The Ukrainian team continued their relentless campaign for promotion to Europe Division 1, and a place in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final when posting their third Europe Division 2 victory of the season in Sopot on Friday. They came into the competition filled with confidence after overwhelming the opposition in Celje and Odense last month, and as Chef d’Equipe, Najib Chami, pointed out afterwards, it is the decisivness of his side’s victories that is pleasing him most right now. “I’m really happiest because we are not winning with 12 or 16 points at each show,” he said, after a four-fault effort was good enough to clinch it, even without a second round run from anchorman Rene Tebbel.
Tied with the eventual winners on a zero score at the halfway stage, Team Austria survived a second-round elimination to hold on for runner-up spot ahead of Belgium in third and Spain in fourth place. Just eight of the massive line-up of 15 teams made the cut into the second round, and it was Denmark that finished fifth ahead of Sweden in sixth, Germany in seventh and Australia in eighth place.
The usual rule of limiting the number of teams on the start-list to 13 is different for the Olympic year during which up to 15 nations are permitted to compete. And with Rio 2016 only a few short weeks away now, all 15 spots were filled by a mixture of sides, some using the competition for Olympic training while others experimented with new horses and new riders finding their way up to the next level of the sport. And despite the marathon nature of the competition it was an intriguing afternoon, with plenty of surprises in store.
The course designed by Germany’s Olaf Petersen Jr was well up to height, and the time-allowed of 75 seconds left little room for extra caution. The 1.60m vertical after the 4-metre-wide open water was challenging, while the distance from the narrow white planks vertical at eight to the following oxer at fence nine also proved difficult for some. However as the competition played itself out it was the line from the triple bar at 10 to the Longines triple combination at 11 and then the final left-hand bend to the water-tray oxer at 12 that caught many out. Many of those who turned tight to the triple bar found the width too much, while the one-strided combination of vertical to oxer to vertical required absolute accuracy. And finally the distance to the last quite often came up on a bad stride, as Ukraine’s Ulrich Kirchhoff discovered in the second round.
This began with Ukraine and Austria both on a clean sheet while Australia followed close behind carrying just the individual time faults collected by Jamie Kermond and James Paterson-Robinson after Matt Williams opened their account with a clear.
Germany sent out a strong foursome of Andre Thieme on Conthendrix, Denis Nielsen on DSP Cashmoaker, Mario Stevens on Brooklyn) and Patrick Stuhlmeyer on Lacan and they were just off the pace at the halfway stage with four faults in their account while Sweden and Spain trailed them with six apiece. Belgium made the cut with eight faults and Denmark were next in line with nine, but round two would bring some big changes of fortune.
Paterson-Robinson’s second single time fault was the only saving grace as the Australian effort fell apart with the addition of 19 faults that would drop them to last place on a total of 21. And Germany fared only marginally better when adding 16 to slot in ahead of them on a total of 20. The Swedish anchor partnership of Jonna Ekerg and the 11-year-old mare Air Pia VGZ were one of the eye-catchers of the day, but despite a fabulous clear second time out her side picked up 13 more to add to their tally to finish on 19, just one fault behind Denmark who ended their day with 18 on the board.
The Spanish also struggled with 10 more on their scoresheet but the Belgians rallied really well, thanks to a great double-clear from Nicola Philippaerts and Bisquet Balou C and a much-improved fault-free effort from Karel Cox with Cor van de Wateringhoeve which meant that only one of the four-fault rounds from Niels Bruynseels and Jerome Guery had to be counted as they rounded up their result to a relatvely modest 12 faults.
Meanwhile the Austrians began to look vulnerable when Julia Kayser's Sterrehof’s Ushi hit the triple bar and added a time fault and then Christian Rhomberg's Saphyr des Lacs lowered the water-tray vertical at fence three. And things were looking even less optimistic when Roland Englbrecht’s Mevisto’s Poorboy slammed on the brakes twice at the first element of the double at fence seven for elimination.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Ukrainians however despite another foot-perfect run from Cassio Rivetti and Fine Fleur du Marais because there was a sharp intake of breath when Ulrich Kirchhoff’s effortless run with Prince de la Mare ended with the last fence on the floor. But when Ferenc Szentirmai followed that with a clean tour of the track with Chadino it was all done and dusted, and the Ukrainians were already celebrating. Tebbel and his team-mates could watch from the sidelines as the remainder ettled who would take that runner-up spot.
And a second lovely clear from Max Kuhner and the elegant grey Chardonnay sealed that spot for Austria in fine fashion.
Ukrainian Chef d’Equipe, Najib Chami, said today’s result “couldn’t be better!" He said the course was technical but nice and that this victory came as no surprise to him. Promotion to the Furusiyya Europe Division 1 series is a major target and Ukraine’s preparation for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is also a major focus. “We have our plan for the next few months, I will maybe change one or two riders so we don’t have to compete our top horses and there is one young rider who gave me good results at her first two shows so I will send her to Budapest for more experience,” he pointed out, thinking ahead to the next Europe Division 2 leg in Hungary next month. “The time is short ahead of Rio, but it is also long at the same time - you never know what can happen in these coming weeks,” he said.
Source: Press release from FEI // Picture © FEI/Herve Bonnaud
This photo has been added to your cart !Your shopping cart »