The WoSJ-team has taken a closer look at who we hope, dream, think and wish will take home the medals at the Olympics in London. Ten individual combinations have been chosen as our hottest tips, and five teams. But, as always – it’s a wide open contest and in showjumping nothing is decided until the last fence has been jumped. And – there’s almost always a surprise element; that one horse and rider combination that nobody placed their bet on. Anyway, here are our bets in random order:
1. Nick Skelton and Big Star (Great Britain): The powerful Big Star (Quick Star x Nimmerdor) is relatively young at the age of nine, but has endless scope and talent – and all the qualities needed to take home the Olympic gold. It would be the perfect scenario for Skelton; a gold medal on home soil in London. Big Star needs little introduction; he has won some big classes in Aachen, Hamburg, Antwerp and Wellington this year – as well as being double clear for Britain in the Nations Cup in La Baule. This horse rarely touches a pole. Skelton is currently rank five on the Rolex Rankings, and has competed at no less than six Olympic Games, won ten European Championship medals, six World Championship medals, a World Cup title and over 60 major Grand Prix’ titles. We think Big Star deserves to live up to his name in London!
2. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall La Silla (Sweden): In short – Rolf is currently the highest ranked rider in the world, reigning European Champion and individual silver medalist from the 2008 Olympics. Casall La Silla has been rank one on the FEI WBFSH World Ranking List from March to June this year, and is now rank two – making them one of the most feared couples in London. One question remains though; will Casall La Silla have what it takes to finish on top at a major championship? Rolf has no doubt that Casall La Silla has abilities as a championship horse; “He has jumped many big Global Champions Tour Grand Prix classes, as well as other big Grand Prix’s. But I have never before put him in such a situation as the Olympics will be. The World Cup Final in Den Bosch in April was a test for him though, which he definitely passed,” Rolf said of his Olympic partner earlier this year. Rolf is one of the nicest riders on the circuit, and we hope to celebrate another medal for this Swedish superstar.
3. Philipp Le Jeune and Vigo d’Arsouilles STX (Belgium): Reigning World Champions from the WEG in Kentucky in 2010, this pair cannot be ruled out when it comes to the medals in London. Vigo d’Arsouilles (Nabab de Reve x Fleuri de Manoir) has everything required from a championship horse; and has proved before that he has got what it takes. The 14 year old stallion has certainly not been over-used this year, but was on the winning Belgian team in the La Baule Nations Cup and also second in the Grand Prix there. We love this pair so much, and would be happy to see them repeat their success from Kentucky.
4. Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue (Germany): Who does not think that Marcus and Plot Blue deserve an Olympic medal? After struggling with his form and horse power last year, Marcus has been spot on this year – with plenty of big wins and has also ridden himself back into the Top Ten, currently he is rank seven in the world. Plot Blue, a 15 year old stallion by Mr. Blue x Pilot, was recently double clear in the Nations Cup in Aachen, and won the Grand Prix in St. Gallen and Mannheim. Marcus and Plot are reigning team World Champions, and also won team bronze at the Europeans in 2009. In 2010 the pair was also World Cup Final winners in Geneva. Watch out; we think time has come for Marcus to win an individual Olympic gold – he already has a gold with the team from the Games in 2000.
5. Gerco Schröder and Eurocommerce London (The Netherlands): The horse got its name for a reason! No, seriously – it’s not just the name. This pair won the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Cannes, and the Nabab de Reve-stallion jumped out of this world. Gerco has all the experience needed; he has a team gold with the Dutch team from the WEG in Aachen in 2006 and has ridden at two Games before. Gerco will also be keen to revenge the loss of his European gold medal in Madrid last year – which disappeared from his grasp in the last round of the championships pushing him down to that frustrating rank four. So, watch out!
6. Rich Fellers and Flexible (USA): Seeing Fellers on the podium in London would be a fairytale come true. This horse and rider combination is one of the most sympathetic on the circuit, and Fellers has described his partner Flexible as a pet; “I love him and he loves me!” Aaahhhh – they are so cute together these two. But behind this love-affair lies a dangerous winner-instinct; Fellers and Flexible has had an amazing 2012 season and won the World Cup Final in Den Bosch – bringing the title home to the US for the first time in 25 years. After this, they have just continued winning – the 16 year old Cruising-stallion notched up several wins both at Spruce Meadows and at Del Mar this spring. Competitors should fear Fellers and Flexible, who’s almost like an old married couple – in fierce form!
7. Edwina Tops-Alexander and Cevo Itot du Chateau (Australia): They might be one of the tiniest couples of the competition, but these two jump fences way bigger than themselves! “Itot is a tough little horse; he’s strong minded,” Edwina said to WoSJ earlier this year. And, so is Edwina – there is a reason why she is ranked as the best lady rider in the world at the moment. This pair knows each other inside out, and have notched up some huge wins over the years. They lack that medal though and we think time has come for one of the most popular pairs on the showjumping circuit to climb up on the podium! This will be Edwina and Itot's second Olympic Games together.
8. Katharina Offel and Vivant (Ukraine): Fantastic rider and fantastic horse. Katharina Offel thinks the world of this horse, and so do we. This was the pair that stole the limelight at the Olympic Trials in Aachen last year, and won the individual qualification as well as the team qualification. The stallion by Fuego du Prelet x Landino has all the qualities in the world, and could well be one of the medalists in London. The two are also in form, and did two fantastic rounds in the Rolex Grand Prix in Aachen. Fingers crossed.
9. Ben Maher and Tripple X III (Great Britain): How cool would it be if Ben took home a medal on home soil on a home-bred horse? Last year Ben told WoSJ that Tripple X III actually was supposed to be sold as a three year old as “he looked tall and ugly.” But, when Ben broke him in he felt naturally good so he decided to keep him. The now stunning Tripple X III has got it all, and it’s Ben who taught him all he knows. The pair has one championship behind them; and in Madrid they ended up with a team bronze for the British team. Earlier this year the two won the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Valencia, and proved that they have got what it takes when it comes to the big stuff. This will be Ben’s second Olympics.
10. Kevin Staut and Silvana *HDC (France): Kevin rocketed back up the Rolex Ranking earlier this month, and is now rank two in the world. Kevin and Silvana have team silver medals from the WEG in Kentucky and the Europeans in Madrid, but are lacking that individual one. We are sure that they will try to hunt it down, and this is a highly competitive pair that has everything needed to achieve great things in London. The 13 year old Corland-mare has been matched carefully towards London, and has not been over-jumped this spring.
The outsiders; Reed Kessler and Cylana (USA): Oh, how we wish that the sensational just-turned 18 year old Reed would go ahead and win a medal in London. This pair has been on fire in America this season, and shared the victory in the USEF National Show Jumping Championship with veteran Margie Engel. Their most recent win came at Spruce Meadows in June.
1. Germany; Unbeatable in Europe this season and won the Top League even before the last leg has been ridden. They are without doubt the team to beat with Christian Ahlmann, Marcus Ehning, Janne-Friederike Meyer and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum flying the German colors.
2. USA ; Reigning Team Olympic Champions with riders in top form on the team. We think McLain, Beezie, Rich and Reed have got what it takes in the team competition.
3. France; The season did not start to well for the French team, but they have matched their form perfectly for the Olympics and won the Top League leg in Aachen - considered to be one of the toughest Nations Cups in the world. They have some great riders and horses on the team, which include Kevin Staut/Silvana *HDC and leading French lady rider Penelope Leprevost/Mylord Carthago *HN.
4. The Netherlands; Although it's been a bit of ups and downs for the Dutch team this year, we think Marc, Gerco, Maikel and Jur have a medal chance if all plays out right for them.
5. Great Britain; The British team has some great horses and riders on their team, and will for sure be keen to produce a top result on home soil. Anything else will probably be a disapointment for the British riders, and we are sure Nick, Ben, Peter and Scott will give their all in the team competition.
The outsiders; Ukraine: This team has some serious horsepower with Vivant, Niack de L'Abbaye, Comte d'Arsouilles and Temple Road on the startlist. The may well claim a medal in London!
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