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WoSJ Exclusive; Henk Nooren – on the Top League, the Europeans and rising stars

Tuesday, 05 July 2011

Henk at work in Hamburg. Photo by Jenny Abrahamsson.

Henk Nooren is a well known name in the world of showjumping. Nooren was a part of Holland’s showjumping team for several years, and has medals from both European and World Championships. Over the last years the legendary Dutchman has been one of the most popular and sought-after trainers in the sport. He has trained several individual riders such as Marcus Ehning, Eric van der Vleuten and Peter Wylde as well as national teams such as Sweden and Spain – but for the last years he has achieved great success as a trainer for France. In April Nooren also took on the role as the French coach after Laurent Elias – a contract that runs towards the Olympics in London in 2012.

WoSJ had a talk with Nooren to learn a little more about his thoughts on the season, his new role and to try and get some names on talented younger riders to look out for in 2011.  

- What are your thoughts on your new role as both coach and trainer for the French team?

“Having both roles is quite normal and I have done that with many teams before. Through my role as a trainer for the French team, I have slowly learned to know the team and their horses.  I was comfortable with having that as my single task, and would have been happy to keep it that way – but when we came in the position of having to choose between getting in someone new who wouldn’t know the team that well, and to have me in both roles we decided that this solution was the best one for the team,” Henk explains.

- What are your priorities and goals for the 2011-season?

“Our main priority is the Olympics in London next year. In the meantime we must give our best to stay in the Top League and of course we want some good results at the Europeans. We probably won’t send our supposedly best team to the Europeans. We are lucky to already have qualified for London, and we can use the Europeans as a test and try out different combinations of horses and riders.”

- Are there any particular “new” French riders we will see more of this season?

“There are probably three or four new ones that you will notice this year; riders that also might be potential candidates for the Top League,” Nooren smiles and continues “But I won’t give you the names now.”

- What are your thoughts on this year’s Top League?

“The Top League is hard every year. It is especially hard on the smaller countries, like for instance Sweden last year. It is getting more and more heavy because of the Global Champions Tour, and to be comfortable during the season a rider needs at least three really good Grand Prix horses. Four is ideal. All countries would like to stay in the Top League, but there are no guarantees – each year there are countries that don’t make it through the season. You never know,” Nooren explains in his modest way.

- The outdoor season has certainly hardened over the past year with so many big shows; is it a positive development for the sport?

“The development has been good for the riders – the high level of prize money in the Global Champions Tour has made it is easier for the riders to attract sponsors. But there is also an increasing pressure on the horses, so the development in the sport has made it much harder on them.” 

- What about the development on the riders - are there any rising stars you think we should look out for this season?

“In France you have two very good riders in Eugénie Angot and Jérôme Hurel – I think you will see more of them this season. And then you always have that group of eight to ten good riders that will fight for a place in the top,” Henk says. “Outside France the name that jumps out the most today is Angelica Augustsson. It would be nice to see more of her. She is a really good rider and she really stands out from the rest. Also the Philippaerts brothers [Olivier and Nicola] are two exciting names at international level,” Henk smiles. 

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