FEI Nations Cup Rotterdam News (video)
|FEI Nations Cup Rotterdam News (video) - 25th Jun 2012|
|FEI Nations Cup Rotterdam News|
Animated Course Walk of the 4th Leg of the FEI Nations Cup in Rotterdam.
GERMANS RULE IN ROTTERDAM by Louise Parkes
With pre-Olympic tension reaching boiling point, Germany grabbed maximum points in the fourth leg of the FEI Nations Cupô 2012 series at Rotterdam, The Netherlands on the weekend. But the eventual winners were pushed all the way to the finish line by the super-cool Swedes who piled on the pressure with four clear performances in the second round.
The French, at last, provided Chef d'Equipe Henk Nooren with an encouraging third-place result, while the Irish slotted into fourth ahead of Switzerland in fifth. The British were hampered by a difficult day for pathfinder, Tim Stockdale, to take sixth, while the Dutch finished a disappointing seventh ahead of Belgium in eighth place.
It was like a pressure-cooker in the Rotterdam ring, with Olympic selection hanging in the balance for so many of the horses and riders. And as German team-member, Ludger Beerbaum, pointed out "it was a really exciting competition because until the last rider went in it wasn't clear who would be the winner!". Olympic hopes were raised and dashed throughout the afternoon, but for German Chef d'Equipe, Otto Becker, there was simply confirmation that he has a wealth of talent to choose from ahead of London 2012.
Time was an influencing factor over Louis Konickx's 12-fence track. As the Dutch course designer explained afterwards, the limited dimensions of the Rotterdam arena made his task all-the-more difficult, and the time-allowed of 75 seconds defeated many on the day. From the outset riders needed to have their horse's full attention, and by the time they reached the line from the triple bar at fence four to the triple combination at fence five they were being truly tested. The following oxer and vertical also hit the floor regularly, but it was the bending line from the open water at nine to the oxer at fence ten that provided the biggest challenge for many in the first round, as they couldn't quite find the right angle of approach to the latter.
Stockdale and Fresh Direct Kalico Bay had already run into trouble earlier on the track before missing their strike here, and Great Britain's chances took a heavy blow when their opening partnership returned with 17 faults on the scoreboard. The Belgians were also punished by a 19-fault result from second-line rider Rik Hemeryck, but despite that the competition looked fairly open at the halfway stage with only 12 faults separating the eight competing nations.
As round two began, the Swiss added just four faults to complete with 17 - their pathfinder, Paul Estermann, recording one of just two double-clears on the day with his lovely mare Castlefield Eclipse. But the Belgians were obliterated by the addition of 22 which brought their total to 35. Lying equal-fifth with the Irish, the French held firm with three solid second-round clears from Patrice Delaveau (Orient Express HDC), Penelope Leprevost (Mylord Carthago) and Kevin Staut (Silvana HDC). The Irish, hoping to improve from the bottom of the series table, were lifted by a clear from Cian O'Connor and Blue Loyd, and when Clement McMahon and his exciting eight-year-old stallion Pacino followed a single first-round time fault with a single mistake at the penultimate double and Denis Lynch added a time fault with Abbervail van het Dingeshof, they completed with 15.
Lying equal-third with the British, Dutch hopes were raised by a second-round clear from Jur Vrieling and VDL Bubalu, but Maikel van der Vleuten's eight faults with VDL Groep Verdi were followed by 17 from Jeroen Dubbeldam and BMC Utascha who had already dropped two elements of the triple combination before communication between horse and rider completely broke down after the water fence. And when anchorman Gerco Schroder and Eurocommerce London lowered the last, the final tally of 21 left the host nation well down the order.
Despite a copybook round from Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos, the British added nine more for a total of 18 faults, and it came down to a two-way battle in the closing stages between the Swedes, who carried five faults from the opening round, and the Germans carrying just two time faults.
And fantastic clears from Jens Fredricson (Lunatic), Malin Baryard-Johnsson (H&M Tornesch) and Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Carusso La Silla) ensured the leading Germans had to stay on their toes. Baryard-Johnsson was in particularly sparkling form today, producing the second of the two double-clears recorded.
It was nip-and-tuck all the way to the end, with German pathfinder Marcus Ehning (Copin van de Broy) clipping the final oxer for four faults and then a time fault from Ludger Beerbaum and Gotha. If Ehning's mistake could not be discounted then victory would slip from Germany's grasp, but Philipp Weishaupt steadied the ship with a lovely clear from Monte Bellini, leaving it up to last-man-in, Marco Kutscher, to clinch it.
Kutscher could afford a couple of time faults, but a fence down would leave his country in runner-up spot, and you could hear a pin drop as he rode down the final line. All looked good until Cornet Obolensky became airborne at the last, but suddenly the horse lost his jump and dropped his hind legs between the front and back poles, extricating them just in time although he almost dislodged his rider. The crowd gasped with amazement as the German duo cleared the line safely.
At the post-competition press conference Kutscher explained, "I didn't realise at the time but he (Cornet Obolensky) was bleeding because he must have over-reached earlier on the track - I don't quite understand why he did that funny jump at the end, but I think it was because of that - as you saw I didn't take him into the prize-giving" he pointed out, admitting that he was "really lucky at that last fence!"
Team-mate Beerbaum explained that he was originally "No 5" for the team and had not expected to compete, but he was called up "when our Chef (Otto Becker) decided to save Carsten-Otto (Nagel's) horse (Corradina)". Philipp Weishaupt said that the Olympic Games are his "big goal - since I was a small guy I dreamed of competing at the Olympics and now I am 27 and still dreaming!" He also pointed out, "its getting very close, only one month to go now but my horse has been incredible - there was a lot of pressure today, but now I feel very light!".
German Chef d'Equipe, Otto Becker, is still aiming to name his Olympic Jumping team "on Sunday night after Aachen". He is faced with a different dilemma to most of the other team managers because he has such a deep pool of talent - "it's very difficult, everyone today was very good" he said, and he rejected Marcus Ehning's suggestion that he had somehow let the team down when collecting 13 faults over his two rounds. "Marcus did a super job in the second round, and the way I look at it is that we lose together and we win together - as a team" he insisted.
With two wins in the FEI Nations Cupô now under their belts, the Germans have forged a strong lead on the league table ahead of their home event in two weeks' time. It's a nice place to be so close to the Games, but now the pressure is on the Chef d'Equipe for the country that has such high expectations of a good result in London.