La Baule, France – June 11, 2021 – New Chef d’Equipe Michel Sorg helped inspire Team Switzerland to their second title in a row at La Baule. Finishing on only 4 penalty points, thanks to a double clear from European Champion Martin Fuchs (SUI) on Conner 70 and a final spotless round from Olympic medallist Beat Mändli, the Swiss athletes beat out Team Italy, who ended on 7 points. Belgium rounded out the podium, chasing Italy with 8 points total.
The second leg of four in this year’s Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series saw eager crowds fill the stands at the beautiful French seaside venue for the 60th anniversary of this iconic event.
It was a brilliant sunny afternoon at La Baule, and cries of seagulls filled the air as the riders and their mounts tackled the daunting 79-second turf course laid out by French designer and former Olympic medalist Frédéric Cottier.
A wide right turn to a water element before a double combination at the finish line caught many duos out, and the second rotation through the course showed how exhausting the track was.
Heading into part two of the competition, Ireland and Switzerland were tied for the lead on zero penalty points, followed by Great Britain and Italy on 1 point each. Vying for victory were also teams from Belgium, Brazil, Sweden, the Netherlands, France, and Mexico.
Team Sweden had taken the top honours just one week prior at St. Gallen, but it was not to be their day this time.
The leaderboard was a flurry of changes as the rounds were clocked. Team Sweden watched themselves drop to the bottom, after a fall by Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli (SWE), where fortunately, both she and her horse, Kalinka van de Nachtegaele, walked away.
One by one, teams saw rails come clattering down, eliminating their chances to stand on the podium.
Italy were in first place heading into their final ride, trailed by Switzerland, Great Britain, and Ireland. It was looking good for Luca Marziani (ITA) and Lightning until the end of the course. Two obstacles down, plus a time penalty, meant they finished on 9 points, putting Italy on 6 for the round and 7 overall, dropping them out of contention for the gold.
Next up, Great Britain had the perfect anchor in veteran rider John Whitaker (GBR), but he too racked up 9 points, to give his team 8 for the round and 9 in total.
The pressure was on Switzerland in the penultimate position. With perfect rides from Elian Baumann (SUI), Steve Guerdat (SUI), and Martin Fuchs (SUI) in the first round, Beat Mändli (SUI) didn’t have to ride, leaving him and Dsarie fresh for Round 2. With only 4 points to their names from the second round, the Swiss could win on a clear round.
The fans were not disappointed as Mändli and his Dutch warmblood cleared every jump in textbook fashion, giving them the victory.
With only Ireland, defenders of the 2019 series title, left to ride, the remaining podium spots were up for grabs. Cian O’Connor (IRL) and Kilkenny were having a gorgeous round, and it looked great for them to take the silver, but the final fence came down, earning the combo 4 expensive points. With 12 for the round, that put Ireland in fifth and propelled Italy and Belgium to the medal ceremony.
Great Britain finished fourth after all, followed by Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Brazil, France, and Sweden, in that order.
There were some great performances to bring the crowd to their feet, including double clears by Mexico’s Federico Fernandez (MEX), Emily Moffitt (GBR) of Great Britain, Yves Vanderhasselt (BEL) of Belgium, and Ricard Pisani (ITA) of Italy, as well as a final clean ride by Nicolas Delmotte (FRA) of France, giving the host country a proud finish.
With only two legs left to come in Sopot and Rotterdam, excitement continues in an action-packed summer that includes the Tokyo Olympic Games before the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals in Barcelona this autumn.
Final Results – €200,000 Longines Jumping Nations Cup of France CSIO 5*
Rider / Horse / R1 Score / R2 Score / Time
1) SWITZERLAND – 4
- Elian Baumann & Campari Z – 0 / 4 – 75.27
- Steve Guerdat & Albfuehren’s Maddox – 0 / (8)
- Martin Fuchs & Conner 70 – 0 / 0 – 77.27
- Beat Mandli & Dsarie – (WD) / 0 – 78.13
2) ITALY – 7
- Riccardo Pisani & Chaclot – 0 / 0 – 78.21
- Fabio Brotto & Vanita’ Delle Roane – 1 / 5 – 82.03
- Filippo Marco Bologni & Quilazio – (8) / 1 – 79.80
- Luca Marziani & Lightning – 0 / (9)
3) BELGIUM – 8
- Jerome Guery & Grupo Prom Milton – 0 / 4 – 77.35
- Yves Vanderhasselt & Jeunesse – 0 / 0 – 77.96
- Pieter Devos & Jade Vd Bisschop – 4 / 0 – 76.53
- Niels Bruynseels & Jenson Van’t Meulenhof – (13) / (4)
Source: FEI – Fédération Equestre Internationale
Photos: © FEI / Martin Dokoupil