Greek riders claimed a colossal medal-haul at the 2010 FEI Balkan Dressage Championships in Katerini, Greece over the weekend including three sets of team gold and two individual titles. However yesterday (Sunday) it was Romania's Sorin Alexandrescou who was crowned Senior Individual champion with a great performance from Mercur Casino as his Greek opponents had to settle for silver and bronze.
The Balkan Championships, which first took place in Istanbul, Turkey in 1968, have embraced a varying number of disciplines down the years and Dressage first featured in 1992. The region covers Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and Moldovia, and, from the outset, the Championships have succeeded in promoting and improving the standard of equestrian sport in south-east Europe. This year the Jumping and Dressage disciplines have been scheduled for separate locations and from 2 to 4 July, the Pieria Riding Club in Katerini, which hosted the Balkan Jumping Championships in September 2009, opened its gates once again for the 2010 Dressage equivalent.
A total of 43 riders battled it out in the three levels of competition and the host nation got off to the perfect start on Friday when the Junior squad claimed the first team gold medals of the tournament. Rea Kapetanou (Gilbaeks Sika) set the standard with a great mark of 67.135% and together with Amaryllis-Aikaterini Goulandri (Red Diamond 4), Aggelii Vrettou (Cogito) and Dafni-Maria Sachinoglou (Mercedes) racked up a team total that gave Greece a more than four percentage points of an advantage over Turkey in silver medal position, while Bulgaria finished just less than five marks further behind in bronze.
The Greek seniors then followed suit later in the day when Katerina Los (Largos), Kelly Sklavounou (Dynastie), Eleni Myrat (Indy D St Gatien) and Hara Pouli (Wandango) scored an emphatic victory over Turkey's Ferhat Yavas, Osman Hazinedaroglou, Yasemin Kap and Yasar Ayhan Okmen. Four nations took part in this team medal decider, and Bulgaria again took bronze while Russia, similarly fielding only a three-strong side, finished a long way behind in fourth.
Saturday's Children's Team Championship was another Greek triumph as Marianna Basdra (Forever), Fotini Georgitsou (Kolliante), Fani Stafylopati (Cassian) and Danai-Evgenia Stefanidi (Wilster) earned a combined score of 209.8% to pip the Turkish side who completed on a aggregate mark of 193.856%. Yet again Bulgaria took bronze here, finishing on a total of 188.28%.
And the young Greek girls were completely dominant in the first of yesterday's Individual Championships when taking all three medals with marks over 70% in the Children's Individual Final. Fani Stafylopatis took her second gold medal along with the title of Balkan Children's Dressage Champion when scoring 71.607% with Cassian while Marianna Basdra (Forever) achieved 70.35% to take silver and Fotini Georgitsou (Kolliante) claimed bronze with 70.26%. Fani was delighted with her result but admitted she didn't expect such a high score because she has only been riding her 11 year old horse for four weeks. "Without my coach, Helen Myrat, and my parents, I couldn't have done it" said the 14-year-old rider.
The Junior title went to Amarylis Goulandris who produced a great Freestyle perfromance with Red Diamond. All the judges awarded high marks to this partnership who scored 71.80%, and Rea Kapetanou ensured it was a Greek one-two here when claiming silver with Gilbaeks Sika ahead of Turkey's Alp Karliova and Risander in bronze medal position.
NOT A WHITEWASH
It was left to Romania's Sorin Alexandrescu to ensure that it was not a complete Greek whitewash at these 2010 Championships when claiming the Senior Individual title. Riding the 11-year-old bay mare Mercur Casino he received big marks from all five Ground Jury members - Slovakia's Maja Stukelj, Dr Wojtek Markowski from Poland, Great Britain's Jennie Loriston Clarke, Rafhael Saleh from France and Austria's Thomas Lang. His score of 69.450% gave him a clear win ahead of Greek silver medallist Kelly Sklavouos (Dynastie) on 67.65% while the host nation also took bronze when Hara Pouli and Wandango earned 67.15%.
FEI Technical Delegate Dr Wojtek Markowski commented afterwards on the development of dressage in Greece following the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and on the way in which Turkey is also progressing. "Not only Turkey is going forward" he said however, "other countries like Romania and Bulgaria are coming back and are trying hard". He acknowledged the difficult economic situation faced by the Greek organisers and commended "a group of enthusiastic fans of dressage and the engagement of Pieria Riding Club" along with the Greek Federation for making this important event a reality.
For full results of the FEI Balkan Dressage Championships 2010 go to http://www.hef.gr/english/index.htm