The Chefs All Agree - This Is Going To Be The Toughest Season Ever ......
The Chefs All Agree - This Is Going To Be The Toughest Season Ever ......
La Baule - The Polish team, complete newcomers to the top-level of nations cup jumping, are drawn first to go in the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series which kicks off at La Baule in France tomorrow afternoon. And with four of the 10 competing countries due to be relegated at the end of this season all the Chefs d'Equipe were in complete agreement about one thing during this afternoon's draw press conference - this is going to be a very tough season indeed.
The order of go for tomorrow's first leg is as follows: 1, Poland; 2, Sweden; 3, Switzerland; 4, Spain; 5, The Netherlands; 6, Ireland; 7, USA; 8, France; 9, Great Britain; 10, Germany.
La Baule celebrates 50 years of international show jumping this year, and the Stade Francois Andre arena in the heart of the elegant French seaside town as always presents a strong challenge for the opening round the eight-leg series. Not only the riders who will be tested tomorrow however. A number of new team managers have been appointed this season, and they will be keen to show that their federations have chosen the right man for the job.
Former rider Heinrich Hermann Engemann is guiding the German side. "This season is going to be difficult because so many teams will be relegated" he pointed out. "I hope we have a lucky start here, it has not been easy to find a good team but we come with a mixture of young and experienced riders" he added.
America's George Morris described nations cup jumping as "the pinnacle of our sport", and while he recognised the extra pressure created by the culling of four nations at season's end, he warmly welcomed the return to an eight-nation tournament in 2011 when two teams from the Promotional League will join the best six from the 2010 Meydan FEI series.
The French are the defending champions, and Chef d'Equipe Laurent Elias was in positive mood. "Our secret last season was that we worked really well together as a team, and I hope we can do the same this year" he said. It was Switzerland who took the honours at La Baule last May, and Swiss Chef d'Equipe Rolf Grass said that, like the German team manager, he has brought "a mixed side that I hope will do well".
Robert Splaine said that his Irish riders made a good start to 2010 when finishing third in the nations cup at Wellington in Florida and then winning at Lummen in Belgium a week ago. "I've used early shows to see if some horses were ready to step up" he said, and Shane Breen's brilliant double-clear in the team event and victory in the Grand Prix at Lummen has earned him a starting spot. Splaine said he needs to keep some of his top combinations fresh for the challenge of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games later in the year however as Ireland will be looking for Olympic qualification in Kentucky - "it's not going to be easy to stay in the Meydan series, but we will be doing as good a job as we possibly can" he insisted.
A Happy Chap
The Netherlands' Rob Ehrens described himself as "a happy chap!". His planning is all in place, he knows its going to be a difficult year as the Dutch will be defending their world championship team title in Kentucky - "we are looking at a tough few months ahead and I hope we survive, but we've timed everything to be ready for a good result at La Baule and now we will have to wait and see" he added.
Dutch-born Rob Hoekstra replaces long-time British Chef d'Equipe Derek Ricketts this season. He rode for The Netherlands as a junior and for Great Britain as a senior rider and is a former Hickstead Derby champion, heading the line-up with Lionel in the prestigious event in 1999. He has been living in England for 30 years and is really looking forward to guiding the British side into the future. "We have a slight advantage" he admitted today, "because we don't have to qualify for the London Olympic Games in 2012" and he said one of his main priorities in his new role is "to give our younger generation the opportunity to come through".
Austrian-born Polish Chef d'Equipe Rudiger Wassibauer probably has the hardest job of all over the next 12 weeks as the series moves on to Rome (ITA), St Gallen (SUI), Rotterdam (NED), Falsterbo (SWE), Aachen (GER), Hickstead (GBR) and finally to Dublin (IRE), but he's staying upbeat about it. "Just to be here is a great success for us, although we expect to have a short life in this league of competition" he admitted. "I'm optimistic but realistic - I see our participation in the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ as a fantastic opportunity for our young people and for the sport of show jumping in Poland".
Spain's Marco Fuste has greater hopes for his side which also joins the top level sport for the first time tomorrow. "We are looking forward to a great year during which we will make the sport in our country bigger and we will continue to progress as a team. It's a big step for us but we are going to fight to stay in the series - I promise you, we will put up a very good fight!" he said. And Sweden's new Chef d'Equipe, Gosta Asker, who was appointed last January, also said with determination that his side will be giving it everything they've got.
Don't miss a beat - you can watch the first leg of the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ LIVE on FEI TV tomorrow - the action begins at 15.15 local time, and its going to be a thriller all the way....
For further details on the first leg of the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ go to website www.labaule-cheval.com
Facts and Figures:
- CSIO La Baule celebrates 50 years of official show jumping in 2010
- The show is staged at the Stade Francois Andre which was donated to the town of La Baule in 1930 by Francois Andre whose family created the Lucien Barriere chain of luxurious French hotels
- The first unofficial show took place that year
- In 2004 the show organisers undertook an extensive renovation of the stadium
- 196 new stables have been built in recent years and there are also 77 older permanent boxes
- Once again, Frenchman Frederic Cottier is course-designer at the 2010 fixture
MEYDAN FEI NATIONS CUP™
A Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ event is organised as a five-star Nations Cup, i.e. a competition in which official teams representing nations compare their merit. At each event the teams gain points according to their placing. At the end of the 2010 season the team with the highest points wins the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ and the four teams with the lowest points are relegated to the FEI Nations Cup series (Promotional League). Following the Promotional League Final, the two best placed teams from that series join the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ for 2011.
The World’s Top 10 Teams: France, the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, Spain and Poland.
The World’s Best Eight Venues:
La Baule (FRA), Friday 14 May; Rome (ITA), Friday 28 May; St. Gallen (SUI), Friday 4 June; Rotterdam (Ned), Friday 18 June; Falsterbo (SWE), Friday 9 July; Aachen (GER), Thursday 15 July; Hickstead (GBR), Friday 30 July; Dublin (IRL), Friday 6 August.
The complete rules, latest news, results, standings and photos are on www.meydanfeinationscup.org
To learn more about the FEI go to www.fei.org
To learn more about Meydan, the title sponsor of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup, go to www.meydan.ae
Photo Caption: Pictured during the today's draw for the first leg of the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup at La Baule : L to R - Rene Pasquier, President du Jumping International de France; Lauren Wickens, Marketing and Communications Manager, Meydan; and John Roche, FEI Director of Jumping. Photo: Jean Morel.
Watch it LIVE on FEI TV on Friday 14th May from 15.15 to 19.10 CEST
Extensive coverage of the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ is available on FEI TV, the official video website of the Fédération Equestre Internationale. Simply check www.feitv.org for live coverage, event reports, highlights programmes and interviews.