GOTHENBURG, Sweden (Reuters) - After more than 40 years in show jumping, Norwegian Geir Gulliksen beat riders less than half his age to score his first FEI World Cup win on Sunday, then survived an injury scare when his horse threw him during the prize ceremony.
Gulliksen, 60, took the title at the Gothenburg show, the last qualifier for the prestigious World Cup Final in Las Vegas in April.
“This is definitely the highlight of my career,” he said after getting the fastest clear round in the jump-off on his horse VDL Groep Quatro. “As I got older I thought it would never happen.”
As he went to collect his prize, Gulliksen removed his safety helmet but was then thrown against a wall when his horse was startled. When he initially failed to get up the crowd at the Scandinavium Arena went silent and screens were erected around the Norwegian.
Minutes later, Gulliksen jumped to his feet. “I’m not scared of injury,” he said of the risks involved in equestrian sport. “The day I feel frightened, I will stop straight away.”
Gulliksen, who rode on his first Norwegian team 44 years ago, beat 23-year-old Swiss Bryan Balsiger into second place.
“Age is something you have in your head,” Gulliksen said. “Even though I am aching a bit more, I don’t really think about it. Many people say, ‘you should let the young ones come through,’ but they are welcome to come up.
“I don’t feel intimidated, I think it is good that we have them to keep us hungry.”
Balsiger said of Gulliksen: “He’s a rider I’ve watched growing up and now I’m in competition with him and these other top riders. It’s a dream for me to be competing against them now. Hopefully, I will go faster than him in Las Vegas though.”
Reporting by Eleanore Kelly in Gothenberg; editing by Clare Fallon