As predicted, Switzerland has qualified for the 2012 FEI Nations Cup™ series having secured the 2011 FEI European Promotional League title by a convincing margin. Finishing the season with 60.5 points, the Swiss completed with an advantage of 6.5 points over the runners-up from Sweden, while Italy placed third ahead of Spain.
The Swiss and Swedes were the main protagonists in the closing stages of the battle for the single qualifying spot available to the Promotional League Champions, each looking strong when making guest appearances in the top-level FEI Nations Cup™ 2011 series on their home turf this summer. At St Gallen in June, the Swiss finished equal-second alongside the first-division British, while at Falsterbo in July the Swedes divided runner-up spot with the defending series champions from France.
In the end, it was their success in the final leg of the Challengers Series that clinched it for the Swiss as they collected the maximum 16 points available at Bratislava in Slovakia which boosted their position as the best six scores from their outings in both the Promotional and Challengers Leagues were calculated.
Strong Swiss Foursome
It was the strong Swiss foursome of Martin Fuchs (Principal), Janika Sprunger (Uptown Bo), Steve Guerdat (Nino des Buissonnets) and Hensueli Sprunger (Kepi de Valse) that lined out at the Slovakian fixture, but they only pipped the runners-up from The Ukraine by a single fault, while Austria slotted into third. A total of 16 faults in the first round put paid to Swedish chances here, as only the best eight nations returned in round two. At the previous leg of the Challengers League in Sopot, Poland the situation had been reversed when the Swiss failed to make the cut while the Swedes picked up points for third place.
But the eventual champions already had sufficient points when the last leg of the Promotional League series took place in Gijon, Spain last weekend, and it was just as well. Because despite fielding another impressive side that included Theo Muff (Acomet), Claudia Gisler (Touchable), Andreas Ott (Loxy de l Reselle) and Niklaus Schurtenberger (Cantus), they could only manage to take seventh place, missing out on the second-round excitement when already carrying 16 faults at the end of the first round.
Swedes Looked Set
The Swedes looked set to scoop the honours at Gijon when Malin Baryard-Johnsson (H&M Tornesch), Helena Persson (Bonzai H) and Peder Fredricson (H&M Arctic Aurora Borealis) all went clear first time out - Svante Johansson (Caramell) providing the discount score of five faults. But it fell apart in round two when Baryard-Johnsson and Persson each collected eight faults and Fredricson and Johansson picked up four faults apiece for a disappointing final total of 16.
This left the door wide open for the Spanish who were lying second with just a single fence down at the halfway stage. And despite high-scoring performances from both Eduardo Aznar (Rico Revel) and Jesus Echevarria (Lord du Mont Milon), the brilliant double-clears from Pilar Cordon (Nuage Bleu) and Julio Arias (Murat de Reve) secured a finishing total of 12 which left Spain with a three-fault lead over Great Britain in second while Sweden had to settle for third.
Sweden, and all the other competing nations on the day, has one last chance to qualify for the FEI Nations Cup™ 2012 series when the Promotional League Final takes place in Barcelona in two weeks time. The winning team in this ultimate contest will earn the last available spot, but the competition for the coveted place amongst the best eight nations in the world is guaranteed to be tough and intense.
A total of three teams from both the European and Challengers Leagues are eligible for the final along with one from the North and South American series. With Switzerland already qualified that leaves Sweden, Italy and Spain as the top three Promotional League contenders. The 15-nation Challengers League was won by the Ukraine,s with Turkey finishing second ahead of Poland in third and Bulgaria in fourth place. Full details of the FEI Promotional League are available at http://goo.gl/NUUxv
THE 2011 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: Steve Guerdat was one of the riders who helped secure Switzerland's return to the top-level FEI Nations Cup™ 2012 through victory in the 2011 FEI Promotional League series this season. Photo: FEI/Kit Houghton.