ECCO FEI European Jumping Championships

By Louise Parkes, Lausanne, July 29, 2013: The countdown to the ECCO FEI European Jumping Championships 2013 has already begun and the start list will include a glittering array of stars. A total of 102 riders from 24 nations have been named for the event, which runs from 20-25 August at Herning in Denmark, with a massive 21 countries fielding teams. Medals at these Championships are hard-won and greatly cherished, as riders and their horses place their names on the distinguished Roll of Honour alongside legends of this popular sport.

It is now 56 years since the great Hans Gunther Winkler (GER) claimed the individual title at the inaugural Championships in Rotterdam (NED) back in 1957. That began a cycle that has continued ever since, with German riders dominating the medal podium and always the ones the others have to beat. They have claimed individual gold on 14 occasions, and when the team competition was first introduced at Munich (GER) in 1975 they firmly put their stamp on that too when Alwin Schockemöhle, Hartwig Steenken and Sönke Sönksen, who had already bagged all the individual medals, joined with Hendrik Snoek to also become the first team champions.

Defends Team Title

This time around Germany defends the team title won at Madrid (ESP) in 2011. And while Sweden’s first-ever individual champion, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, bids to repeat the success he enjoyed two years ago, the man who stood one step down from him on the medal podium that day will also be attracting a lot of attention. Because Carsten-Otto Nagel and Corradina have come so close to glory at the last two Championships, pipped narrowly by Frenchman, Kevin Staut, in 2009 at Windsor Park in London (GBR) and by Bengtsson in Spain two years later. Somehow it would seem only fair if, at last, the much-admired 15-year-old grey mare gets to wear the winner’s sash this summer.

Of course the British have a strong record at the Europeans, with six individual and four team titles to their credit, and their tails are up following their superb gold-medal-winning performance on home ground at the London 2012 Olympic Games. They travel to Herning with only two from that side, however, Scott Brash and Ben Maher, who will be joined by Robert Smith, William Funnell and Michael Whitaker.

The French took team silver last time around, and with Patrice Delaveau and Roger Yves Bost, who are both in flying form, joined by Staut, Eugenie Angot and Aymeric de Ponnat they look highly competitive. The Dutch were on target for gold in the early stages at Madrid, but had to settle for fourth in the final analysis, so they will be coming out with all guns blazing this year. And despite the marked absence of Gerco Schröder whose top horse, London, is unavailable for selection, Rob Ehrens’ choice of Jeroen Dubbeldam, Leon Thijssen, Willem Greve, Maikel van der Vleuten and Jur Vrieling looks rock solid. Greve put on an exhibition of great jumping with Carambole in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series in recent weeks to cement his well-earned place in the side.

Enjoying Retirement

Bengtsson, whose 2011 winning ride Ninja la Silla is now enjoying retirement, heads the Swedish line-up partnering Casall Ask. And his team-mates include Angelica Augustsson, Emma Emanuelsson, and Henrik Von Eckermann, along with Jens Fredricson who thrilled the home crowd at Falsterbo last weekend with an unforgettable Grand Prix victory partnering the tough and ever-reliable 15-year gelding Lunatic. Not many horse-and-rider combinations can better Germany’s Marcus Ehning on a good day, but Lunatic just never gives up and this pair have been long overdue a victory of this calibre.

The Swiss team boasts Olympic champion Steve Guerdat along with Paul Estermannn, Christina Liebherr, Pius Schwizer and Janika Sprunger. Following his tremendous achievement in London last summer, Guerdat just missed out on the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping title for the second year in a row at the series Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April. So the attraction of adding European gold to his growing haul must seem all the more attractive and if his flying machine, Nino des Buissonnets, can be produced at the top of his form they will be a tough partnership to overcome in the heat of battle.

Spanish team manager Marco Fusté has chosen Manuel Fernandez Saro, Pilar Cordon, Julio Arias and Manuel Añon along with Sergio Alvarez Moya, the latter armed with Carlo, the horse ridden into bronze medal position in Madrid by Britain’s Nick Skelton two years ago.

And Ireland’s Robert Splaine sends a fresh-looking side that has selected itself through some great performances in recent months. Shane Breen and Balloon produced some spectacular jumping in Aachen (GER) last month, Cameron Hanley has made a dramatic return to the top end of the sport with Antello Z following a career-threatening two-year injury lay-off for the rider, and Conor Swail clinched his spot with victory riding Lansdowne at Spruce Meadows (CAN) last weekend. Solid back-up will be provided by Shane Sweetnam and Billy Twomey, and while this may be more of a team for the future than the present, they can be expected to give a good account of themselves.

Set to Return

Meanwhile, under their new manager Kurt Gravemeier, the Belgians look set to return to Europe Division 1 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping next season and with Dirk Demeersman, Judy-Ann Melchior, father-and-son Ludo and Nicola Philippaerts and Jos Verlooy on call-up they will be determined to make an impression.

Austria, Belarus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Ukraine also take up the challenge, but with Carsten-Otto Nagel joined by Christian Ahlmann who continues to hold the number one spot on the Longines Rankings, Daniel Deusser, Ludger Beerbaum and Philipp Weishaupt, there is little doubt that the German presence will be a powerful one. When it comes to the FEI European Jumping Championships this is a country completely in its comfort zone, and such is the quality and depth of the German pool of riders that Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker can leave two of the sport’s most successful athletes, Marcus Ehning and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, on the bench and still present the most formidable challenge.

Just three individual riders have been named for these Championships: Athina Onassis de Miranda representing Greece, Radovan Sillo of Slovakia, and Omer Karaevli flying the Turkish flag. Lady riders competed in their own separate Championship until 1973 in Vienna (AUT) where Britain’s Ann Moore claimed gold, and just two female athletes have claimed the individual title since then. Alexandra Ledermann from France made history when she became the first woman to hold the trophy aloft at Hickstead in 1999 and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum followed suit eight years later on home soil in Mannheim (GER).

Competition Format

Germany’s Frank Rothenberger is course designer, and the Championships begin on Tuesday 20 August with a one-round Speed class at the end of which results are converted into points which count towards both individual and team scores. The first round of the Team Competition takes place the following afternoon and the top 10 teams go through to the second round on Thursday evening when the medals will be decided.

Racking up individual scores along the way, the Jumping horses then have a rest day on Friday 23 August before the top-25 go through to the Individual Final on Saturday afternoon when the new Individual winner will be crowned at the end of another two exciting rounds. And it will be a proud moment as their name is entered into the book of champions alongside so many of the greatest stars of the sport.

Facts and Figures:

The FEI European Jumping Championships 2013 will take place at Herning in Denmark from 20 to 25 August.

Riders from 24 nations will compete.

21 countries have entered teams: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine.

3 nations will be represented by a single rider: Greece, Slovakia, and Turkey.

A total of 102 riders are listed in the definite entries (29 July 2013).

Germany heads the individual gold medal winning table with 14 victories to date. British riders have been successful on six occasions and French riders have taken the individual title four times.

Germany also leads the team gold medal winning table with a total of seven titles since 1975. Next in line are Great Britain and Switzerland with four each followed by The Netherlands with three.

Only two women have ever won the FEI European Championship individual title since the Championships for Ladies and Men were first combined back in 1975 : Alexandra Ledermann (FRA) took gold in 1999 at Hickstead GBR and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) followed suit in 2007 at Mannheim GER.

This will be the 32nd FEI European Jumping Championships – the first was held in Rotterdam (NED) in 1957.

The defending individual champion is Rolf-Göran Bengtsson – the first Swedish rider ever to clinch the coveted title.

Germany defended team gold when it won the 2011 Championships staged in Madrid, Spain. —- Photo FEI/Kit Houghton

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