Irish Get Best of the Draw at St. Gallen

The luck of the Irish may be about to change as they have the advantage of being drawn last to go in tomorrow’s third leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ 2012 at St Gallen, Switzerland.  Their last-place finish in Rome (ITA) a week ago has plunged them to the bottom of the series leaderboard, but Chef d’Equipe, Robert Splaine, will be hoping to do something about that when tomorrow’s competition gets underway.

The order of go is as follows:  1, The Netherlands; 2, Germany; 3, Switzerland; 4, Belgium; 5, France; 6, Great Britain; 7, Sweden; 8, Ireland.

The team managers will select their sides later today after the warm-up competition.  There is a new format for CSIO St Gallen this year, with the show running over three days instead of four, and of course the centre-piece of tomorrow’s first-day action will be the FEI Nations Cup™.  The records show that, since it was first staged in Lucerne in 1927, Germany has won the Swiss Nations Cup more times than any other country - on 20 occasions over the last 85 years.

Defending Champoins
It is the Dutch, however, who return as defending champions, having won at St Gallen in 2011.  And they will be first into the ring tomorrow, after Rob Ehrens has selected his side from Gert-Jan Bruggink, Jeroen Dubbeldam, Marc Houtzager, Gerco Schroder and Leon Thijssen.  Schroder and Houtzager both competed in Rome (ITA) last Friday where the team finished equal sixth with Great Britain.

Germany came out on top at the Italian fixture, and is again fielding a formidable side at St Gallen.   Olympic selection is on the cards, with Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker making no secret of the fact that he expects team candidates to put their best foot forward during these early FEI Nations Cup™ events.  He has already named his team for tomorrow, with Christian Ahlmann and Marcus Ehning on call-up for the second week in a row.  They will be joined by Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Rene Tebbel, while rising star, Katrin Eckermann, is reserve.

Swiss Chef d’Equipe, Urs Groenig, is also still keeping an open mind about his Olympic options.  He was impressed by the performance of Clarissa Crotta last week in Rome - “she showed strong nerves when she had to go last of the team, and she proved her class with Westside and a clear second round.  But now she has to prove herself in St Gallen again.  If she succeeds, she will have a good chance to be selected for the upcoming Olympics in August in London” he pointed out. No pressure on the rider who has been based at Breitenburg Schleswig Holstein, Germany for the last two years then!

Janika Sprunger did her Olympic prospects no harm when placing fifth in the Rome Grand Prix, and will join Crotta, Werner Muff and Pius Schwizer in Groenig’s pool of riders.

Belgium, winners at the opening round at La Baule earlier this month, continue to head the FEI Nations Cup™ leaderboard but with only a single-point advantage over Germany in second place.  Belgian Chef d’Equipe, Philippe Guerdat, has Niels Bruynseels, Dirk Demeersman, Rik Hemeryck, Maurice van Roosbroeck and Gregory Wathalet on call-up.  It was Wathalet’s third-round jump-off performance that won it for Belgium at the French fixture, and they will be hoping to hold their position at the top of the league table after tomorrow’s competition.

France has won the Swiss Nations Cup 12 times, including the inaugural competition way back in 1927.  Chef d’Equipe, Henk Nooren, has a very experienced squad in Patrice Delaveau, Simon Delestre, Olivier Guillon, Jerome Hurel and Penelope Leprevost, and will be intending to move away from the second-last spot on the league table - they are just two points better off than the trailing Irish.

The British are only 0.5 points ahead of the French going into tomorrow’s third of the eight legs in the FEI Nations Cup™ 2012 series, but with Nick Skelton back on the team and in sensational form, joined by brothers John and Michael Whitaker, Scott Brash and Tim Stockdale, then team manager Rob Hoekstra has every reason to be optimistic.  Stockdale has made a remarkable recovery after breaking his neck in a fall last October.

The Swedish team will be drawn from brothers Jens and Peder Fredricson, Linda Heed, Helena Persson and newcomer Frida Berggren.  With 8 points on the board, the Swedes have proven very competitive on their return to the top league, and Chef d’Equipe, Sylve Soderstrand, will be hoping that trend continues.

Ireland’s Robert Splaine meanwhile has three of his team from Rome - Cian O’Connor, Shane Sweetnam and Billy Twomey - in his selection, along with Jessica Kuerten and Dermott Lennon.  There’s no doubting that they need to pull their socks up, but perhaps the spirit of their fellow-countryman, Gallus, will come to their assistance.  After all, St Gallen, which is located in the four-country corner of Switzerland bordering Germany, Lichtenstein and Austria, was founded by the Irish monk.  Around 612, he set up a monastery that became famous for contemplative study, eventually leading to the establishment of a library.  Today, St Gallen’s most famous landmark is its Baroque Cathedral with its Abbey Library that houses over 140,000 documents - some of which date back for over a thousand years.  The Abbey was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and St Gallen is celebrating its 1,400th birthday this year.

No doubt there will be some contemplative study by the Irish of the course plan set for the third leg of the 2012 FEI Nations Cup™ which kicks off at 14.45 local time tomorrow.

Don’t miss a hoof-beat....
You can follow all the action LIVE on FEI TV. The series’ third leg at St Gallen will be broadcast on Friday, 1 June, starting at 14.40 local time.

For further information on the third leg of the 2012 FEI Nations Cup™ series in St Gallen, Switzerland, consult, or contact Press Officer Peter Wyrsch, Email or Tel: +41 79 406 5207

Facts and Figures:
St Gallen, Switzerland presents the third leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ 2012.
The Netherlands won at St Gallen in 2011.
The country with most wins of the Swiss Nations Cup is Germany, with a total of 20 victories in the 85-year history of the event.
Between 32,000 and 46,000 spectators normally attend this event.
The university city of St Gallen was founded by the Irish monk, Gallus, around 612 so this year is celebrating its 1,400th birthday!
The city lies in the four-country corner of Switzerland that borders Germany, Lichtenstein and Austria.

Quote:  John Roche, Jumping Director FEI - “St Gallen was founded by an Irish monk and is celebrating its 1,400th anniversary this year.  Maybe Gallus has already brought the Irish some luck, as they are drawn last to go in tomorrow’s competition!”

Photo Caption :  Pictured at today’s Draw Press Conference for the third leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ 2012 at St Gallen, Switzerland - (Back row, L to R) - Philippe Guerdat, Chef d’Equipe Belgium; Henk Nooren, Chef d’Equipe France; Rob Hoekstra, Chef d’Equipe Great Britain; Sylve Soderstrand, Chef d’Equipe Sweden; Rob Ehrens, Chef d’Equipe The Netherlands.  (Front row, L to R) - Robert Splaine, Chef d’Equipe, Ireland; Peter Stossen, President Organising Committee CSIO St Gallen; John Roche, Jumping Director, FEI; Otto Becker, Chef d’Equipe Germany; Urs Grunig, Chef d’Equipe Switzerland.  Photo: FEI/Katja Stuppia.