Historic Result for Croatia
Turkey and Greece divided the majority of the gold medals between them at the 2010 FEI Balkan Jumping Championships staged at the Voivodinovo Equestrian Centre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria where the host nation's Ivelin Valev claimed the Senior Individual title.
Historic Result for Croatia
Underlining the increasing development of the sport in this region, the 36th Balkan Championship attracted a bigger entry than ever before with 139 riders from six nations, including Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Serbia and Croatia. And it was an historic moment for the Croation athletes, as they marked their debut in these Championships by securing their nation's first-ever medals in equestrian sport, including individual gold in the Ladies division and team bronze and individual silver in the Children's section.
There were five categories of competition at this year's event - Seniors, Young Riders, Juniors, Ladies and Children - and the Children's competitions opened the action each day. The Children's team championship saw a great battle between the well-matched sides from Greece and Turkey, and when both finished on a 12-fault score it was time that decided the winners, with the gold going to Spyridon Topis, Ioannis Marinakis, Stefanos Papageorgiou and Marina Theofanoopoulou from Greece. Croatia fielded just three riders, so their bronze medal achievement was an even greater triumph for Mia Kelemen, Antea Simlesa and Ema Bezik. And Simlesa then continued Croatia's medal-winning streak by taking individual silver as, in an exciting finale, 13 year old Nefeli Nikolopoulou, riding Angelo, took gold for Greece while Ioano Rus from Romania claimed bronze.
Turkey stood top of the team podium in the Junior division while Greece took silver and Serbia claimed bronze. It was a close-fought affair between gold and silver again, with the winning side of Omer Ersin, Emir Delikan, Dilara Yurttutan and Elif Gulec finishing with only a single-point advantage on a final tally of eight faults. The bronze medallists from Serbia however were a long way further adrift while Bulgaria slotted into fourth place here. Having already helped claim team silver for Greece, Panagiotis Frantzis and Icar de la Lande came into the individual final in the lead and held on for gold. Turkey's team gold medallist Emir Delikan and and fellow-countryman Yagiz Tuzunalp were lying second and third, but a clear round moved him Tuzunalp into silver medal position in the final analysis while Delikan had to settle for bronze.
Turkey dominated both the team and individual line-up in the Young Riders section in which only three nations - Turkey, Greece and Romania - competed. Again it was a ferocious tussle for the team title when both Turkey and Greece completed with a total of 38 faults. And this time the clock was in Turkey's favour when Atahan Deliormanli, Cenk Memk, Cagla Buzluk and Burak Azak returned significantly faster. Azak then crowned a great weekend by taking double-gold. Lying second going into the fourth and final individual test, he produced one of just two clears with SIEC Lanjaron to pip Romania's Bogdan Leonte while Christina Dimitrkopoulou from Greece took individual bronze.
The Greek ladies had a clear victory in the Amazons (Ladies) Championship when Natassa Fouki, Anastasia Dagli, Margarita Dendrinou and Elina Kyriakou completed with just 10 faults ahead of the Serbian side who collected 28 and Turkey who slotted into bronze medal position with a total of 42. The individual medals were decided over a course of 1.30m fences and Croatia's Mirna Bacic (Santa Fe), Serbia's Katarina Ilic (Winston) and Anastasia Dagli from Greece (My Star) were favourites going into the closing stages. All three jumped clear again on the final day but it was Bacic who rounded up the great weekend for Croatia when taking gold with her lovely mare Santa Fe while Ilic took silver and Dagli took bronze.
The senior team competition was a fascinating affair, with the Bulgarians determined from the outset to win this prestigious title on their home turf. They quickly recognised the need for speed over the 1.40m track presented by Swiss course designer, Stefan Wirth, and were in the lead after the first round. But they were badly hampered when second-line rider, Andrian Todorov, didn't compete in the second round so, although Asparuh Atanasov produced one of only three clear rounds in the competition, they had to count the second-round 17 faults collected by pathfinder Svetlin Ivanov which saw them drop behind Turkey into silver medal spot while Greece took bronze. Turkey's Mert Alicioglu, Hulki Karagulle, Sencer Horasan and Sencer Can stood top of the team podium. Finally however the Bulgarian's had their revenge when Ivelin Valev claimed the individual title.
Team anchorman, he had one of those precious clears in the team championship with Equita who faulted only once in the second round, and he was already well out in front going into the final individual competition. And, despite two fences down in the class which ran so late that the last riders were competing in near-dark conditions, he held on to take gold ahead of final-day winner Karina Kypreou from Greece while Romania's Norbert Schuman took bronze.
Full results at http://www.horsesportbg.org/
Photo Caption: Bulgaria's Ivelin Valev (Equita) won the Senior title at the FEI Balkan Jumping Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Photo: Milena Dragisic