The Shanghai Swans fought back Sunday to clinch show jumping's Global Champions League Super Cup for teams in Prague.
Peder Fredericson of Sweden, Pius Schwizer of Switzerland and Daniel Deusser of Germany rallied from third place to win the team event with a total of 12 penalties over two rounds in a packed O2 Arena in Prague.
"It was a goal of the season, it's as simple as that," said Deusser, after the team rode away with €3 million ($3.3 million) from a total prize pot of $7 million.
"The whole year, you are trying to plan a little bit to qualify for this event," Deusser said. "Of course, everything here starts with zero, round after round, every day there is a lot of pressure. Today we had two really, really big rounds."
The GCL Super Cup finals on Sunday featured six teams of three riders, who competed over two rounds, with no dropped score. The GCL Super Cup was the culmination of the four-day GC Playoffs, the sport's richest competition with a record $13 million in prize money.
"The best horses are here, the best riders, there were two big courses," Fredericson said. "It's hard work, but I am really happy we are finally in this spot we wanted."
The Monaco Aces were second with 21 faults, while last year's winners, Madrid in Motion, finished third with 24 penalties.
Deusser said he told his teammates before the second round they really "had to concentrate."
After the shock exit of pre-event favorites and overall series winners the London Knights, led by overall Longines Global Champions Tour winner Ben Maher, and the St. Tropez Pirates on Friday, the season finale of the team event pitted Madrid in Motion against the Paris Panthers, Valkenswaard United, Shanghai Swans, Monaco Aces and Cannes Stars.
Jane Richard Philips of Switzerland, Germany's Maurice Tebbel and Egyptian rider Abdel Saïd of the Cannes Stars were the surprise leaders after the first round.
The team, which had finished in 14th place during the regular season, took the lead with just one time penalty, followed by the Paris Panthers in second place and the Shanghai Swans in third.
After Schwizer's horse collected eight penalties in the second round because the animal got spooked, Deusser knew he couldn't afford to make any mistakes.
Deusser and Jasmien van de Bisschop secured a podium finish for the Shanghai Swans when he put down the second clear round of the day for a team total of 12 penalties over two rounds.
"Of course, the pressure was there, because you want to do your best, you want to jump clear," said Deusser. "But also, with the two down from Pius, I knew it was not over yet. The rest of the teams had to do the same that we did already. It was exciting, but in the end, it worked out well."
Cannes Stars crumble
Deusser turned out to be right.
The Paris Panthers dropped off the podium after Ireland's Darragh Kenny produced eight penalties in the second round to take the team total to 28 penalties.
As the last team to go, the Cannes Stars started the second round with a huge margin of 11 faults. But the team crumbled under the pressure, with Richard Philips and Clipper du Haut du Roy opening the second round with eight penalties.
The pressure was on the second rider, Germany's Tebbel, who knew he had to keep a clean sheet with Don Diarado to secure the team's first-ever victory. It proved to be too much, as Tebbel's horse touched a pole and added a time fault.
In the warmup arena, the Shanghai Swans celebrated wildly after they saw Tebbel's mistake and realized they had won.
As the last rider to go for the Cannes Stars, Saïd and Jumpy van de Hermitage collected 12 faults to see the team drop off the podium into fourth place with a total of 26 penalties.
"The Cannes Stars, they were the underdogs, until the last round they were leading," said Jan Tops, founder and president of the LGCT and co-founder of the GCL team event. "But I think it's the beauty of what we have created. You have different nations together, creating a fantastic team, and be able to win this enormous prize. In our league, anybody can be the winner anytime."
Rob Hoekstra, team manager of the Paris Panthers, said, "It's unforgiving, the way the format is. But that's what makes it so exciting."
LGCT Super Grand Prix
Maher and his horse Explosion W finished their season on another high on Saturday as they beat a field of 18 regular Tour winners to clinch the $1.4 million Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix.
Ireland's Kenny and Balou du Reventon finished second while Switzerland's Martin Fuchs was third with Clooney 51.
Earlier in the season, Maher and Explosion W had won the overall Tour title for the second straight year and they clinched the overall Global Champions League team title for the London Knights.
The Knights were surprisingly knocked out of the team event during the semi-finals on Friday. But Maher and his Dutch warmblood dominated the LGT Super Grand Prix from start to finish, winning the richest individual competition in the sport with two clear rounds.