Milan, Italy – August 31, 2023 – Team Germany overtook Sweden to rise to the top of the leaderboard on the second day of the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA) on Thursday, but the difference between the top three sides is only fractional going into tomorrow’s team medal decider.
A tally of 9.31 gives Germany just 0.2 penalty points of an advantage over Sweden with 9.51, while the defending champions from Switzerland lie third with 9.92 followed closely by Ireland on a 10-point scoreline.
It could hardly be tighter, and it’s a recipe for a thriller right to the end.
And there are still four nations left in the race for one of the three qualifying spots on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games – Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Spain. The Netherlands, France and Great Britain complete tomorrow’s line-up when only the top 10 countries will do battle in the final round of the team competition along with the top 50 individuals in the rankings so far.
Lost their Grip
The Swedes lost their grip on pole position when, despite superb clears from from both Fredricson and Henrik von Eckermann riding Iliana, they had to count one of the eight-fault results posted by both Wilma Hellström (SWE) and Cicci BJN and their anchor partnership of Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE) and Zuccero.
In contrast, Germany only had to add the four picked up by pathfinders Marcus Ehning (GER) and Stargold when both Weishaupt and Jana Wargers were foot-perfect over today’s considerably more testing 14-fence track.
German anchor, Gerrit Nieberg (GER), racked up 12 penalty-points with Ben but that would be their discard when the best three results per team were counted.
Only Guerdat jumped clear for Switzerland so they had to add both of the four faults picked up by Fuchs and Bryan Balsiger (SUI) partnering with Dubai du Bois Pinchet while Edouard Schmitz’s (SUI) double-error with Gamin van’t Naastveldhof was their drop-score.
After clears for both Michael Duffy (IRL) with Cinca 3 and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) with James Kann Cruz the Irish looked set to threaten the Swiss but last-line rider Eoin McMahon (IRL) and the mare Mila were one of many partnerships to fall victim to the big oxer three from home that followed the open water. Those fourpenalty-points had to be counted because Trevor Breen (IRL) and Highland President left two on the floor. But there is only a whisper between the top four when the action resumes.
Weishaupt’s rides with Zineday have been flawless, and he’s clearly already eyeing up not just a team medal but an individual one as well.
“So far it’s only two days of competition but Zineday felt very good in the warm-up, I had an amazing feeling yesterday in the speed class, he was really relaxed and focused. And today he continued what he showed yesterday, his great performance, his great talent and it was a pleasure to ride him and I hope we can keep that form for the next three rounds!”, he said.
Talking about the nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding he said his expectations were always high coming to Milan. “He was third in the Grand Prix of Aachen and if you are selected for the German team they expect you are capable of jumping that level so I was expecting this”.
He described Italy’s Uliano Vezzani (ITA) as “a fantastic course designer! We had a fantastic speed class yesterday, it wasn’t the biggest jumps but he showed all his experience with the beautiful way he built. The footing was great and today it was a great course again, very tricky and long, you needed control and scope but he did a great job!”
And he described Zineday as “a bit special, he has his own head so you have to leave him a little bit like he is, but he has just tremendous qualities”.
Jana Wargers’ (GER) clear was also copybook. “I’m very happy with my round and very happy that I was able to jump clear for the team. Limbridge is just fantastic”, she said of the 14-year-old gelding with which she finished ninth individually at the FEI Jumping World Championship 2022 last summer.
“He makes it so easy and he lets me shine in every round and he never gives up. Today he showed again how special he is and I’m very proud of him!”, she said.
Final Results – FEI Jumping European Championship – Team Final – Round 1
1) Germany – 2.72 / 4.00 / 0.00 = 9.31
2) Sweden – 1.51 / 8.00 / 0.00 = 9.51
3) Switzerland – 1.92 / 8.00 / 0.00 = 9.92
Source: Press Release by Louise Parkes for FEI – Fédération Equestre Internationale
Photo: © FEI / Leanjo de Koster