Swiss Win Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ in Tense Thriller at Linz

The Swiss team won the third leg of the Furusiyaa FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 series at Linz, Austria today. Pictured left to right - Pascal Bettschen, Christina Liebherr, Claudia Gisler and Theo Muff. Photo: FEI/Krisztian Buthi.
The Swiss team won the third leg of the Furusiyaa FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 series at Linz, Austria today. Pictured left to right - Pascal Bettschen, Christina Liebherr, Claudia Gisler and Theo Muff. Photo: FEI/Krisztian Buthi.

The Swiss team won through in an edge-of-the-seat battle with Australia at the third leg of the Furusiyaa FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 series in Linz, Austria this afternoon. Germany finished a close third ahead of the host nation in fourth, and the Polish team had to settle for seventh behind Denmark and Ireland when, despite threatening the leaders with a superb performance in the early part of the competition, their chances suddenly slipped away during the dramatic closing stages.
 
From a starting field of 11 nations, just eight returned to the second round. And although they didn’t manage to make the cut, the team from Belarus collected some of the precious qualifying points on offer in the tussle for a place at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final which will take place in Barcelona, Spain in September.
 
Just four nations were in line for points at this fixture, and Austria collected 75 while Denmark picked up 66 and Belarus 59.  But a last-place finish for Russia left them on a zero score.
 
Perfectly Pitched
The first-round track designed by Austria’s Franz Madl was perfectly pitched for CSIO 3* standard.  Winning team member, Christina Liebherr, described it as “not so big, but very technical.  The ground was up and down so you could easily make mistakes with your distances, and some horses jumped a bit flat here and there - but there were mistakes everywhere on the course so it was definitely very fair” the Swiss rider said.  And she recognised that today’s Swiss victory wasn’t easily earned.  “The Australian horses jumped really well and the Polish team might have won it too - it was a very exciting competition right to the very end” she pointed out.
 
Madl sent them off over an oxer followed by a vertical with a bending line to the Longines double at fence three.  The following triple bar to vertical proved influential, with the latter regularly hitting the floor and then there was a full circle to the narrow wall at six which didn’t prove attractive to a number of horses. The oxer at seven was followed by the open water, and German chances were undermined when their second-line partnership of Joachim Heyer and Aquarell PW ran into trouble here, while the following triple combination would also penalise many before the oxer at fence 10 led to the final line.  Some riders chose to cut tight to the penultimate oxer, but time and again this proved to be a mistake as horses were asked to jump off-balance and riders paid the price, while the final vertical also hit the floor on many occasions at the end of an otherwise foot-perfect round.
 
Halfway Stage
By the halfway stage however, the Australians were looking very good indeed with just a single time penalty between them.  The Swiss lay second, with five faults on the board, while Poland was in third carrying eight, Germany was next with 10 and the home team from Austria were on level-pegging with the Italians carrying 12.  The Danish side had already collected 16 faults while the Irish filled the last of the first-round qualifying spots with 21.  Great Britain’s 23 faults, the 31 accumulated by Belarus and the 32 picked up by the Russian side left these three countries on the sidelines as round two began.
 
There were just two double-clear performances on the day, and the first of these was recorded by the impressive 25-year-old Polish pathfinder Lukasz Koza with the athletic El Camp.  And when Igor Kawiak and his lovely grey, Centino du Ry, followed his double-error in the opening round with just a single mistake at the penultimate oxer this time out then Poland pulled out in front temporarily.  Even when third-line rider Ewa Mazurowska followed her first-round four faults with 20 at her second attempt there was still a chance they could come out on top because a clear, or as it turned out even eight faults, from last-to-go Piotr Morsztyn and Osadkowski van Hallen would be plenty good enough.  But it all fell apart for Morsztyn who couldn’t find a stride to the double at fence three, and when his horse, Ponita, dropped back to trot but still bravely attempted to take on the first element, it all ended with falling poles and an unseated rider for elimination.
 
Battle Continued
Meanwhile the battle continued to rage between the Australians and Swiss.  Australian opener, Alison Rowland, made her only mistake of the day when the busy little Bickley Brook Bella put a foot in the water second time out, but William James Passy followed his opening one-time-fault effort with Yirrkala Corina with two poles down and when Philip Lever became one of the very many to lower the first fence, but the only rider of the day to dislodge a brick from the narrow wall at fence six, then the Swiss began to sneak ahead.
 
Liebherr’s LB Callas Sitte Z faulted at the water in another otherwise copybook round, Muff hit the final element of the triple combination and Bettschen became yet another victim of the first fence before his horse, Milor Landais, also got his feet wet for a total of eight faults.
 
With just two riders to go it was still very much hanging in the balance.  Both Switzerland and Australia were on 21 faults now, so it was up to their anchor partnerships to decide the result.  A clear from Claudia Gisler and Touchable would pile the pressure on the final Australian duo by reducing the Swiss total to just 13, and it looked like they were about to do just that until the very last fence hit the floor to bring the final tally to 17 faults.
 
The Australian’s could finish on 13 however if they could drop one eight-fault result and if their last rider could keep a clean sheet.  It was a big ask, but with the atmosphere at boiling point Rory Hovell and Yalambi’s Val d’Isere VDL made it all the way to the final element of the triple combination before that fell, and when the following oxer also bit the dust then it was all over.  Their 21-fault finishing score would relegate the Australians to runner-up spot behind the considerably more experienced Swiss side.  Germany was just one fault further behind with 22 faults while Austria finished a very creditable fourth on a total of 24.
 
Rallied Strongly
The Irish rallied strongly in round two to finish fifth, and the astonishing potential of 17-year-old Bertram Allen, who was making his senior team debut, was further underlined by his double-clear with Romanov which, when added to a second-round clear from Anthony Condon (Special Lux) and a much-improved four-fault effort from anchorman Capt Michael Kelly (Annestown) seriously bolstered the Irish position. Denmark finished with 28 faults on the board, Poland completed with 32, and Italy with 40.
 
Liebherr was delighted with the result which paves the way for her return to top-level FEI Nations Cup™ jumping at the Europe Division 1 Furusiyya fixture in Rome (ITA) later this month.
 
She took some time out of the top level of the sport to develop horses through 3* and 2* competition in recent years, “but I’m trying to move up again now” she said today.  “I have some great new horses.  My father is also my sponsor and he is very motivated for me to be back at top level again.  I have three or four nine-year-olds coming along slowly this year with good results” she pointed out.
 
Liebherr spent some time training with Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum, “and I’ve taken a lot from that time” she said today.  “Ludger is fantastic, he doesn’t try to change the horse or the rider, but he gives you small tips that make a big difference, I learned so much from him” said the unassuming Swiss Olympian.
 
Today’s leg of the Furusiyaa FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series at Linz was part of Europe Division 2.  The next leg of this series takes place on Friday 10 May in Drammen, Norway. 
 
Result:
1. Switzerland 17 faults: LB Callas Sitte Z (Christina Liebherr) 0/4, Leszek (Theo Muff) 4/4, Milor Landais (Pascal Bettschen) 1/8, Touchable (Claudia Gisler) 4/4.
2. Australia 21 faults: Bickley Brook Bella (Alison Rowland) 0/4, Yirrkala Cortina (William James Passy) 1/8, Da Vinci's Pride (Phillip Lever) 0/8, Yalambi's Val d'Isere VDL (Rory Hovell) 4/8.
3. Germany 22 faults: Little Pezi (Mario Stevens) 0/4, Aquarell PW (Joachem Heyer) Elim/19, Cassydy (Markus Renzel) 6/0, Queen Mary (Jan Wemke) 4/8.
4. Austria 24 faults:  Glock's Prince de Vaus (Dieter Kofler) 4/8, Duc de Revel (Astrid Kneifel) 8/4, Sterrehof's Ushi (Julia Kayser) 8/0, Concordija (Stefan Eder) 0/8.
5. Ireland 25 faults: Je T'Aime Flamenco (Billy Twomey) 8/12, Special Lux (Anthony Condon) 13/0, Romanov (Bertram Allen) 0/0, Annestown (Capt Michael Kelly) 16/4.
6. Denmark 28 faults: Allerdings (Andreas Schou) 8/8, Kamila (Kim Kristensen) 4/4, Charly (Lars Bak Andersen) 8/4, Cartani (Charlotte von Roenne) 4/4.
7. Poland 32 faults: El Camp (Lukasz Koza) 0/0, Centino du Ry (Igor Kawiak) 8/4, Ponita (Ewa Mazurowska) 4/20, Osadkowski van Halen (Piotr Morsztyn) 4/Elim.
8. Italy 40 faults: Neptune Brecourt (Luca Maria Moneta) 0/4, Villeneuve D (Eleonora Zorzetto) 8/12, Chico Z (Riccardo Pisani) 4/12, New Zealand Delle Roane (Fabio Brotto) 8/12.
 
The following teams did not jump in the second round:
9. Great Britain 23 faults: Goodman Accobado (Jo Pay) 4, Winner (Louise Saywell) 4, Quentin Tarantino (Timothy Page) 16, Fandango (William Whitaker) 15.
10. Belarus 31 faults: Wacantos (Yahor Morotski) 17, Lodonkor (Vasil Ivanou) 12, Clooney (Ibragim) 6, Unique Cheval (Maxim Kryna) 13.
11. Russia 32 faults: Like You (Sergey Khomashko) 16, Wilandra (Vadim Konovalov) 12, Kilar (Natalia Simonia) 8, Rocketman (Vladimir Beletskiy)

Facts and Figures:
11 nations competed in today's third leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series at CSIO 3* Linz, Austria.
The Linz fixture is part of the Furusiyya Division 2 - Europe series.
Course designer was Austria's Franz Madl.
There were 12 fences on the first-round track.
There were four countries battling for the all-important qualifying points on offer at this fixture - Austria, Belarus, Denmark and Russia.
There were two double-clear performances in today's competition - from 25-year-old Polish rider Lukasz Koza (El Camp) and 17-year-old Irish schoolboy Bertram Allen (Romanov).

Quotes:
Bertram Allen (IRL) - "Finishing with a double clear was an unbelievable feeling, hard to describe. I've only been with Romanov between six to eight weeks, but we seemed to click very quickly. He won the Grand Prix at Magna Racino (ITA) for me two weeks ago, and was very good here yesterday. I'm delighted with today's result."
 
Christina Liebherr (SUI) talking about the large number of faults at the first fence in today’s competition - “We were coming out of a corner and there wasn’t much space so some of the horses were a bit surprised by it and there were quite a lot of mistakes”.
 
For further information on the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series check out this link




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