by Louise Parkes
There is an Olympic ring to the new Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2016 season which gets off to a flying start this week with legs in Al Ain (UAE) on Thursday 18 and Ocala (USA) on Friday 19 February.
Just five months before horses and riders set off for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, the series is set to provide the perfect platform for preparation as national team managers test, and confirm, the form of the combinations they hope to select in the battle for both team and individual Olympic glory next August.
This is the fourth season of sponsorship by Furusiyya under whose banner some dramatic changes have been made to the sport of Nations Cup Jumping which, this year, celebrates its 107th anniversary. Revitalised and reinvigorated, the spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie, along with that unique sense of national pride that sets crowds of spectators alight wherever the competition takes place, has ensured it continues to hold and even grow its appeal.
The pre-season excitement is already at an all-time high as competitors from six regions and 46 nations prepare to do battle in the 19 qualifying legs, and set their focus on the Furusiyya 2016 Final which, once again, will take place at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) in September.
Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stages the single leg in the Middle East and although only three countries from this region will be taking part, there is a strong line-up of 11 nations in the opening round on Thursday. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE will battle it out for the two qualifying places at the Final, while a three-strong side from Egypt will also compete alongside teams from France, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Syria and Ukraine.
Qatar came out on top at this qualifier 12 months ago and could be a difficult side to beat once again this time around, but Saudi Arabian riders were in flying form in the recently-concluded FEI World Cup™ Jumping Arab League, so they are likely to present some stiff opposition.
At Ocala on Friday there is another strong entry of eight nations, but only Canada, El Salvador, Mexico and the USA are in the race for Furusiyya qualifying points in this region in which there are three qualifying events. Teams from Australia, Colombia, Ireland and New Zealand will also be in action at this second fixture of the season, and the host nation will be hoping that things go a little better for them than they did at this event last year where, in a competition full of surprises, their crack side had to settle for runner-up spot behind the Irish while Colombia and Canada shared third spot.
With McLain Ward, Beezie Madden, Lauren Hough, Laura Kraut and Todd Minikus already listed in Robert Ridland’s US squad the host country looks very strong indeed, but unpredictability is in the very nature of the sport of Nations Cup Jumping which is a major part of its attraction for fans and competitors alike.
Lummen in Belgium launches the premier Europe Division 1 league which once again will be contested by teams from 10 countries: Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. And the host nation athletes will be feeling the pressure as defending series champions on home ground when the action gets underway on 29 April.
Europe Division 2 is arguably the toughest of all, because teams from 17 countries - Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and Ukraine - will all be trying to clinch one of the top two places on the final leaderboard.
This series begins at Linz-Ebelsberg in Austria on 6 May and continues with the second leg at a new fixture in Celje, Slovenia a week later. There are seven legs in total, concluding with a visit to Gijon (ESP) at the end of August. The leading country at the end of this series will be promoted to Europe Division 1 for the following year, but while the second-placed team will earn a place at the Furusiyya Final in Barcelona only a top-eight finishing spot there will allow them to also earn promotion.
In changes to the Division 2 rules this season, National Federations do not select/declare the events at which they intend to participate for points. They can earn points at any and every event in Division 2, but can only count their four best results for the overall standings. Points will be distributed at each Division 2 event according to each team’s classification in the competition, not their classification in relation to other teams from the same region.
Facts and Figures:
The FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series celebrates 107 years of team competition in 2016.
The forthcoming season comprises 19 qualifiers in as many countries.
A total of 46 nations will compete in the qualifying rounds.
The defending Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping champions are Team Belgium.
Qualifying events will take place in Europe Division 1 & Europe Division 2, North America and the Middle East. Qualification of teams from South America, Africa and Asia/Australasia will be established through the Longines Rankings.
There will be eight qualifying legs in Europe Division 1 and seven in Europe Division 2, three in North America and a single event in the Middle East.
The Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final will once again take place at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP), venue for the Jumping events during the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.
A total of 18 teams, plus the home team if not qualified, will compete at the Final which will take place from 22 to 25 September 2016.
A total of 11 nations will compete at the season-opener which takes place in Al Ain (UAE) on Thursday 18 February 2016. Only Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates will be competing for qualifying points at this event.
A total of eight nations will compete at the second leg which takes place the following day, Friday 19 February 2016, in Ocala (USA). Only Canada, El Salvador, Mexico and USA will be competing for qualifying points at this event.
The 10 teams qualified for Europe Division 1 this season are Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
Watchmakers, Longines, are the official timekeepers for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series.
Furusiyya finalised a 16 million Euro four-year sponsorship package with the FEI in November 2012.
For further information on the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series check out this link
"Furusiyya" (Arabic: فروسيه) this single Arabic word conveys so much, embracing the idea of horsemanship, chivalry, and equestrian knowledge in general. The term is a derivation of faris, or horseman and faras, a horse.
Longines has been based at Saint-Imier (SUI) since 1832. Its watchmaking expertise reflects a strong devotion to Elegance, Tradition and Performance. It has generations of experience as the official timekeeper at world championships and as a partner of international sports federations. Longines’ passion for equestrian sports began in 1878, when a timepiece was made with a horse and jockey engraved on the watch face. Over the years, the brand has built strong and long-lasting links with equestrian sports. In 1912, for the first time, the brand was involved as timekeeper for a show jumping event in Portugal.
Today, Longines’ involvement in equestrian sports includes jumping, endurance and flat racing. Longines is a member of The Swatch Group S.A., the world’s leading manufacturer of horological products. With an excellent reputation for creating refined timepieces, the brand, whose emblem is the winged hourglass, has outlets in over 140 countries.
Team Belgium topped the podium at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona (ESP) last season. The excitement begins all over again this week with the first two qualifiers of the 2016 Furusiyya series taking place at Al Ain (UAE) and Ocala (USA). (FEI/Dirk Caremans)