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While we always expect to see teams like the USA, Germany, France and The Netherlands putting in showstopping performances and ultimately topping the tables, the competition is really starting to open up with other nations putting in stellar performances – and we love it!
First the Danish team made history by pulling out all the stops to jump to victory at home. Then the Italians stormed in with two historic wins for the nation, the first on home soil on 26 May in Rome (for the first time in 32 years) and the second in Switzerland a couple of weeks later.
The Italians displayed some real nerves of steel in Rome, as they shared the lead with the Dutch riders heading into the final stage, but two beautiful clears from Piergiorgio Bucci and Alberto Zorzi kept them at the top before they headed into the fourth leg of the eight-leg series at St. Gallen, Switzerland, where they won once again.
“We will never forget it” says Piergiorgio, “and we’re feeling ready for Rotterdam. We really think we can get a good result again.”
It’s hard not to enjoy performances by the stalwarts of the sport like John Whitaker and McLain Ward, and we all want to see our nations perform well. Having said that, even the Germans, British, Americans, French or Dutch could readily agree that it is amazing for the sport to see lesser known riders and nations in jump offs that go right down to the wire as happened in Rome.
We saw it in Rio when the Brazilian team surpassed all expectations, and when the Qatari team jumped clear after beautiful clear. After all, everyone loves an underdog, and everyone loves a tight and well-fought competition.
Lorenzo De Luca was the only Italian team rider from Rome who also competed in Switzerland, and says that “the fact that Italy can win with two different teams is a great sign that the quality of their horses and riders is improving”.
Piergiorgio Bucci agrees “Italy now has very good horses and riders, and we can count on some really strong teams. This already makes the spectators really enthusiastic.”
Wins from teams which previously struggled to be competitive at the top levels of jumping, he says, are a positive sign for the future of the sport.’
Danish team Jumping manager Lars Norgard Pederson says that he thinks France have a great chance of being crowned overall champions, as do the Italians.
“We are a small country and don’t have lots of combinations who can jump at the top levels, but there are 6-8 of them now.”
He says that the performance by Søren Møller Rohde in Denmark, jumping two double clears under immense pressure was an enormous standout for him, and goes to show that the Danish riders can hold their own against the best.
Seeing new nations and riders climbing the ranks and stepping out of the shadows is one of the surest ways to know that the sport is growing and we hope, becoming more accessible for riders around the world.
With new idols making a name for themselves, we hope that stories of riders like Lorenzo de Luca will inspire the next generation of top riders.
Lars tells us;
‘The gap between the stronger nations and the “other nations” is getting smaller. There are more Grand Prix riders every year, and the number of high quality shows increases every year too’.
‘In the future, you’ll see lots of different nations on the top of the leaderboards.’
With the FEI World Equestrian Games™ on the way, we can’t wait to see how the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping pans out. Who knows, a “dark horse” nation might just be crowned overall champions this year in Barcelona…
Text by Sophie Baker
Images by Richard Juilliart & everhorsephoto.com/T.Bisgaard