There’s so much to celebrate as the equestrian world descends on the city of Barcelona (ESP) this week. The conclusion to the 108th season of FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping, the 25th anniversary of the Barcelona Olympic Games, record-breaking participation by 50 nations from all around the globe and the recently-announced long-term title partnership of the sport’s best-loved team series by the FEI’s Top Partner, Longines.
But before breaking out the bubbly, there’s one more big job to be done, with 15 nations ready to do battle for the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2017 title. It’s the goal of every country to lift that trophy next Saturday night, and personal friendships will be put on hold during the four-day fixture as national pride and passion become the driving force.
Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and United States of America will all line out in Thursday’s qualifying competition. But only eight nations will make the cut for Saturday night’s deciding class, so errors will prove costly from the outset. And a lot of these countries are extra-hungry for success.
Series champions in 2015, the Belgians were relegated last year but, with grim determination and aided by a lot of exciting young talent, they fought brilliantly this season to top Europe Division 2, earning their place at this week’s Final and a return to Division 1 in 2018. How nice it would be to top all that off with success on Saturday, and on current form they could well do it.
One of the biggest sensations in Europe Division 1 this summer has been the re-emergence of Team Italy as a force to be reckoned with after many years in the doldrums. They won their home leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ series in Rome in May for the first time in 32 years and have not looked back since.
The defending champions are Team Germany who won 12 months ago in a thrilling jump-off between Marcus Ehning and freshly-crowned Rio Olympic gold medallist Nick Skelton from Great Britain, and of course the always formidable French arrive in Barcelona with the glow of Olympic team gold still keeping them warm.
The Swedish team includes newly-crowned individual European Champion Peder Fredricson, but the ones they may all have to watch out for are the Irish, still hot to trot after scooping the team title for only the second time at the Longines FEI European Championships in Gothenburg (SWE) four weeks ago and fielding a very similar side. The manner of their victory epitomises everything that is great about this sport, fighting against the odds when a man down after the opening competition but producing three fabulous clears when they were really needed in order to clinch gold.
However Robert Ridland’s Team USA will be no walk-over. The American Chef d’Equipe has made it quite clear all year that this Final is a very major target and with a star-studded side that includes the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017 champions McLain Ward and HH Azur, as well as multiple medallist Beezie Madden, they look like a bunch of tough cookies.
The ingredients are all in place for a classic clash of the giants in the exquisite surroundings of the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona which, a quarter of a century ago, hosted Olympic show jumping. It may just require an Olympic performance to take the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2017 title over the coming days! Bring it on!