After riding to victory in the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen 2014, Christian Ahlmann has the chance to be the first show-jumper in history to win a bonus in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
4 months ago, you won the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen…
Every rider in the world wants to compete in Aachen. It is something very special, particularly for the German riders. It is the best show in the world! I have been riding there for many, many years and I came close a few times. But winning there was the best thing ever!
The next Major Show was the Spruce Meadows "Masters" – where you had the chance to write history if you would have won. Were you very disappointed, when it didn't work out?
It wasn't so bad. Codex jumped well in Calgary, he was fit. But, unfortunately, we picked up four faults, which meant we didn't manage to pull off the sensation. Nevertheless, I wanted to give it my best shot.
How do you rate your chances in Geneva?
Of course, that depends very much on whether Codex is in good form. I hope we have taken the right path and that we have trained enough so that we are fit, but not too much so that we are tired.
What is special about Geneva?
The size! It is comparable with an outdoor show. The atmosphere is always fantastic, it is nearly always completely sold-out. Furthermore, the focus is very much on the jumping sport: Geneva offers many classic competitions with high prize money. It is one of the best indoor events in the world.
Measuring 5,200 square metres, the Palexpo is the biggest indoor arena in the world. What is it like riding in an indoor arena like Geneva?
The ring is bigger than at some outdoor shows, so it is very nice riding there. You have a much better rhythm than in a small ring. There are specialists, who regularly ride well there, better than anywhere else. Horses that feel at home there, always perform 20 percent better. For example, it was obvious as soon as Codex entered the main stadium in Aachen that he felt at home.
You could go down in history as the first show-jumper to claim a bonus in the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. How important is this goal for you?
If it doesn't work, the world won't come to an end for me. But, of course, it is important to win prize money: One has expenses, one has to give money back to the owners. The chance of winning 250,000 Euros in Geneva is a great bonus and I will naturally do my bests to win.
What significance does the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping have for the equestrian sport in general?
It is great that it exists. The Rolex Grand Slam unites the best shows in the world at the moment. Next to the respective Championships, it is the biggest sporting achievement one can attain.
What is your personal assessment after the first year of the Rolex Grand Slam?
Very good. I was able to win the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen and now have the opportunity to pick up a bonus. A rider doesn't have the chance to win what the Rolex Grand Slam offers anywhere else. I am realistic: It is only a small chance, all of the good riders will be competing with their horses in Geneva and everyone wants to win! Nevertheless, I will certainly do my best.
What shape is Codex One in at the moment?
He is in very good shape! First of all, he had a break after Calgary, then he competed in Doha and now Geneva. He feels great at the moment.
How are you preparing for Geneva?
I don't implement any specific training methods. How we train depends on what has happened beforehand. His fitness has to be right at the first show, then we reassess the situation from show to show. If we notice problems with a certain jump, we practice that type of jump more intensely. But it is always important that the horses have time to recover properly between the shows.
If you had to name the biggest goal in your career, what would it be?
(Smiling) Definitely individual Olympic gold.
What are your strengths?
I would say that I am very flexible and that I can adapt to a new situation very quickly. But other people should perhaps be the judge of that!
And your weaknesses?
I admire people, who are very hard on themselves – I am not like that. But I do strive to realise my goals!
Is the CHI Geneva your last show this year?
I am competing in Mechelen between Christmas and New Year. It is a great show, but I participate there more for personal reasons: It is my partner's favourite show, she comes from Belgium.
In the meantime, you are the father of a small son. How easy is it to unite family life with the professional sport?
One can't compare our family life to normal family life. But we do try to make sure that we don't lose sight of each other. And it works very well, but one still has less time for each other compared to other people. But my partner and I knew that before: We both compete. One's partner has to be very familiar with the profession – otherwise it wouldn't work out over a longer period of time.
It is Christmas soon. How will you be spending the festive days?
With the whole family – and in the meantime we are quite a large group! First of all, we eat together, then we exchange presents – quite classic. We are not often all together, so it is always very nice. Since the staff are always off over Christmas, we then have to tend to the stables ourselves! So, we don't have much time off... (he says, laughing).