It’s a four horse race to the team medal finish line at the FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA).
And they’re neck and neck.2
A single time fault separates the top four teams after day two of competition. But it’s the Germans in the lead by a whisker.
The Deutch-meisters overtook Sweden atop the leaderboard on a tally of 9.31. The advantage is fractional though. They’re just 0.2 penalty points ahead. The defending champions from Switzerland lie third with 9.92 followed closely by Ireland on 10-points.
The Swedish grip on pole position looked strong in the first half with both Jens Fredricson on Markan Cosmopolit and world no. 1 Henrik von Eckermann riding Iliana delivering clears.
“The course was super, all compliments to [course designer Uliano Vezzani] also from yesterday,” said von Eckermann.
“Today there are some big jumps out there but they are not completely demanding on the horse. But you need to be able to ride accurately, to have all the gears to go forward, backwards for the last line, to the water, to the triple combination. So it’s asking a lot from the rider and I think that’s how it should be. If you ride good you have good chances, and not only that it’s the last hole on the jumps.
“I felt a little bit of pressure after Germany’s clear and Steve [Guerdat]’s clear and I wanted to give [the rest of the Swedish team] a good feeling and I think I did. We still have the drop score in our pocket and I hope we don’t need to use it,” he said after finishing his fault-free run.
Both Wilma Hellström and Cicci BJN and their anchor Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Zuccero left two on the floor, forcing the Swedes to add an eight faults to their team total.
The Germans only had to add four. Pathfinders Marcus Ehning and Stargold fell a single rail, but Philipp Weishaupt and Jana Wargers both found a clear path around the testing 14-fence track. Anchor rider Gerrit Nieberg, racked up 12 faults with Ben to be the drop score.
“So far it’s only two days of competition but Zineday felt very good in the warm-up, I had an amazing feeling yesterday in the speed class, he was really relaxed and focused,” said Weishaupt. “And today he continued what he showed yesterday, his great performance, his great talent and it was a pleasure to ride him.
“I hope we can keep that form for the next three rounds!”
Switzerland also added eight to their score card with four fault performances by Martin Fuchs (Leoni Jei) and Bryan Balsiger (Dubai du Bois Pinchet). Only Steve Guerdat jumped clear.
With clears for both Michael Duffy with Cinca 3 and Shane Sweetnam with James Kann Cruz, the Irish lost their chance to pull into lead when anchor rider Eoin McMahon and Mila accrued four faults at the big oxer three from home after the open water, adding four to their score. Trevor Breen and Highland President’s eight faults were the drop score.
The top 10 countries advance to Friday’s medal deciding round. There are still four nations left in the race for one of the three qualifying spots on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games—Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Spain. The Netherlands, France and Great Britain complete tomorrow’s line-up along with the top 50 individuals in the rankings so far.
For the fab four in the lead, Germans proved in Brussels last week that they’ve got the grit to pull ahead on the homestretch. But it’s still anyone’s race.
Tune in at 7:20 am ET on FEI TV.