Beautiful Barcelona beckons.....
The Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2022 kicks off at the elegant Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain in two days’ time and the excitement is mounting.
The Dutch champions on the podium at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2021 Final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain - (L to R) Willem Greve, Maikel van der Vleuten, Harrie Smolders, Rob Ehrens (Chef dEquipe), Sanne Thijssen and Kevin Jochems. (FEI/Lukasz Kowalski)
At the end of another truly exciting season of top team sport around the globe a total of 14 nations will compete for the trophy they all want to win.
It has a special meaning, because nothing compares with the pride and honour of flying your country’s flag alongside your compatriots.
This is an event that every jumping athlete looks forward to each season in celebration of the best of what their sport has to offer, and victory is very, very sweet.
The Dutch arrive as defending champions and hold the record for most wins since the series Final was first staged at the fabulous Spanish venue that welcomed the world during the Olympic Games in 1992.
A year ago under the direction of popular Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens, Maikel van der Vleuten, Harrie Smolders, Willem Greve and Sanne Thijssen clinched it with a resolute performance that saw them finish with the only zero score on the last day, making it a hat-trick in the series when adding it to the The Netherlands’ successes in 2014 and 2017.
Smolders has long been the rock on which many great Dutch teams have been built, and as he said that evening, “in Holland we work hard, stay patient and keep believing”. He lines out again this week alongside Marc Houtzager, Johnny Pals, Maikel van der Vleuten and Jur Vrieling, and with that steady sense of purpose they will be chasing down win number four, this time with new Chef D’Equipe and former world champion Jos Lansink at the helm.
Argentina and Brazil will represent South America while Canada and Mexico have earned the two places on offer to countries from North/Central America. Team USA will be noticeably absent this year having failed to qualify.
Norway and the reigning Olympic and World champions from Sweden filled the final two placings. Just seven spots were on offer in the hard-fought top-level European Division 1 series and they didn’t make the cut. However following confirmation that there will be no participating teams from the Middle East region they accepted the invitation to join the rest of the best.
As hosts, Team Spain will also line out when the action begins on Thursday, 29 September.
The full list of competing teams is as follows: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. And eight of the top-18 riders in the world rankings will be in action including Swiss superstar Martin Fuchs who is currently world number two.
Although one of the strongest nations on the international circuit, the Swiss have never won the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series title, even going back to the very early years before the Longines Final was first established in Barcelona back in 2013.
They are coming out with all guns blazing again this year, with Fuchs - reigning Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion and 2021 European team gold and individual silver medallist - joined by 2012 Olympic gold medallist and three-time World Cup champion Steve Guerdat along with Niklaus Rutschi, Edouard Schmitz and Pius Schwizer.
And, like several other nations, the Swiss will have a double-goal when they canter into the ring in two days’ time. Not only to fight for the coveted Longines title but also for the single qualifying spot on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Sweden, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland and Germany claimed the five qualifying slots up for grabs at the ECCO FEI World Championship 2022 in Herning, Denmark last month and the host nation is automatically qualified. So the Swiss will be joined in that extra battle for the ticket to France by Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Norway. It’s guaranteed to be hotly contested.
The story of the 2022 edition of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series will begin to unfold tomorrow afternoon with the first Horse Inspection which will be followed by the draw of nations, and then the competition proper will begin on Thursday when all 14 nations will compete. The top eight will go through to Sunday’s €1,250,000 final round to decide the title while the remaining six countries will go for glory in Saturday night’s €300,000 Challenge Cup.
It’s going to be great, so don’t miss a hoofbeat….