The Paris 2024 Olympic Games are just five weeks away and if there was any doubt about Team France’s form, they laid it to rest in Rotterdam.

Competing in the fourth and final leg of the Longines League of Nations™ (LLN) 2024 qualifying season, the French put in a foot perfect performance with clears from Simon Delestre (I Amelusina R 51), Kevin Staut (Scuderia 1918 Viking d’La Rousserie), Julien Epaillard (Donatello d’Auge) and Olivier Perreau (GL Events Dorai d’Aiguilly).

They were the only team to finish on a zero score.

“To have seven out of seven clears—that was for me was something to be really proud of!” declared French chef d’equipe Henk Nooren.

He has every reason to be delighted, too.

Nooren’s prospects at the beginning of the LLN season—and all-important Olympic year for the home team—were bleak in January. The team was short on horse power, “so we gave all the possibilities to new and upcoming combinations to see if we could create some,” said Nooren.

“Leg one in Abu Dhabi was not a good start because we ended up last of last, but Ocala was already better [the team finished eighth] and then St Gallen was cancelled. So everybody was really, really sharp to prove themselves here.”

They didn’t disappoint.

All four Frenchmen jumped in the first round, despite already having a zero score on the leaderboard courtesy of Epaillard, Perreau and Delestre.

For Staut, last to go in the first round, it was about proving his place, said the team manager.

“The last time Kevin jumped in a Nations Cup was 2022, he got injured in April 2023 and only got back in the ring in the beginning of this year…so for Kevin today there was not only the pressure from the Nations Cup and the LLN and but it was also an enormous pressure to prove himself again that he has a horse to go perhaps to Paris within a couple of weeks.” 

When Perreau sat out round two—only three riders return for the second round under the LLN format—he did just that, executing a second fault-free performance.

With the best eight teams qualifying for the LLN Final in Barcelona, the victory guarantees France’s ticket and provides valuable intel, not to mention confidence, ahead of Olympic team selection.

“Our biggest goal is the Olympics, especially because it is a home Olympics, but we also wanted to qualify for Barcelona Final at the same time,” Nooren continued.

It’s safe to say, his options have improved considerably since the first LLN leg in Abu Dhabi.

Six months ago, the French were short on options. Now, Staut has proved his contender status and both Delestre and Epaillard, already in the running with Cayman Jolly Jumper and Dubai du Cedre, have two horses that could make the cut.

“Amelusina now especially after this performance today is definitely one that could replace in a couple of weeks,” continued Nooren.

“And then Donatello—no matter how much success he already had he never jumped in any Nations Cup in his life. The first choice for Julien is Dubai, that’s for sure. But now it’s also clear that over two rounds and let’s say the second round today was a really championships round. So yes, he also has a replacement if necessary.”

The sensational Swedes settled for second on four fractionally faster faults than the third-placed Brits, also on a four-fault tally.

The inaugural 2024 LLN season closes with the Final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) in October.