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Maikel van der Vleuten: "What’s important is to make sure the athletes have equal possibilities"

Friday, 30 October 2020

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.
“With the older horses I could not feel a difference when I got back to showing, and even the younger ones have been fine after their break," Maikel van der Vleuten says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



As predicted by many, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit Europe with a second wave. With measures and restrictions being tightened in most countries as cases are surging, indoor show after indoor show is being cancelled. Traditionally the highlight during the winter season, the Longines FEI World Cup Western European League has been cut down dramatically over the last months – with only three legs currently remaining in the calendar for 2020/2021. World-wide there are now three CSI5* events scheduled from October to December, compared to twelve last year – two of them are indoors. The number of CSI4* shows in the same period is now six – two of which are indoors – compared to thirteen last year. 

What do the riders make of a winter season with so much uncertainty and so few indoor events? World of Showjumping asked a few top riders about their thoughts on the months ahead. Next out answering our questions is Dutch rider Maikel van der Vleuten.

“This is a difficult question,” Maikel van der Vleuten answers when asked about his plans for the winter season. “Normally you can plan for months ahead, but now that’s not possible. For example, our Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens had to decide on our teams for the Nations Cups in Vilamoura and Vejer de la Frontera. At the time, I said if the indoor shows – such as Lyon, Verona and Geneva – are on, I have enough competitions. Now, the situation is different. It is not easy to make a plan forward. I am thinking about going down to Vilamoura, then maybe do the three-star show in Vejer de la Frontera before Salzburg and Geneva – and in between we perhaps have some two-star shows at Sentower Park. But the situation is changing week by week, with different restrictions in every country. We live in difficult times.”

Looking forward to the spring of 2021, van der Vleuten still has his eyes set on the Longines FEI World Cup Final, planned to take place in Gothenburg, Sweden, in April. "I really like the World Cup events, and I would prioritise the World Cup Final in my plans for the spring given that it would go on as planned," he says.  

The situation is changing week by week, with different restrictions in every country. We live in difficult times.

Following an international show break of three months during lockdown, van der Vleuten bounced back as one of the most successful riders during the summer season. “I kept going as usual with the training,” van der Vleuten explains. “With the older horses I could not feel a difference when I got back to showing, and even the younger ones have been fine after their break.”

Van der Vleuten was one of the few lucky riders who could compete at the Hubside Jumping in Grimaud, France during summer and fall. “Lately, my horses have jumped enough – I could keep them going pretty well,” he tells. “For other riders, who did not get into these shows, it has been harder.”

Even with the most optimistic mindset, it seems obvious that 2021 will see less international jumping events than in the past. “It can make a difference,” van der Vleuten reflects on this possibly affecting the horses in their preparations in an Olympic year. “On the other hand, I think it does not matter where the horses are showing – outdoor or indoor – as long as they can stay in the rhythm. Our horses have to be fit and ready, and it is the same situation for everyone. It is important that horses and riders go well prepared to big championships."

"Now that the 2021 Europeans have been allocated to Riesenbeck, this will for sure be another goal for me," Maikel continues. "I have never competed at Riesenbeck International, but Ludger and his team are true professionals and I am confident they will run a successful event." 

When it comes to the Olympics in Tokyo, van der Vleuten is unsure about the prospects for the Games to run as scheduled. “To me, the situation we are currently in creates a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the logistics and travelling – especially with people from all over the world taking part. However, I hope for the best. It is something to look forward to. What’s important is to make sure the athletes have equal possibilities, also on the way towards the Olympic Games – it has to be fair. None of us can go there from a stand still.”


No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping


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