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The historic venue played host to a competition deserving of the legendary setting.
The competition was won by a young, vibrant, exciting Dutch team who executed a dominant performance more than worthy of having their names immortalised on the elusive Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping trophy for the second time - after previously taking the title in 2014.
In dramatic fashion, fitting with the unforgettable tone of the event, a malfunctioning floodlight led to a delay in proceedings. Thankfully our distinguished competitors took the wait with good humour. But they were itching to take to the course – the delay only serving to amplify the tension of the night.
The Netherlands, who had a poor start to the season, but eventually topped Europe Division One, were cool, calm and collected in their approach from the outset. Jur Vrieling’s clear got the Dutch off to the perfect start, settling any pre-competition nerves his fellow team mates may have had coming into the competition.
20 year old Michel Hendrix, one of the youngest competitors on the rosta, was the second Dutch rider to go. Showing immense maturity, he tackled the challenging course with composure and ease - only coming away with the one time penalty and placing the Dutch in a formidable position going into the second half of the competition.
“It’s fantastic to ride on a team like this. I came here as the fifth rider so I am extremely happy to have my result counted today.”
Michel Hendrix (Team Netherlands)
With the other nations struggling to reach their peak, the Dutch capitalised on their frustration with a consistent and confident showing - seemingly unfazed with the eyes of the world watching. Never threatened, never tense - they produced the ultimate master class.
Anchor man Harrie Smolders entered the arena knowing a clear round would seal the deal which he produced in emphatic style to take the title for the Netherlands.
Together with Don VHP Z they have had the dream season, coming into the event straight off the back of their individual silver medal at the Longines FEI European Championships™ in Gothenburg.
“He jumps clear after clear, round after round! We knew that it was a big challenge and time was tight but I always believed we could do it.”
Harrie Smolders (Team Netherlands)
Chef D’Equipe Rob Ehrens at the helm said, “It is always the first goal to hit form at the Championships but close behind that the second biggest goal was to do well here against the best teams in the world. I must say we have competed here for a couple of years and it is a brilliant competition. It is tough, it is hard but it means a lot to us. We see from our performance here that our form is excellent and it is really exciting. We are extremely happy.
“We have a new team, new horses but they were in great shape. We had a good feeling they also jumped great on Thursday, they were fit to compete and the riders were extremely motivated and today once again they showed that they can do what they need to do to come away with the win.”
The United States and Belgium were able to produce brilliant performances to finish the night in second and third respectively – with only the time difference separating the two teams but Canada, who qualified in pole position could only finish the day at the bottom of the leaderboard.
There was added celebration for 6 riders, Eric Lamaze (CAN), Gregory Wathelet (BEL), Lauren Hough (USA), McLain Ward (USA) and Jur Vrieling (NED) and Harrie Smolders (NED) all who share the euro 100k bonus for coming away with a double clear.
Text by Hannah Eccles
Images by Liz Gregg and Libby Law