The defending champions from Belgium have the favoured last-to-go spot in the starting order for today's first round of the €2 million Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. The draw took place last evening at the Real Club de Polo where a total of 18 nations from all across the globe have gathered for the much-anticipated conclusion to another fantastic season of team competition.
The order-of-go is as follows:
2. Great Britain
Being first into the ring is never easy, and the Swiss will be pathfinders for all the remaining nations as the action gets underway this afternoon at 16.00 local time. “I’m not very happy to go back to my team with the No. 1 slot, but maybe it’s a good sign and at the end we will also finish in first position!” said Swiss Chef d’Equipe Andy Kistler whose impressive selection includes Romain Duguet, Paul Estermann, Martin Fuchs, Steve Guerdat and Janika Sprunger.
Belgian team manager, Dirk Demeersman, is grateful that his country made the cut into the Final despite a disappointing season. “We are very happy to be here, especially this year as we didn’t have such a good year, but at the end we had a bit of luck to get through and we will try to defend the title. My riders are very motivated and I’m confident that they will do their best,” said the man who will choose his side from Niels Bruynseels, Pieter Devos, Jerome Guery, Nicola Philippaerts and Gregory Wathelet.
All three of the team medal-winning countries at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will be represented, and the gold medallists from France will be coming out with all guns blazing as they field their full Olympic side of Roger Yves Bost, Penelope Leprevost, Philippe Rozier and Kevin Staut.
In contrast, the American silver medallists field just one of their four Rio riders, Lucy Davis who will be joined by Lauren Hough, Lillie Keenan, Laura Kraut and Audrey Coulter. “This is a very important stop for us here in Barcelona. Behind Rio it was a no 1 priority for us to qualify and do our best once we got here. We had Olympic riders in Europe and used them a lot to qualify, but it’s not just them, it’s all the riders at home that got us here. The team we have here is an all-girl team. We’ve left the boys at home but feel we’ve got a good shot!” said US team manager Robert Ridland.
Team Germany includes three of the bronze medallists from Brazil, Ludger Beerbaum, Daniel Deusser and World No. 1 Christian Ahlmann who will be joined by Marcus Ehning and Janne Friederike Meyer. And the Brazilians who put in such a great effort on their home turf during the Games will be sure to give it everything they’ve got. They send out three of riders who flew their flag in Rio - Stephan de Freitas de Barcha, Doda de Miranda and Pedro Veniss - along with Rodrigo Pessoa and Felipe Amaral.
Few can have forgotten the emotion of the jumping final in Rio in which Nick Skelton went into the record books when taking the first-ever Individual gold medal for Great Britain. So the 58-year-old rider’s presence, along with his brilliant horse Big Star who made it happen, has heightened the interest in the British side that looks very strong indeed. Backed up by Scott Brash, Tim Stockdale and the legendary Whitaker brothers John and Michael, the British have to be a force to be reckoned with. Drawn second to go they are not in the ideal position but their Chef d’Equipe, Di Lampard, wasn’t perturbed this evening. “We placed second overall last year and we will keep our fingers crossed we can go one better this time around!” she said.
Of course the Spanish are determined to put in their best foot forward too. “We had a reasonable result at the Games and we hope to be just a bit better here and try to be in the top eight so that we make it into the final competition on Saturday night,” said Chef d’Equipe Marco Fuste. But he knows every other team will be attempting to do the same. “With 18 countries there are so many trying to deny you that place. You need a combination of good riding and good luck on the day, because in the end it’s just the rub of a pole that can make all the difference. You look at the list and you think - this team is strong - but then you look again and the next one is stronger and the following one even stronger again!"
Source: Press release from FEI written by Louise Parkes // Picture © Dirk Caremans/FEI
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