Text produced by the FEI
Team Switzerland took first place in Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ action at Falsterbo on Friday, under the direction of new Chef d’Equipe Daniel Etter.
Ending their campaign in Sweden on just 4 penalty points across two rounds of Jumping, the Swiss team saw double clears from both Steve Guerdat with Dynamix de Belheme and Martin Fuchs aboard Conner Jei. The win puts them top of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ rankings in Europe — with this year’s competition offering a Paris 2024 qualification spot.
Great Britain, led by Di Lampard, took home the silver medal after posting four clears in the second round to finish on 8 points. Also scoring 8 points but slightly slower on the Longines clock with one less clear ride, the United States and Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland rounded out the podium in third place.
It was a gorgeous summer day as fans soaked up the sun in the stands at the Falsterbo Horse Show.The Falsterbo event was Leg 4 of 6 for Europe Division 1, where teams are fighting for tickets to the Nations Cup Finals at Barcelona, to be held at the end of September.
Frank Rothenberger of Germany created the Falsterbo turf course for the eight nations that present at the start. With a discard score available to help teams out, it was essential to avoid eliminations and retirements, lest a country not be able to get rid of a bad ride.
At the end of the first round, it was Switzerland out in front with no penalty points, thanks to clears from Guerdat, Elian Baumann (Little Lumpi E), and Fuchs, and only a 4 from Janika Sprunger (Orelie).
The USA and the Netherlands ended Round 1 on 4 points each, chased by Great Britain and Belgium on 8, France on 10, and Sweden and Italy on 12.
In spite of a few stellar performances, it wasn’t to be for the trailing teams as the afternoon wore on.
Italy had three textbook clears in Round 2 from Alberto Zorzi (Highlight W), Emanuele Camilli (Odense Odeveld), and Giampiero Garofalo (Max Van Lentz Schrans), but they couldn’t get past the high penalties from their first round.
Likewise, clears from Wilma Hellstrom (Cici BJN) and former world number 1 Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Zuccero) couldn’t save Team Sweden, although they did give the home crowd a thrill.
France saw their chances evaporate with an elimination and only one clear from Kevin Staut aboard Dialou Blue PS. Defending champions Team Belgium couldn’t pull ahead either, in spite of penalty-free rides from Abdel Said (Obama Van Ostaayen) and Koen Vereecke (Kasanova de la Pomme).
The Netherlands dropped from medal contention as they picked up multiple penalties, with only Kars Bonhof and Hernandez TN going clear — a nice double for them.
Double clears from American athlete Natalie Dean with Acota M helped her team hover within reach of victory. A clear from anchor duo Karl Cook and Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet buoyed their hopes further.
Not to be outdone, Great Britain put up a perfect second round, with clears from Samuel Hutton (Oak Grove’s Laith), Robert Whitaker (Vermento), and siblings Sienna Charles (Stardust) and Harry Charles (Casquo Blue).
That put the pressure on Switzerland, who had two 4s and a clear on the board, with only Martin Fuchs left to ride. A clear would send the gold home with the Swiss, but a fence down would mean a jump off with the USA and Great Britain.
Lucky for Switzerland, Fuchs demonstrated his usual exemplary navigation of Conner Jei around the arena to cross the Longines beam with no penalties for the team win.
“It was a real thriller!” said Chef d’Equipe Daniel Etter. “Martin did an amazing job.”
“The whole arena was on fire,” added Etter of the electric atmosphere during the final round.
The new coach of the Swiss team is elated at his athletes’ top finish. Both Fuchs and Guerdat are planning to head to the FEI Jumping European Championship at Milan next month.
And Switzerland lead the division for qualifying points to attend the Nations Cup Finals at Barcelona as well, giving them two potential opportunities to earn a berth to Paris next year, something they’ve yet to accomplish.
At the end of the day at Falsterbo, it was the Netherlands in fourth place, followed by Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and France.
That puts Belgium and the Netherlands both in third place in the overall standings, beneath Switzerland and second-place Germany. Italy, Great Britain, Ireland, and France are following, in that order, with only two legs remaining at Hickstead and Dublin.
Who will make it to Spain when the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series wraps up in early autumn? Stay tuned to FEI TV to find out!