After a competition with many twists and turns, Germany went to the top in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Europe Division 1 in Falsterbo on Friday afternoon. It was a close call though, as only one single penalty separated the German team from the host nation Sweden as the competition came to an end. Sweden, together with the Netherlands, was in the lead after round one though. Germany was in fifth position after the first round was jumped, also behind the US and Spain on one penalty – but with only two time penalties up to the top for the Germans everything was possible in round two. And for a second year in a row, Otto Becker's crew were the strongest in Falsterbo.
Both the Swedish and the Dutch team impressed in round one. The home crowds went off the hooks when first rider Douglas Lindelöw produced a clear round on Casello (Casall x Carolus), and when Alexander Zetterman followed up with another clear riding Cafino (Cardento x Roderik) it got even wilder. The two young boys could celebrate their performances to wild roars from the Swedish crowds – as always the atmosphere in Falsterbo was fantastic! The temperature sank a little with an unexpected two down for Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on five star Nations Cup-debutant Unita Ask (Corrado I x Caretino) – but it quickly heated up again as anchor rider Peder Fredricson produced a beautiful clear on H&M Sibon (Sibon W x Baloubet du Rouet).
The Netherlands gave the home team fierce competition though. Wout-Jan van der Schans and Capetown (Oklund x Carlino) go from strength to strength together, and opened with a clear round. Harrie Smolders and Emerald (Diamant de Semilly x Carthago) notched up a time penalty, while the two last riders – Bart Bles on Lord Sandro Ddh (Lordanos x Sandro) and Jur Vrieling on Zirocco Blue VDL (Mr. Blue x Voltaire) left the ring on a clean sheet to make it all very exciting as these two teams returned to round two without any penalties.
The track was a fair one, but still included the challenges of a five star Nations Cup. The hardest parts were found on the line from the open water with a vertical following and then a five strides to an oxer. Then came a long canter around the short side before a vertical waited followed by a triple combination. This part of the course caused the most head ache, and in the end it was – surprisingly – only three double clear rounds.
The tables turned in the second round. Douglas Lindelöw had to see two poles – the front one on the third oxer and the vertical out of the triple combination – fall to the ground. The Dutch team tightened the grip though as Wout-Jan rode his second clear of the day on Capetown.
When Germany's Andre Thieme rode yet another round with only a time penalty on the lovely grey Conthendrix (Contendro x Cor de la Bryere), things started to brighten up for Germany whose Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum had ridden a first round with one down and a time fault and left the ring after the second round with one down on Fibonacci 17 (For Feeling x Corland) - a horse doing its Nations Cup debut for Germany. And with the front pole down on the a-element of the triple combination down for Sweden's Alexander Zettterman, and two down for Holland's Harrie Smolders on Emerald the door was open for changes on the top.
Things continued to go up and down – and after three riders in the ring Sweden and Holland both had a four penalty score with Germany right behind on seven. Germany's third rider Patrick Stühlmeyer had the vertical at seven down on Lacan 2 after a first clear round, while home hero Rolf-Göran Bengtsson made Falsterbo explode when he produced a terrific clear round on Unita Ask. Bart Bles had one down for the Dutch team though, making it nail biting as the last riders entered the ring.
A clear round from Hamburg Grand Prix-winner Katrin Eckermann on the lovely Firth of Lorne (For Pleasure x Stakkato) – who only had a single time penalty in the first round – put the pressure on those two come. With her performance, Stühlmeyer's result was discharged leaving Germany on a score of seven penalties overall.
With a double clear from last-to-go for USA Brianne Goutal on Nice de Prissey (Rosire x Amarpour), and also from Spain's double-clear-round-machine Sergio Alvarez Moya on Zipper (Concorde x Apple Juice) – both these teams finished on a nine penalty score waiting to see if it would be good enough for the podium as Sweden and the Netherland's went in to battle it out.
There was not to be a battle between the two countries though. Peder Fredricson made the crowds sigh with disappointment as a pole on the oxer into the triple combination fell to the ground, but nevertheless he was celebrated as a hero when he crossed the finish line to leave the home team on an eight-penalty score. The Netherlands could not hold it together for a place on the podium even – Jur Vrieling had two down on the very last line and it fell apart for the Dutch who finished on thirteen overall falling down to fourth – leaving Sweden to second and USA and Spain tied in third behind Germany.
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