It seemed like “Mission Impossible” at the beginning of this week when both Lorenzo de Luca and Alberto Zorzi had to pull out of the Italian team preparing to defend the CSIO Rome Intesa Sanpaolo Nations Cup title at Piazza di Siena today. But somehow last year’s victory on home turf, the first in 32 years, seems to have rolled back the years and the host nation rose to an extraordinary challenge to do it again against all the odds.
The strength of the visiting teams, particularly the Americans and Swiss who sent crack sides, ensured that victory would be hard won, but somehow Luca Marziani (38), Giulia Martinengo (39), Emanuele Gaudiano (31) and Bruno Chimirri (46) made it happen. And it was Chimirri who was the hero of the hour, producing a round of absolute perfection from his 11-year-old stallion Tower Mouche to seal it when the very last rider into the arena.
He had the weight of the world on his shoulders, because although pathfinder Marziani had sealed the second part of a brilliant double with Tokyo du Soleil as the second round got underway and Martinengo followed with just a single fence down with Verdine SZ, home side chances looked to be seriously undermined when Emanuele Gaudiano’s Casper stopped at the oxer at fence eight, spun around and unseated his rider for elimination. “I was too slow after the triple combination, I got the stride wrong and the horse refused – it was a complete surprise!”, Gaudiano explained afterwards.
Italian hearts were breaking as the pair made a solemn exit from the arena, with victory now looking very unlikely indeed.
Sharing the lead
However the fact that the hosts had been sharing the lead with the USA and Switzerland at the halfway stage on a zero score did suggest that Team Italy was indeed on form and in with a chance. As round two progressed, Uliano Vezzani’s course took a heavier toll in the intense heat, the second element of the double at fence five, the open water at fence nine and the planks at 10 consistently penalising careless or tiring horses.
Germany and Canada rounded up their final scoreline at 12 faults each, and when Janika Sprunger was the only member of her side to leave all the fences in place the Swiss moved onto an eight-fault tally along with the USA. McLain Ward halted the US decline with a second spectacular jumping exhibition from HH Azur – one of five double-clears in the class.
So when Chimirri entered the ring for the second time everything was hanging in the balance. A clear round would mean his team would only have to count Martinengo’s four faults but they would still win, one fence down would bring the total to eight and force a jump-off with the Americans and Swiss, but any more than that would see the dream of a second victory come crashing down.
You could hear a pin drop as the pair set off, but the roar of the crowd as they galloped through the finish said it all. This was Italy’s 29th victory on home ground, and there’s nothing quite so sweet.
Chimirri joked afterwards that he would ask Italian team manager Duccio Bartalucci “to never put me as fourth rider again because the pressure was horrendous!” He said he was grateful to his team-mates. “This is a different team to the one that won last year but the spirit was the same and everyone played their part today!” he added.
Martinengo was delighted with the performance of her mare Verdine SZ who is a relative newcomer to this level of the sport. It was after winning the Italian National Championship that they got the team call-up, “so it is only by chance that I am here and I have to thank my lovely mare. She reminds me of my great horse Athletica so I feel at home on her. I want to say thanks to these three great guys I rode with today, and Duccio especially because he gave me a chance to be in the team even though he only saw us win one competition. He took a risk with Verdine and me, so I want to thank him for being so brave!”
Marziani was thrilled to post this win in his home town of Rome and said he also owed a lot to his horse who was foot-perfect in both rounds today. “I’ve been riding Tokyo since he was very young and he understands my emotions and always helps me a lot. Whenever we are under pressure he always gives his best and gives me the confidence to go in and do my best. Today he felt so very good – this is a very special day!” he said. As Martinengo concluded, “yes, it’s a dream come true!”
Full Results here.
Photo: © CSIO Roma / Simone Ferraro – CONI
Categories: CSIO 5*