Oslo, Norway – October 11, 2023 – After a super summer of exceptional outdoor sport across Europe, the action moves indoors this week for the first leg of the 2023/2024 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Western European League which kicks off at the Telenor Arena in Oslo, Norway next Sunday 15 October.
And it’s going to be a rip-roaring start to the new season with world number one, Olympic team gold medallist and double World champion, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, beginning the defence of the title he won in Omaha (USA) six months ago, but facing three other former series champions and both the reigning Olympic and European champions in the race for those ever-so-valuable early qualifying points.
Oslo presents the first of 14 qualifying legs on the road to the Longines Final 2024 in Riyadh (KSA) next April, and it’s a very busy calendar with nine of those legs staged before the end of December this year. Round 2 will take place in Helsinki (FIN) on 22 October and then it’s on to Lyon (FRA), Verona (ITA), Stuttgart (GER) and Madrid (ESP) in November, and to A Coruña (ESP), London (GBR) and Mechelen (BEL) in December.
Basel, St Jakobshalle (SUI) gets things underway again in January followed by Leipzig (GER) and Amsterdam (NED). And the last two qualifiers will take place in Bordeaux (FRA) and Gothenburg (SWE) in February. It’s going to be a whirlwind season from the outset.
Everything about the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ series, which sees the world’s best gather from all around the globe for an always exciting Final each year, is steeped in history, and that is what makes it one they all want to win. The Roll of Honour, which dates all the way back to 1979, is filled with legendary names, and placing yours amongst them is a watershed moment in the career of every athlete.
For defending champion von Eckermann, his victory fulfilled a long-held ambition. Partnering the extraordinary King Edward with which he collected team gold at the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 and double-gold at the World Championship in 2022 he had his sights clearly set on the Longines 2023 title, but he knew he would have to fight every inch of the way.
“I really wanted to win it, but even with a horse like this it’s very easy for it to go the other way around. I’m so happy for the horse that he wins this because he really deserves it!”, he said.
He has occupied the number one slot for the last 15 months, but he’ll be facing the stiffest of opposition this weekend including six of the top-ten riders in the world rankings.
Reigning individual Olympic champion and world number three, Great Britain’s Ben Maher, is making the trip with Faltic HB, the horse with which he took team bronze and individual fourth place at the FEI Jumping World Championship 2022 in Herning (DEN) and fourth again at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA) this summer.
Also lining out will be the formidable Swiss duo of Martin Fuchs (SUI), world number four, European champion in 2019 and World Cup champion in 2022, and Steve Guerdat (SUI), world number five, Olympic champion in 2012, reigning European champion and one of five riders who have won the FEI World Cup™ title on three occasions.
The ninth and tenth-placed athletes on the world rankings will also be in action, Austria’s Max Kühner (AUT) and Simon Delestre (FRA) from France, and a total of 40 representatives from 17 countries will compete in Sunday’s points-chasing opening round.
For horses, riders and spectators alike there is always an extra intensity and sizzle of excitement to indoor competition, and when you have the best of the best going head-to-head it is guaranteed to be gripping.
The Swedes look super-strong with von Eckermann joined by brothers Jens and Peder Fredricson (SWE) on the star-studded start-list, but the Gulliksen family of father Geir and son and daughter Johan-Sebastian and Victoria will be flying the host-nation Norwegian flag with pride so it’s going to be a fantastic start to a season of great sport when the first horse canters into the ring at 15.30 local time next Sunday afternoon.
Don’t miss a hoofbeat……
Source: FEI – Fédération Équestre Internationale
Photos: © FEI / Richard Juilliart