The host nation of Kazakhstan clinched gold in both the FEI Intermediate 1 and FEI Freestyle Intermediate 1 classes at the FEI Central Asian Dressage Championships 2011 staged in Almaty over the weekend. In a pitched battle between two seasoned riders during which good fortune swung in both directions, Sergey Buikevich claimed the Intermediate 1 title with Ispovednik while Natalyja Yurkevich squeezed ahead of Buikevich to take the FEI Freestyle Test with Don Petro.It was a particularly satisfying result for the versatile and multiple medal-winning Buikevich, who is Vice President and Secretary General of the Equestrian Federation of Kazakhstan, Head Coach of the National Equestrian Team, an FEI Bureau Member and Chairman of FEI Group III as well as an International Jumping Judge.
The event took place in Almaty which is the former capital, and remains the largest city, in Kazakhstan. Located on the Silk Road - the legendary network of trade routes that stretch across Asia linking East to West - the city continues to be a major centre of commerce and a meeting place for visitors from all around the world. It has successfully staged a number of important equestrian events in recent years.
In 2009 these Championships were pitched at CDI 3-Star Big-Tour level, but this time around the standard was lowered and the competitions included a preliminary FEI Prix St Georges in which Buikevich got off to the perfect start last Friday.
Judges Lyudmila Gleb, Peter Engel and Elena Kutserubova put him top of the 19-strong field that included representatives from neighbouring Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. A score of 65.658 left Buikevich almost 0.4% ahead of Yurkevich while fellow-Kazakh, Kseniya Dubovtseva, slotted into third with Darial ahead of Yurkevich again in fourth, this time partnering Atlantis. First of the visitors into the line-up was Elena Chistyakova with Sekret who, however, was more than 5.5% behind the winning score when claiming fifth place.
The judging line-up was altered for Saturday's Intermediate 1 class, with Alla Subbotina at H, Lyudmila Gleb at C and Peter Engel at B as things got underway. Competitors were permitted two rides in this competition, and Gleb and Engel put Buikevich and Ispovednik first while Subbotina favoured Yurkevich. There was a strong entry of 17 horses - nine from Kazakhstan, and four each from both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Buikevich's total score of 66.140 provided him with the coveted gold, but Yurkevich claimed both of the other two medals when Don Petro's score of 65.833 took silver and the mark of 63.114 for Atlantis was good enough for the bronze. And the following day she would complete the set.
It was a clear victory for Yurkevich and Don Petro in Sunday's Freestyle, when all three of the Ground Jury awarded strong scores to the 43-year-old rider from the Interprayz Sports Club who won the National Young Horse Championship and was ranked second on the Kazakhstan National Rankings list in 2010. Only the technical mark from Subbotina prevented her from registering top marks across the board as her final tally of 68.000 took gold. Yurkevich's impressive career record includes second in the Grand Prix Freestyle and Grand Prix Special at the FEI Central Asia Dressage Championships in 2007, a win in the Grand Prix and second in the Freestyle at the CDI 3-Star in 2008, plus victory in the Grand Prix and second in the Grand Prix Special in 2009.
However Buikevich was close behind when taking silver. Buikevich, who represented Kazakhstan at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Aachen in 2006 and who swept to victory with his previous ride, Volan, in both the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle at the Central Asia Championships in 2007 and again in 2009, showed the depth of his experience as he steered Ispovednik to a score of 67.958. Buikevich also took team and individual gold at these Championships in 2003 and 2005, but this time around there was no team event so the competitors were only battling for individual honours. Bronze in the Freestyle went to Uzbekistan's Elena Chistyakova and Sekret with a mark of 63.500.
Result: FEI Central Asia Dressage Championships 2011
FEI Intermediate 1: Gold - Ispovednik (Sergey Buikevich) KAZ 66.140; Silver - Don Petro (Natalyja Yurkevich) KAZ 65.833; Bronze - Atlantis (Natalyja Yurkevich) KAZ 63.114.
FEI Freestyle Intermediate 1: Gold - Don Petro (Natalyja Yurkevich) KAZ 68.000; Silver - Ispovednik (Sergey Buikevich0 KAZ 67.958; Bronze - Sekret (Elena Chistyakova) UZB 63.500.