Sweden To Show The Way

The Swedish team will be pathfinders around Frank Rothenberger’s daunting course as the fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ 2012 gets underway at the prestigious Soers Arena in Aachen, Germany tomorrow night.  The draw took place this afternoon, and the order-of-go is as follows:  1, Sweden; 2, Switzerland; 3, Germany; 4, France; 5, Belgium; 6, Netherlands; 7, Great Britain; 8, Ireland.

With mounting tension ahead of the London Olympic Games which are now only a few short weeks away, some team managers will be fine-tuning their Olympic decision-making over the next few days, so there is little room for error on the part of riders.

And as the 2012 series moves past the halfway stage, the countries lying at the bottom of the league table are acutely aware of the need for improvement.

Ireland is lying last, in eighth place, so Chef d’Equipe, Robert Splaine, is keen to register a good result this time out.  “We were quite good here last year, but we could do with a good score at this stage as we haven’t excelled ourselves so far in this year’s series!” he said.

It was the Dutch who reigned supreme on the hallowed Aachen turf 12 months ago, but the Irish did indeed put on an impressive performance when sharing runner-up spot with the British and Germans.  Splaine has selected Denis Lynch, Dermott Lennon, Billy Twomey and Cian O’Connor to fly the flag tomorrow.

The French are only two points ahead of the Irish on the league table, so they are also feeling the heat.  Thierry Touzaint represented Chef d’Equipe Hen Nooren at today’s Draw Press Conference, and wasn’t pulling any punches about his expectations for the French side which has, despite its wealth of talent, also been struggling.  “We hope to win!” was Mr Touzaint’s unequivocal declaration of intent, putting plenty of pressure on Patrice Delaveau, Roger-Yves Bost, Penelope Leprevost and Olivier Guillon ahead of tomorrow’s big clash.

Superb Form
Sweden is lying joint-sixth on the leaderboard, but if Sylve Soderstrand’s crew show anything like the superb form they displayed in Rotterdam recently then they should fortify their position.  And with Peder and Lisen Fredricsson joined by Henrik von Eckermann and the man who continues to hold pole position on the Rolex World Rankings, FEI European Champion and 2008 individual silver medallist Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, on call-up, they may well fulfill their team manager’s desire for a place on the podium tomorrow.

The Swedes share sixth spot on the league table with the British who field the same team of riders for the Aachen leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ as they did in 2011.  Nick Skelton is joined by Guy Williams, Michael Whitaker and Scott Brash, and a good result tomorrow would be the perfect morale boost for the 2012 Olympic Games host nation.

Chef d’Equipe, Rob Hoekstra, wasn’t holding back on his team’s prospects ‘ “we hope for better than last year, and last year we were second!” the British team manager said, although that remark was greeted with a good-natured “good luck!” from German Chef d’Equipe, Heinrich-Hermann Engemann who was sitting right beside him.

Holding Their Own
The Swiss have been holding their own since rejoining the Top League FEI Nations Cup™ this season, and team manager, Urs Grunig, is aiming for a place in the top three tomorrow night.  “That’s our hope, and I think we can reach this” he said with determination.  And with Werner Muff, Steve Guerdat, Pius Schwizer and Paul Eckermann, who has been adding great strength in depth to his national side this season, in action, it seems a very realistic target.

Belgian Chef d’Equipe, Philippe Guerdat, was a little more moderate in his ambitions.  “Our goal is to be better than last year!” he said, as on that occasion the Belgian team finished last.  Dirk Demeersman, father-and-son Ludo and Olivier Philippaerts and Niels Bruynseels have the job of ensuring there is no repeat of that poor performance from the country that currently lies third in the rankings.

Dutch Chef d’Equipe, Rob Ehrens, is in the comfortable position of knowing that the solid results his riders have produced so far has placed them second on the series table.  He sends out Leon Thijssen, Marc Houtzager, Harrie Smolders and Maikel van der Vleuten to do battle tomorrow, and said, “I hope for good sport and for good weather!”  He’s not the only one concerned about the latter.  Today the Soers arena was bathed in sunshine and 23 degrees of heat, but thunderstorms are expected to sweep across Europe tomorrow afternoon and evening, and Aachen may well be in their path.

That would add further drama to the already-tense situation, particularly in the German camp.  Chef d’Equipe, Otto Becker, has made it clear over the last few months that the final decision on Olympic selection will be made next Sunday night when CHIO Aachen concludes.  All performances will count until then, so, as his colleague Heinrich Hermann Engemann pointed out today, “there’s big pressure here!”  He also has an eye on a place on the podium tomorrow night - “for the last two years we’ve been second”, Mr Engemann pointed out.

Germany will be represented by Marco Kutscher, Christian Ahlmann, Janne Frederike Meyer and Philip Weishaupt, and a great deal hangs in the balance as the action kicks off at 19.30 local time.

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For further information on the fifth leg of the 2012 FEI Nations Cup™ series in Aachen (GER) on Thursday 5 July go to website www.chioaachen.de  or contact Press Officer Niels Knippertz, Email niels.knippertz@chioaachen.de Tel: +49 (0) 241 9171 189.

FEI Nations Cup™ 2012 - Standings after Round 4 at Rotterdam:
1.  Germany  -  30.00
2.  Netherlands  -  22.50
3.  Belgium  -  21.00
4.  Switzerland -  20.50
5.  Great Britain  -   16.00
5.  Sweden  -  16.00
7.  France  -  14.00
8.  Ireland  -  12.00 

Facts and Figures:
Aachen presents the fifth round of the eight-leg FEI Nations Cup™ 2012.
The host nation of Germany currently heads the series leaderboard following two wins so far this season - the latest at Rotterdam, The Netherlands just under two weeks ago.
Aachen first staged a horse show in 1924.
The first Aachen Nations Cup took place in 1929 and the Swedish team was victorious on that occasion.
The Soers showground hosted the hugely successful FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2006.
In 2011, the FEI Nations Cup™ was won by The Netherlands with Ireland, Great Britain and Germany sharing second place when all finished on the same score. 

FEI Jumping Director, John Roche - “It’s great to be back in Aachen which is recognised worldwide for its excellence, and is constantly seeking new challenges - hosting five European Championships in 2015, which will showcase equestrian sport in the way it should be showcased”.

FEI Jumping Director, John Roche - “Thanks to Mercedes Benz for their support and the Saudi Equestrian Fund for their support, without which all of this couldn’t take place”.

Photo Caption :  FEI Jumping Director, John Roche, in the foreground at today’s FEI Nations Cup™ 2012 Draw Press Conference in Aachen, Germany where the fifth leg of the series will take place tomorrow evening.  Photo: FEI/Kit Houghton.

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