Global Champions League blasted off in 2016 in Miami Beach with a knife edge victory for the dynamic duo of John Whitaker (GBR) and Bertram Allen (IRL) in team Valkenswaard United.
It was a dazzling launch for the thrilling new competition format as some of the world’s top riders became team mates for the first time, propelling show jumping into a new era. Riders, fans and guests hailed the debut and spoke of its importance for the future of the sport.
Dutch champion Harrie Smolders, who jumped two clear rounds for team Antwerp Diamonds who are now in second place, said: “I think we saw some exciting sport and I think the Global has already done so much for our sport. They deserve our support and we are all going to make this into a successful story.”
With the first ranking points on the leaderboard the scene is set for a high octane season as riders go into battle at 15 events around the world. Against the breathtaking backdrop of the surf and the turquoise waters of the Atlantic beachfront, spectators and international guests watched 12 teams go into combat.
All teams are named after cities on the championship circuit and fans who had never witnessed show jumping before were immediately identifying with their home city. Eight teams made it through to the second round, based on time and penalties. Home team Miami Glory, owned by Georgina Bloomberg (USA), led the field by a narrow margin after Georgina and team mate Kent Farrington (USA) both jumped clear in the first round.
Leading US rider Kent spoke of the new GCL and its implications for the future of show jumping: “It’s a great competition. It’s one thing to conceptualize the idea and it’s another to realize the idea as we did today. That’s really exciting for our sport and for all of us to be part of.”
High energy team signature music for each rider’s round added to the lively atmosphere around the arena on the white sands of Miami Beach as the opening leg of the GCL got underway following a spectacular first 2016 event of the Longines Global Champions Tour in the preceding three days.