Sweden holds the lead in the 2011 FEI European Promotional League series following consistently good results over the past few weeks. Carrying 49 faults, they have a good advantage over the Italians and Swiss who are playing cat-and-mouse in second and third places respectively, but with only a single point separating them. The battle for promotion to the Top League FEI Nations Cup™ series in 2012 is a tough one, and the Swedes are showing just how hungry they are to return to the elite level of the sport from which they were relegated at the end of last season.
It was the Swiss who held sway at the European Promotional League leg in Drammen, Norway last month, but it was a close call when they only pipped the runners-up from Turkey by a single fault. Switzerland's Arthur de Silva (La Toya 111), Niklaus Schurtenberger (Fifty Fifty), Claudia Gisler (Touchable) and Christina Liebherr (LB Callas Sitte Z) completed with a total of eight faults, but a double-clear from former Irish team member Gerry Flynn (SIEC Ledgepoint), who has been flying the Turkish flag in recent years, put Turkey in a strong position.
However Cagri Basel (SIEC Goldrush) followed an opening zero score with 15 faults, and when Omer Karaevli (Dadjak Ter Puttenen) added five more to his first-round time penalty and Burak Azak (SIEC Castelo Branco) lowered just one fence in the second round, then the Turkish total of nine left them frustratingly close to challenging the Swiss to a third-round jump-off.
Poland finished third with 22 faults, particularly remarkable considering they fielded only a three-man team and particularly impressive as pathfinder, Msciwaj Kiecon (Urbane) produced two flawless performances. Sweden picked up 10.5 valuable points when slotting into joint fourth with Denmark - Sweden's Peder Fredricson and H&M Arctic Aurora Borealis producing the third double-clear of the competition - while Italy slotted into sixth ahead of Finland in seventh and the host nation of Norway in eighth place.
A total of 14 nations competed, with Spain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Japan and Belgium failing to make the cut into the second round.
At Hamina in Finland later in the month, the Dutch came off best in a two-way jump-off against Sweden. The two countries were neck-and-neck carrying nine faults after the first two rounds while Italy was already in third place carrying 17, Denmark in fourth with 40, Norway in fifth with 55 and Finland in sixth spot on a two-round total of 84.
Sweden's Peder Fredricson and Holliday KLG were first to take on the clock and set off at a cracking pace. "There was no point going for a clear - I knew I had to go fast. But the plan did not include two fences down!" said Fredricson after lowering both elements of the final double. It was left to Henk van de Pol and Kirfa de Kreister, already double-clear over the previous two rounds, to sew it up for Holland. And he did just that with another foot-perfect tour of the track created by Iranian course designer Hossein Shafiee.
Swedish Chef d'Equipe Hans Horn was delighted with the result which rocketed his side to top the Promotional League table when nine further points achieved in the Challengers League leg at Sopot in Poland were also added to their tally. "It was quite a tough competition here in Hamina" he said afterwards. "The course looked easier than the Grand Prix on Saturday when we walked it, but it proved to be quite difficult".
Whether Sweden earns qualification for the 2012 FEI Nations Cup™ series as winner of the FEI Promotional League series remains to be seen, because one further round has yet to take place, at Gijon in Spain in early September, before the series champion will be crowned. Following that there is is only one further qualification opportunity available - to the winning side at the FEI Promotional League Final in Barcelona, Spain later that month.
THE FEI PROMOTIONAL LEAGUE consists of three separate series - the European Promotional League, the Challengers League and the North and South America League - from which countries can qualify for the Top League FEI Nations Cup™. A total of three teams from the European and Challengers Leagues, and one from the North and South America series, are eligible to compete at the FEI Promotional League Final in Barcelona, Spain in September. The winning team from this competition will qualify for the 2012 FEI Nations Cup™ along with the 2011 European Promotional League champions.
Photo Caption: The Swiss team that won the fourth leg of the FEI European Promotional League 2011 at Drammen in Norway -- L to R - Arthur Gustavo Da Silva (La Toya), Christina Liebherr (LB Callas Sitte Z), Claudia Gisler (Touchable) and Niklaus Schurtenberger (Fifty Fifty) pictured during the prize-giving with Chef d'Equipe, Urs Gruning, in the foreground. Photo: FEI/Drammen Press.