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Switzerland reigns supreme in Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Slovakia

Sunday, 29 April 2018
CSIO5* Samorin 2018

Photo (c) FEI/Łukasz Kowalski The winning Swiss team: Werner Muff, Chef d'Equipe Andy Kistler, Steve Guerdat, Martin Fuchs and Paul Estermann. Photo (c) FEI/Łukasz Kowalski.

It was Team Switzerland that was in charge from start to finish in Sunday’s Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Slovakia, the first of the eight legs in the series’ Europe Division 1. The Swiss boys – Werner Muff, Paul Estermann, Martin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat – took control as the pathfinding team in round one, and kept their cool in round two as leaders and last to go – bringing the victory home from Samorin.

Eight teams had lined up at the breath-taking x-bionic® sphere in Samorin that was packed with spectators for the occasion, and seven of them – Brazil excluded – were allocated to collect points in the series, which will bring the best seven teams in Europe Division 1 to the final in Barcelona.

The track designed by Italian mastermind Uliano Vezzani made full use of the huge grass ring at the x-bionic® sphere. Faults spread out fairly, with the combination at 5ab, the triple combination at 10abc as well as the penultimate upright with a massive white gate under it coming into play repeatedly. The last oxer, a wide Liverpool, also caused heartbreak again and again. 

Following the first round, the Swiss were in the lead at the x-bionic® sphere after three fabulous clears from Werner Muff on Daimler (Canturano x Lupicor), Martin Fuchs on Chaplin (Verdi Tn x Concorde) and Steve Guerdat on Hannah (Dulf van den Bisschop x Kashmir van Schuttershof) – making it possible to discharge Paul Estermann’s eight faults. As pathfinder, Muff made the twelve-fence track look easy with his exuberant gelding showing off over the 1.60m fences. And when Estermann had two down on the playful Curtis Sitte (Ugano Sitte x Chellano Z), Martin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat showed why they always can be counted on when it comes to delivering clear rounds – putting Switzerland in pole position ahead of round two on a zero-penalty score.

Breathing the Swiss team in the neck was Italy, sitting on four faults. As first to go for his team, Luca Marziani was maximum unlucky to have the back pole on the last oxer down – which would later prove expensive. However, Piergiorgio Bucci and Bruno Chimirri delivered a clear round each so that Alberto Zorzi’s eight penalties could be discharged.

Two teams were another penalty behind: Brazil and Ireland were both sitting on a score of five, while Belgium and Sweden followed on eight. Germany did not have the best start to their Nations Cup-season, finishing the first round on twenty faults. It was not the day for Spain either. Manuel Fernandez Saro got in trouble in the triple combination when Cuidam (Verdi x Chellano) slammed on the breaks at the b-element, while Diego Perez Bilbao was eliminated after two stops on the oxer at 5a dropping them last after round one.

Photo (c) FEI/Łukasz Kowalski The Swiss boys celebrating their win in Samorin. Photo (c) FEI/Łukasz Kowalski.

It was just a pole separating the top two teams after round one, but the gap between the Swiss and Italians would increase in round two – over quite a few twists and turns as the riders followed each other. 

However, after the pathfinders had finished their rounds it looked like Italy would close in on Switzerland as Luca Marziani produced a clear round on Tokyo de Soleil (Montender x Papillon Rouge) while Muff and Daimler had to add four penalties after having the penultimate upright down. Belgium and Brazil were also coming from behind, with both Nicola Philippaerts on Chilli Willi (Casall x Lod) and Luiz Francisco de Azevedo on Comic (Verdi TN x Heartbreaker) producing double clear rounds as first to go for their teams.

When Belgium’s second rider Wilm Vermeir gave his team another clear round it could look like the tables were about to turn – the Belgian boys were still keeping their score of eight from round one. Ireland however had to see both their first riders collect faults, first four for Shane Breen and then eight for Mark McAuley – dropping them down behind Belgium. Brazil’s second rider Luiz Felipe de Azevedo Filho added eight faults, and it was up to their last two riders to have it discharged. Italy’s Piergiorgio Bucci could not repeat his clean sheet from the first round, and would also have to rely on the two last riders to have his score removed as was the case for Estermann who ended on five penalties after lowering the front rail at 10b plus adding a time penalty.

Belgium however could not keep up, as Jos Verlooy – their third rider in the ring – recorded eight faults in round two. This meant, a score of eight would be their best possible result if their anchor rider Pieter Devos would go clear. Ireland on the other hand bounced back with their third rider Paul O’Shea delivering a double clear round on Skara Glen's Machu Picchu (Silverstone x Matterhorn), and nine penalties would be the best possible Irish score before the fourth and final riders were to go. With five penalties in round two, Karina Johannpeter dropped Brazil down behind Belgium and Ireland – sitting on ten penalties as their best possible outcome. For Italy, things did not improve as Alberto Zorzi and the 9-year-old Vannan (Diamant de Semilly x Kannan) picked up a total of twenty faults – eventually the drop-score – leaving the team on a best possible score of 16 penalties requiring a clear round from their last man in the ring.  

Photo (c) FEI/Łukasz Kowalski Martin Fuchs and Chaplin jumped double clear for Switzerland. Photo (c) FEI/Łukasz Kowalski.

Switzerland on the other hand delivered again, as Martin Fuchs and Chaplin produced a double clear as the third pair in the line to keep the Swiss in pole position. Their best result would be four faults, the worst-case scenario nine. Now the question was, would the other teams be able to tighten the grip and put pressure on?

Pieter Devos could have done just that if going clear, but two poles fell and his nine penalties became the drop-score putting Belgium on a total of sixteen – keeping the door open for Ireland and Switzerland.

Irish rider Shane Sweetnam had to see the plank fall to the ground however, with his team ending on a total of thirteen faults after discharging McAuley’s nine penalties in round two. Belgium and Ireland’s last rounds meant that Switzerland’s anchor rider Steve Guerdat did not even have to enter the ring for a second time, with their nine penalties in round two it was good enough for the win and the maximum of points to take home from Samorin.

Brazil and Italy could do nothing with the top three teams – Switzerland, Ireland and Belgium. Brazil saw Yuri Mansur finishing on eight faults – their drop score – which put them on fifteen in total and in fourth, while Italy’s Bruno Chimirri collected four faults to put his team on a total of twenty – dropping further down the result list to equal fifth with Sweden.

 


Text © World of Showjumping // Pictures © FEI/Łukasz Kowalski

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