faults, there were only three left to go and van der Vleuten was moving rapidly up the scoreboard.

Lying in bronze medal spot Belgium’s Jerome Guery and Quel Homme de Hus didn’t buckle under the pressure however, and when the 16-year-old stallion and his 42-year-old rider raced through the finish there were already ecstatic scenes in the ‘Kiss and Cry’ because their place on the podium was secured.

There was final day heartbreak for Sweden’s Jens Fredricson saw silver slip from his grasp when Markan Cosmopolit left three fences on the floor. The 11-year-old gelding has an amazing back story having started his life in the riding school at the Swedish National Training Centre in Stromsholm before Fredricson took over the ride when he was too hot for the school.

Good feeling

Last into the arena, von Eckermann had to be clear to hold on to gold. He wrote the manual on copybook riding under pressure to guide the diminutive chesnut gelding around the big technical track without any difficulty to become the first Swede to ever win an individual medal in the 69-year history of the World Championships.

Talking about King Edward, he said: “He has jumped so many clear rounds and done so many good things, it’s just a privilege to ride him. I knew Jerome was clear so I could have no mistakes… I had a really good feeling from the first round so that gave me confidence and the horse felt as fresh as he was the first day.

“I knew before I went in a fence down can happen so easily, but if I ride well and have a fault I can live with it. But I didn’t want to go in there and not go by my plan, so I stuck to it and it worked!”

Von Eckermann admitted he feels nervous before a big competition. “It’s always the same with me, two hours before I’m really nervous, can’t eat or anything, but when I get up on my horse that turns somehow into focus and concentration and just trying to stay focused and to do the best round for my horse,” he explained.

And how does it feel to be the new world champion? “For the moment I’m empty - you try to keep emotion pushed down so you can focus, and when it’s done it’s like pulling the plug out a bit. But it’s just happiness I think, and this is a day to remember,” he said with a big smile.