Colombia’s Juan Manuel Gallego claimed gold at the 2012 FEI World Jumping Challenge Final in Caracas, Venezuela yesterday. The silver medal went to Ecuador’s Rodrigo Bermeo Andrade, while Zimbabwe’s Charley Crockart pipped the host nation’s Emanuel Andrade for the bronze.
The event began at the Lagunita Country Club last Wednesday with the opening ceremony followed by a draw for the pool of horses, and Gallego’s first stroke of good fortune came when he was partnered with Carnida Z, who rounded up a superb week by claiming the special award for Best Horse of the tournament.
Competitors from 15 countries - Colombia, Ecuador, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Iran, South Africa, India, Chile, Bermuda, Jamaica, Indonesia, Mauritius and Costa Rica - lined out in the battle for the coveted title.
The FEI World Jumping Challenge Final was first staged in 2001 by PSI, the company created by German champion rider, trainer and businessman Paul Schockemohle who has been instrumental in providing horses for, and developing the skills of, many of today’s top equestrian athletes.
For the first five years, the Final took place at the Kasselman Stables in Hagen, Germany, before moving to Santiago de Chile in South America where it was organised by the Chilean NF in 2008 and 2009. In 2010 and 2011 it was held in Guatemala City, and the 2011 champion was Venezuela’s Noel Enrique Vanososte.
The aim of the FEI World Jumping Challenge series is to provide the opportunity for less experienced riders from remote regions to become more competitive. There are 10 geographical zones and three categories of riders, all aged 15 years or older. Category A competitors are the most experienced, competing over courses up to 1.20m, Category B riders jump a course of 1.10m fences, and Category C competitors tackle tracks up to 1m.
The FEI World Jumping Challenge also has educational benefits, as it is closely linked to the FEI Coach Education System. The Final is open to 20 Category A riders, with the highest-placed individuals from each of the 10 regional zones earning qualification. Riders compete in three tough challenges before the decider on the last afternoon when the four finalists exchange horses.
Swept to Victory
Gallego and Carnida Z swept to victory in the first two qualifying competitions, but Ecuador’s Rodrigo Andrade, riding Sevillano, stalked them closely on each occasion. In Wednesday’s opening Speed class, Gallego’s time of 76.07 seconds proved the winning one, while Andrade lined up second when just over a half-second slower. Third place here went to Syria’s Fadi Al Zbibi riding Vanidosa while Venezuela’s Emanuel Andrade steered After Eight into fourth spot.
A total of nine horse-and-rider combinations qualified for the jump-off in Thursday’s competition, but only eight returned to the ring when Al Zbibi withdrew. Algeria’s Akkache Houcine, riding The Boss, and Philippe Burckel riding Ser Unico for Mauritius, were both eliminated second time out, but Gallego was victorious once again when Carnida Z crossed the line in the quickest time of 33.48 seconds. Ecuador’s Andrade had to settle for runner-up spot once more while Iran’s Abolfazi Mohammadzadeh (Millord D’Arbaz) took third ahead of Venezuela’s Vicente Guillen (Cracker) in fourth.
Friday’s Semi-Final produced a new man at the top of the podium when the host country’s Emanuel Andrade topped a four-horse jump-off with the only double-clear of this competition from After Eight. Gallego’s Carnida Z had the fastest time when clearing the finish in 42.42 seconds, but he left the final fence on the floor so had to settle for second spot this time out, while Zimbabwe’s Charley Crockart and Nobel du Rabutin claimed third.
Ecuador’s Rodrigo Andrade and Sevillano collected a total of 12 faults for fourth place, and it was these four riders, and the horses they had been partnering all week, who went into yesterday’s change-horse decider.
And it was a thriller all the way, with the medals decided in two separate jump-offs.
After four rounds, Gallego and Rodrigo Andrade were on level pegging with just four faults apiece while Crockart and Emanuel Andrade were also matching scores with each carrying eight, so the first pair went into a head-to-head to decide the fate of the coveted gold medal. And it was Gallego who clinched it when staying clear while Rodrigo Andrade had to settle for silver with a fence down.
Crockart won through in the battle for bronze when leaving all the poles in place one last time while Venezuela’s Emanuel Andrade finished just outside the medals when picking up four faults.
Earlier yesterday, Syria’s Mouhammad Jabri steered Stanford to victory in the Farewell Consolation class in which Ecuador’s Macarena Chiriboga and Viento Negro lined up second ahead of Jamaica’s Adam Lake and Fitzgeraldo in third.
On hand for the prize-giving ceremonies were Event Director Mrs Patricia Ferrando, Mrs Marichi Brito, Ground Jury President, Gral. Div (Ej) Ruben Matias Rojas Perez, President of the Venezuelan National Federation, and FEI Solidarity Director Ms Jacqueline Braissant.
Result: FEI World jumping Challenge Final 2012:
Gold - Juan Manuel Gallego (COL); Silver - Rodrigo Bermeo Andrade (ECU); Bronze - Charley Crockart (ZIM).
Photo caption : Juan Manuel Gallego claimed gold for Colombia at the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final 2012 in Caracas, Venezuela yesterday. He is pictured riding Carnida Z which took the prize for Best Horse of the tournament. Photo: FEI/Venezuela NF.