Arezzo (ITA), July 28, 2014: Medals were hard-earned at the FEI European Jumping Championships for Children, Juniors and Young Riders 2014 at Arezzo Equestrian Centre in Italy where it wasn’t just the fences that tested competitors. A tremendous rain-storm seriously disrupted the schedule last Thursday, resulting in major flooding and alterations to the programme of events and the poor weather continued over the following days. However both the organisers and athletes held their nerve to ensure a tremendous conclusion by Sunday afternoon.
There were 91 horse-and-rider combinations battling for the Individual honours and 56 teams in action. A total of 25 countries were represented including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Poland Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and Turkey. And plenty of new stars were born.
Young Riders Team
The first team gold medals were awarded to the Young Riders from Germany who pipped the Norwegian silver medallists by just a single fault while the host nation of Italy claimed the bronze.
As always, many of the competitors carried familiar surnames as they are sons and daughters of famous senior riders, and Maurice Tebbel, son of Rene Tebbel, produced one of two German clears in the opening round of the Young Riders team event with his bay gelding Cooper. However it was Angelina Herroder and her 11-year-old bay mare ABC Trixi who provided the most solid German score when double-clear. Tebbel faulted once in the second round, Niklas Krieg and Carelia collected a total of eight faults and Laura Klaphake and Nifrane de Kreisker followed a single first-round error with a zero at their second attempt to leave them on a final team tally of eight.
It was the single first-round time-fault picked up by Norwegian pathfinders Pal Flam and Skjerabergs Larkin that pinned Norway into silver medal position. The pair were awarded five faults on their first tour of the track, so when Maren Smedhaug and Caleandro picked up 20 for the discard score then the single mistake by Solveig Newermann and Wodka had to be taken into account to leave them on a total of nine faults after Benedikte Endresen and Super Sox went clear. Benedikte is daughter of Norwegian senior team-member Stein Endresen and was foot-perfect again in the second round when both Flam and Newermann also kept a clean sheet. But their first-round total still left the Norwegians a single penalty point behind the German champions.
It was neck-and-neck between the Norwegians and their Italian hosts at the halfway stage with both carrying nine faults into round two, but former Italian National Champion, Filippo Marco Bologni who is son of Italian veteran Arnaldo Bologni, produced the discard scores of 12 and 13 in each round, so the single mistake made by Francesca Ciriesi and Que Sera second time out had to be added to clears from both Matilde Giorgia Bianchi and Una Bella HS and Nicolo Vincenzo Callerio with Darius for a final total of 13 faults.
The three-man team from Spain led the way at the end of the first round on a zero score, but single errors from both Gonzalo Anon Suarez (Qlamp d’Ivraie) and Bartolome Mayol Parera (Macaco) had to be added to the eight picked by Jose Fumero Hernandez (Davinia R) for a fourth-place finish at the end of the day.
German Chef d’Equipe, Markus Merschformann, said he was “in seventh heaven!” after his team’s gold-medal-winning performance. He was particularly pleased because this was his first time to act as a team manager and it was a winning one. His team showed their deep appreciation for all his support and guidance by throwing him into the lake in the Arena Boccaccio after the prize-giving, so Herr Merschformann arrived into the post-competition press conference holding his shoes and wet from head to toe. That didn’t create a sense-of-humour failure however, and he was smiling from ear to ear. “Things went very well especially today, but there was so much pressure on us” he said. “We had to fight for the gold until the very last moment. The most dangerous adversaries for us were surely Spain and Norway, especially Norway who had such a good competition today and maintained a lot of pressure on us. To be able to win gold after finishing fifth in Spain last year is even more wonderful!” he concluded.
Felt the pressure
German team-member Laura Klaphake said she really felt the pressure going into the arena as the last for her team in the second round. “I knew my score could totally change the team result, but my round was good and so I have a fantastic feeling!” she said.
Norwegian Chef d’Equipe, Mikael Kolind, said “what we have achieved here is a really important step for us. In one round there was a problem with the timing system but this did not affect our results and the three clear rounds enabled us to secure the silver medal” he pointed out proudly.
Norwegian team member, Pal Flam, congratulated his team-mates and said “despite the five penalties in the my first round I was able to get myself together for the second round clear and so I am very happy!”
Italian Chef d’Equipe, Gianluca Bormioli, said his side arrived at the event “determined to get a good result”. He added “we made some errors and so we are more happy than ever with the bronze!” His team pathfinder, Matilde Bianchi, earned her team manager’s praise as she competed despite fracturing her right hand. “When we took her to the doctor she said: “I have broken by hand, but it’s nothing, so I don’t need the doctor!” Mr Bormioli exclaimed.
Young Riders Individual
It was Lisa Nooren, daughter of former Dutch star Henk Nooren who now manages the French Jumping team, who led the way with Flying Saucer Das Umburanas after the first Young Rider’s Individual competition, but by the end of the Team competition Germany held the reins with Herroder at the top of the leaderboard, Luthi in second and Klaphake in third.
However it was Sweden’s Irma Karlsson who won through when adding just four faults from the team event to finish on a total of 5.24 for the gold. Karlsson and her 10-year-old grey Cornet, by the great stallion Cornet Obolensky, never put a foot wrong over the two Individual Final rounds to climb up from sixth to stand on the top step of the podium. “I am speechless and extremely happy with this result for the team and my trainer!” said the delighted rider afterwards. “My goal was to win a medal in this Championship and I succeeded! My horse went really fast, especially in the first round which was a very technical course” she explained on the final afternoon. “In the second round I had to ride more calmly because Cornet was a little tired after all the work he has done so far this week” she explained.
Germany’s Kaya Luthi added just five faults to her scoreline in the second round of the Individual Final on Sunday to take the silver ahead of Klaphake in bronze while Benedikte Endresen impressed all the way through to finish just off the podium in fourth place on the Individual rankings.
The British came out on top in the Junior Team Championship, but not without a powerful challenge from the Dutch who pushed them to the very end. These team medals were decided in a two-way jump-off, with Germany already secure in bronze medal position.
Clears from both Jake Saywell (Grand Cru van Paemel) and Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T) ensured that only the four picked up by Millie Allen (Cantino) had to be lodged to the British account in the first round when Christie Pritchard’s 16 with Waldemar was the drop score. The Dutch kept pace with zero scores from both Kim Bril (Mallorca) and Jens van Grunsven (Whisper) whose sister, Demi van Grunsven (San Seral) produced the discard score of nine first time out while Kim Hoogenraat (Wishkarla) posted just four faults. Jens and Demi are nephew and niece of Dutch Dressage superstar Anky van Grunsven, so the competition gene is in their DNA.
And when both sides produced three clears in round two it came down to a jump-off for the gold, with the British emerging to reign supreme. Germany’s Theesa Ripke (Calmado), Laura Strehmel (DSP Lucie), Leonie Krieg (Champerlo) and Telke Carstensen (Cara Mia) racked up just eight faults for the bronze.
‘Today was a real battle” said British Chef d’Equipe Tony Newbury after the competition concluded. “A wonderful victory against a Dutch team who are in really good form, and where the battle continued right to the very end. A team competition like this, with 20 nations competing, creates a lot of pressure which makes it very difficult indeed. In general there were very few errors and this is a sign of the high level of competition here” he pointed out. “I would like to congratulate the organisers for the excellent competition arenas – both Dante and Boccaccio! This is the first time I have come to Arezzo but I was already aware of the high quality of this sporting structure, above all the Boccaccio Arena which has volcanic ash as its base” he added.
British team member Jessica Mendoza is no stranger to success and was on last year’s Junior silver medal winning side. “I am really happy with my double-clear with Spirit T” she said. “For me this is an important experience considering that I have always been in the British Team since being in Ponies, and also because it is my last year in Juniors – it couldn’t have been a better way to finish! I have to say that I think my participation in the Toscana Tour has been a great help for this European Championships because my horse knew every detail of the competition arena at Arezzo, from the various shadows (in the arenas) to the water” she pointed out.
Norway’s Amalie Hegre (Remedy) led the way into the Junior Individual Final with Switzerland’s Estelle Wettstein (Bonita) next in line and Poland’s Andrzej Oplatek (El Camp) in third. However eight faults in the first round of the Final competition put paid to Oplatek’s chances while Wettstein’s single mistake in the first round cost her a medal placing.
Mendoza’s final-day double-clear moved her up from overnight sixth into Individual bronze medal spot behind Belgium’s Gilles Thomas who had been lying fifth but final ended up in silver medal spot with his 10-year-old mare Conaro.
Hegre meanwhile steered her 11-year-old mare Remedy into gold medal position in fine style without touching a pole. “Words don’t exist to describe my feelings for having achieved this result!” said the new 17-year-old Junior European Jumping champion. “My horse has been very calm all week and has helped me really to give my best. I want to thank my mother, as she has helped me so much to gain this victory and my thoughts in this moment are also for my instructor who is having a very difficult time at home at the moment” she said, between tears of joy and emotion.
The Children’s Team title went to Austria with Belgium taking silver, but it took another jump-off to settle the destination of the bronze medals in this category.
The Austrian victory was quite clear-cut, as Jessica Vonach (Withny), Stella Egger (Candyman) and Dominik Juffinger (Copido) all jumped clear for a zero score while Sebastian Gorton-Hulgerth (Estoril) collected a total of 28 faults. The Belgians came a close second with just single time faults from Emilie Conter (Fragil van t Paradijs) and Alexander Housen (Flicka) taken into account when Thibault Philippaerts (Lajolie 3) left just one pole on the floor and Maartje Verberckmoes (Cous Cous) left all the timber in place.
Germany and France battled it out for bronze when each racked up a four-fault total, and when the Germans once again kept a clean sheet while France added four faults the latter missed out on the team podium.
“This victory is very emotional” said Austrian Chef d’Equipe Martin Bauer, “and it shows that we are a great team – even if very young!” The rain drenched the youngest competitors but never dampened their enthusiasm of the teams who filled the Dante Arena under the tireless direction of the multi-tasking David Holmes to collect their trophies and medals. “This European Championship has not been easy and there has been a long period of preparation before we could arrive here and be competitive” Mr Bauer continued. “Furthermore the new format of three rounds has made everything more difficult, considering that we had long periods to wait because of the rain which created great suspense and tension amongst the riders! So thank you to everyone, and I would like to congratulate my riders!” he said.
Winning Austrian team-member, Dominik Juffinger, said “to be European Team Champions is an incredible sensation! I never thought it would be possible. To win gold is amazing and I thank with all my heart our Chef, and Arezzo Equestrian Centre for this fantastic event!”
Great Britain’s Robert Murphy rode his last two rounds masterfully to take Children’s Individual gold at only his second European Championships. With grit and determination he guided his lively 11-year-old, Del Fuego, and in the prizegiving the hugely popular 13-year-old got a big cheer after struggling to climb onto the top step of the winner’s podium. Supported by a big crowd of spectators the young champion, who has been riding since the age of three, cleared the course in 46.66 seconds to clinch victory in the last round. And following the traditional dunking in the water jump, he presented an impressively professional front at the post-competition press conference during which he thanked all of his family, British Chef d’Equipe Claire Whitaker, and his groom, Jo, who looks after his horse so well.
Children’s Individual silver medallist, Italy’s Lorenzo Sciacca, also got great support from the crowd. The 14-year old from Sicily came very close to the gold medal but he picked up five penalties in 48.61 seconds in the jump-off to have to settle for the second step on the podium and breaking his own record of 22 rounds of jumping without a pole down this season. “This result is fantastic” said Lorenzo who seemed unable to believe his own achievement. “This is my first Europeans and to win silver is a huge satisfaction. I got here thanks to the help of my parents and the national coach, Gianluca Bormioli who allowed me to participate in this amazing adventure. Now I am going home to Acireale and we will have a great party in the stables!” said this talented young man.
Bronze went to the fast French rider Elisa Mellec riding Renarde Rumel who completed the jump-off with two poles on the floor in 41.80 seconds.
FEI Technical Delegate, Santiago Varela Ullcastres, described these Championships as “excellent, especially since there has been great flexibility on the part of the Organising Committee to be able to run everything to a high standard despite the frequent interruptions caused by the torrential rain!”
Course designer, Elio Travagliati who is a student of Uliano Vezzani, enjoyed his Championships debut. “I am very happy, and I have received congratulations from the Ground Jury and the FEI Technical Delegate” he said. “I designed the courses in order to not only test the strength and the technical ability of the horses, but also the technical ability of the riders” he explained, while Ground Jury President, Bruno Laubscher, declared that the Championship Organising Committee “have given their all, considering that they have hosted three European Championships in one year!”
He continued “the only problems have been due to the weather and the consequent postponement of competitions, but everything ran to perfection. I have to compliment Elio Travagliati for his perfect courses which provided excellent competition without problems. This is very important, because I am sure that the rider and team staff will all leave Arezzo now with big smiles!”
FEI European Jumping Championships for Children, Juniors and Young Riders 2014:
Young Rider Team Championship: GOLD – Germany 8 faults: ABC Trixi (Angelina Herroder) 0/0, Cooper 75 (Maurice Tebbel) 0/4, Carella 5 (Niklas Krieg) 4/4, Nifrande de Kreisker (Laura Klaphake) 4/0; SILVER – Norway 9 faults: Skjerabergs Larkin (Pal Flam) 5/0, Wodka (Solveig Newermann) 4/0, Caleandro (Maren Smedhaug) 20/9, Super Sox (Bekedikte Endresen) 0/0; BRONZE – Italy 13 faults: Una Bella HS (Matilde Giorgia Bianchi) 5/0, Fixdesign Chopin (Filippo Marco Bologni) 12/13, Que Sera (Francesca Ciriesi) 0/4, Darius (Nicolo Vincenzo Callerio) 4/0.
Young Rider Individual Championship: GOLD – Cornet (Irma Karlsson) SWE 5.24; SILVER – Pret A Tout (Kaya Luthi) GER 7.78; BRONZE – Nifrane de Kreisker (Laura Klaphake) 8.50.
Junior Team Championship: GOLD – Great Britain 4 faults, 0 in jump-off: Grand Cru van Paemel (Jake Saywell) 0/0, Waldemar (Christie Pritchard) 16/8, Cantino (Millie Allen) 4/0, Spirit T (Jessica Mendoza) 0/0; SILVER – Netherlands 4 faults, Ret in jump-off: (Kim Hoogenraat) 4/4, Mallorca (Kim Bril) 0/0, San Serai 3 (Demi van Grunsven) 9/0, Whisper (Jens van Grunsven) 0/0; BRONZE – Germany 8 faults: Calmado 53 (Theresa Ripke) 4/0, DSP Lucie (Laura Strehmel) 14/0, Champerio (Leonie Krieg0 0/4, Cara Mia (Telke Carstensen) 4/0.
Junior Individual Championship: GOLD – Remedy (Amalie Hegre) NOR 1.13; SILVER – Conaro (Gilles Thomas) BEL 4.66; BRONZE – Spirit T (Jessica Mendoza) GBR 5.01.
Children’s Team Championship: GOLD – Austria 0: Withny 4 (Jessica Vonach) 0/0/0, Candymn (Stella Egger) 0/0/0, Estoril (Sebastian Gorton-Hulgerth) 4/16/8, Copido 2 (Dominik Juffinger) 0/0/0; SILVER – Belgium 2 faults: Flicka (Alexander Housen) 0/1/4, Lajolie (Thibault Philippaerts) 0/4/0, Cous Cous (Maartje Verberckmoes) 0/0/0, Fragile van t Paradijs (Emilie Conter) 0/0/1: BRONZE – Germany 4 faults, 0 in jump-off: Florida Lady Ixes 77 (Max Haunhorst) 0/4/4, Venetzia (Beeke Carstensen) 0/0/4, Quanita (Laura Hetzel) 0/0/0, City 10 (Marec Danekas) 0/0/0.
Children’s Individual Championship: GOLD – Del Fuego (Robert Murphy) GBR 0/0 46.56 in jump-off : SILVER – Webster (Lorenzo Sciacca) ITA 0/0 48.61 in jump-off: BRONZE – Renarde Rumel (Elisa Mellec) FRA 0/8 in jump-off. —- Photo: FEI/Stefano Secci