The youth has the future; this is definitely being proofed at the FEI World Pair Driving Championships in Conty this week. After 23-year-old Carola Diener won the dressage, 24-year-old Dutch competitor Tom Engbers claimed the first place in the marathon. Tibor Nagy jr. from Hungary, just 21 years of age, came second in the heavy marathon competition. The experienced marathon specialist and title defender Harrie Verstappen from The Netherlands took the third place.
Despite the many rain showers that afflicted the Conty area, many spectators from different nationalities had flocked to the Ateliers de Val de Selle to enjoy a wonderful marathon with driving sport at the highest level.
Tom Engbers drove the 16-year old Westfalen gelding Nike (v. Maraschino) and the 8-year-old Hannoverian gelding Diamond (v. Diamond Hit) only for the first time ever together in the marathon. Engbers was very pleased with his marathon win at his first World Championship in which he set the fastest times in five of the eight challenging marathon obstacles: “I was happy that I had to start early in the marathon. The grounds were still good and I was able to ask the best of my horses.” Tom has moved up to silver in the individual standings which are still led by Carola Diener who finished 12th today, but kept her leading position.
None of the international pair drivers were able to beat Engbers’ fast times in the marathon, but both Nagy jr. and Verstappen came very close. Nagy jr. is also a World Championship debutant and performed very well with his home-bred Hungarian Sport Horses: “I was very confident after the competition in Riesenbeck four weeks ago in which I came fourth in the marathon. I knew the horses could do it.” Nagy jr. has climbed to the 8th place after dressage and marathon.
Title defender Harrie Verstappen took revenge for his somewhat disappointing dressage score: “I always drive as fast and as safe as possible for the horses. Today, Tom and Tibor were just faster, it is as simple as that. The grounds were very heavy after the rainfall and I also made small mistake in one of the obstacles. But other than that, I am very pleased with my performance,” says Verstappen, who is in the 13th place in the individual standings.
Stephane Chouzenoux defended the French colours very well in Conty again in today’s marathon. The 40-year-old member of the local Driving Club of Conty finished 6th in the marathon and is currently on bronze in the standings. “It was decided that I would be the last team member to start in the marathon. This gave me the opportunity to make some changes to my routes in the obstacles. It was heavy for the horses but they have given their maximum and I am very pleased with them.”
Beat Schenk (SUI) who was on silver after the dressage, had a corrected error of course in the 8th obstacle and dropped to the 11th place. The same happened to Georg Moser (AUT) who has now dropped from the third to the 31st place.
Carola Diener has a comfortable lead of 4,13 penalty points after dressage and marathon. This allows her to knock one cone down when second placed Tom Engbers drives a double clear round. The differences in the top are very small and one knock down will cause some changes in both the individual and the team classifications.
Title defender The Netherlands has taken the lead in the nations standings, followed by Germany and France.
Tomorrow’s final obstacle driving competition will be a nerve wrecking but exciting Final of the 15th FEI World Pair Driving Championships!
Photo: Tom Engbers claimed the first place in the marathon. Picture by Rinaldo de Craen