World No. 1, Kevin Staut, continues to lead the Western European League standings as the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series resumes this weekend in Zurich following a four-week break. And, although he is already well-qualified for the final which will take place in Leipzig, Germany from 27 April to 1 May, the Frenchman is listed amongst the star-studded field of competitors at the popular Swiss fixture.
Riders from 19 countries will line out in the preliminary competition which will decide Sunday's start-list, and the home contingent includes 2010 Zurich champion Steve Guerdat who, despite five outings so far this season, has collected only 15 qualifying points and has plenty more to do if he is to make the cut into the final. Staut has collected a massive 87 points so far, thanks to good results at all but one of the qualifiers to date and to his victory in Geneva in December. Riders are likely to need at least 40 points to have the chance of finishing within the top-18 qualifying group when the Western European league draws to a close at 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands at the end of March.
Zurich presents the ninth of 13 qualifying competitions which kicked off in Oslo, Norway last October where German riders took the top three places headed up by Christian Ahlmann. And the 35 year old rider made it two-in-a-row with the stallion Taloubet Z in Helsinki, Finland a week later while Germany continued to dominate the following month in Lyon. It was three-time Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping title-holder Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum who added another Rolex watch to her extensive collection at the French fixture, and the 41 year old American-born athlete was particularly delighted with the result. "My last World Cup ride was in Las Vegas in 2009" said the rider who became a first-time mother earlier in the year - "I have been out of the indoor sport for almost two years now so this was a big day for me today, and a great day for me too!" she pointed out.
The Netherlands' Jeroen Dubbeldam broke the German stranglehold with a sensational victory in Verona, Italy in early November but Carsten-Otto Nagel pulled another one out of the bag for Germany in Stuttgart two weeks later. Then it was Staut's turn to shine in Geneva where he produced a brilliant last-to-go run from Silvana that squeezed Olympic champion Eric Lamaze from Canada out of top spot on the day.
Emotion ran high for Great Britain's Michael Whitaker when he clinched sweet success with GIG Amai on his home ground at Olympia in London just before Christmas, pipping his former pupil, Ireland's Billy Twomey, who has made a rapid rise up the Rolex World Rankings to No. 7 spot in recent months. And the Irish had even more to celebrate when Jessica Kuerten kept a long line of Belgian contenders at bay to claim the limelight in Mechelen, Belgium a week later.
This gave Kuerten the boost she needed after six previous outings that had earned her only 10 meagre points. She is now however lying in eleventh place on the leaderboard with a total of 30, and the top ten in the league standings going into this weekend's competition at Zurich includes Germany's Ludger Beerbaum in tenth place, Nagel in ninth, Whitaker in eighth, Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa in seventh, Dutchman Harrie Smolders in sixth and Twomey in fifth spot. With 44 points to his credit, Twomey looks comfortably qualified along with third-placed Ahlmann carrying 46 and Sweden's Rolf-Goran Bengtsson who lies second having picked up 57 points so far.
Ludger Beerbaum holds the record for most wins of the feature event at Zurich over the last 23 years. He headed the line-up in 2001, 2002 and 2004 - each time riding Goldfever - but is absent from this year's list of participants. Very much present however is the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, fellow-German Marcus Ehning, and the stage is set for a world-class clash as the action gets underway at 13.45 local time on Sunday the 30th.
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For further information on the ninth leg of the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series go to website www.mercedes-csi.ch or contact Press Officer Roman Gasser, Email email@example.com or Tel +41 79290 4872 or + 41 79 635 5005.
Facts and Figures:
Zurich presents the ninth qualifying leg of the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series on Sunday 30 January
Four further qualifiers take place before the final which will be staged in Leipzig, Germany from 27 April to 1 May.
Switzerland's Steve Guerdat will be defending his victory, riding Tresor, in the Zurich leg of the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series.
German riders hold the record for the most victories in the feature event at Zurich with nine wins since 1988.
Ireland's Jessica Kuerten, winner of the eighth leg of the current series at Mechelen, Belgium in December, topped the Zurich line-up in 2009 riding Castle Forbes Libertina.
Great Britain's Michael Whitaker won the previous leg of the current series at Olympia in London, but the Zurich record books list only two British winners of this competition over the last 23 years - Geoff Billingon with Virtual Village It's Otto in 1999, and Michael's older brother John Whitaker with the legendary Milton in 1989.
Germany's Ludger Beerbaum has claimed the Zurich honours on three occasions - in 2001, 2002 and 2004 - each time riding Goldfever.
Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2010/2011 Western European League - Standings After Round 8 at Mechelen, Belgium:
1. Kevin Staut FRA - 87
2. Rolf-Goran Bengtsson SWE - 57
3. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum GER - 50
4. Christian Ahlmann GER - 46
5. Billy Twomey IRL - 44
6. Harrie Smolders NED - 41
7. Rodrigo Pessoa BRA - 36
8. Michael Whitaker GBR - 35
9. Carsten-Otto Nagel GER - 33
10. Ludger Beerbaum GER - 31
11. Jessica Kuerten IRL - 30
12. Malin Baryard-Johnsson SWE - 29
12. Sergio Alvarez Moya ESP - 29
14. Gerco Schroder NED - 28
14. Robert Whitaker GBR - 28
16. Lars Nieberg GER - 27
16. Leon Thijssen NED - 27
18. Jos Lansink BEL - 25
19. Philipp Weishaupt GER - 24
19. Simon Delestre FRA - 24
ROLEX FEI WORLD CUP™ JUMPING 2010/2011CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR WESTERN EUROPEAN LEAGUE: 1, Oslo (Norway) 14-17 October; 2, Helsinki (Finland) 21-24 October; 3, Lyon (FRA) 27 Oct-1 November; 4, Verona (Italy) 4-7 November; 5, Stuttgart (Germany) 17-21 November; 6, Geneva (Switzerland) 9-12 December; 7, London-Olympia (Great Britain) 14-20 December; 8, Mechelen (Belgium) 26-30 December; 9, Zurich (SUI) 28-30 January; 10, Bordeaux (France) 4-6 February; 11, Vigo (Spain) 10-13 February; 12, Gothenburg (Sweden) 24-27 February; 13, ‘s-Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands) 24-27 March; FINAL - Leipzig (Germany) 27 April-1 May.
Broadcast Schedule can be downloaded from www.feiworldcup.org