A record 46 nations will contest the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships 2016 today (17 September), with the world’s top Endurance athletes already on-site at Slovakia’s state-of-the-art Šamorín Equestrian Centre, brain-child of Slovakian businessman Mario Hoffmann.
A total of 136 horse/rider combinations will head out on the 160-kilometre track in a 6am mass-start, with five loops of 40, 35, 35, 30 and 20kms running across grass, field and forest tracks alongside the River Danube and skirting around Bratislava at the foot of the Little Carpathians mountain range.
The youngest competitor at the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships is 14-year-old Pilar Saravia from Uruguay. Currently ranked number three in the world, she won her first 3* 160km ride on home soil in July, with her second 3* 160km win in Buenos Aires just two weeks later.
Saravia and the grey mare SM Dhanderiega, her winning ride in Buenos Aires, will be flying the flag for the seven South American countries at these Championships, challenging the world’s most seasoned Endurance athletes for a podium spot.
The United Arab Emirates claimed team gold and all three individual medals at the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships 2012 in Euston Park (GBR), as well as team, individual silver and bronze at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky (USA). HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, who took individual gold at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy (FRA), team gold in 2012 and individual bronze in 2010, will lead a team of five at this year’s Championships in Šamorín, including 2010 and 2012 fellow team member Sheikh Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum.
Spain’s Endurance “armada” is also looking formidable for these Longines Championships. Maria Alvarez Ponton, current world Endurance number one - who famously won individual gold at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2010 seven weeks after giving birth to Maria, the first of her two daughters, and in doing so became the first Endurance athlete to hold both World and European titles at the same time - will be competing with her husband and Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 gold medal winning team-mate Jaume Punti Dachs.
He last led Spain to team gold at the FEI European Championships in Šamorín in October last year. They are joined by their 2015 European Championships team member Alex Luque Moral, 2009 European Championships team gold medalist Silvia Yebra Altimiras and Angel Soy Coll, who finished second at the Spanish Endurance Championships in Badajoz in April of this year.
France, who celebrated double Olympic success in Rio with team golds in Eventing and Jumping, will be bringing their samba passion to Šamorín. Jean Philippe Frances, who led France to Endurance team silver at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014, and to silver again at last October’s European Championships where he also won individual bronze, will lead a team of five. His successful partnership with 10-year-old gelding Secret de Mon Coeur (Secret of my Heart), which claimed the Best Condition award at last year’s European Championships, will continue in Šamorín.
“We have the best Endurance athletes on the planet competing in the Longines FEI World Endurance Championships on Saturday,” said FEI Endurance Director Manuel Bandeira de Mello.
“The world’s top Endurance athletes get to compete at this level only every two years, at either the World Endurance Championships which coincide with the Olympic cycle, or at the FEI World Equestrian Games.
“Endurance is the fastest growing FEI discipline and at Šamorín we have 46 out of a total of 53 countries currently involved in international Endurance competitions. We’re all looking forward to seeing these athletes showcase this incredible sport, which is a real test of the partnership between horse and rider, and the ability to cross all kinds of terrain.”
Definite entry list here