A Tradition of Champions
A Tradition of Champions
As the excitement builds to a crescendo ahead of the dawning of the brand-new Longines League of Nations™ Series, the top-10 ranked countries in the world have confirmed their teams for the historic first leg which will be staged in Abu Dhabi (UAE) this Sunday 11th February 2024.
FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping, in which horse-and-rider combinations join forces to represent their countries with fierce pride and enormous passion, has long been at the heart of all that is best about equestrian sport. Dating back to 1909, and under the supervision of the FEI since 1930, it has inspired athletes and enthralled spectators worldwide ever since.
The new-look Longines League of Nations™ series blends the traditions of the past with the excitement of the modern sport for a four-leg super-series that will take place across three continents. After Abu Dhabi the action will move to Ocala (USA) in March and then to St Gallen (SUI) and Rotterdam (NED) in June before concluding with the big Final in Barcelona (ESP) in October where the best eight teams will battle it out for the inaugural title.
The opening leg looks set to be a mighty clash of champions.
Team Ireland will get the best of the draw because, ranked the number one nation in the world based on points accumulated by their top six athletes including one U25 athlete, they will be last into the arena when the action begins in Abu Dhabi where the hosts, not vying for qualification for the Final, will be first to go.
Then running in order of merit of those team rankings, Brazil will be second into the ring followed by Sweden, Belgium, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, France and the USA before the first rider Irish finally takes his turn.
One combination from each country jumps the course before moving on to the second rotation of athletes and horses and, counting the best three scores for each team, the best eight nations at the end of the first round return to jump the same course in round two, but with just three riders instead of four this time around so any mistakes will prove very costly.
In case of a draw at the end of the second round there will be a jump-off with just one rider representing each team.
The opening leg has attracted a star-studded line-up, with the reigning Olympic champions from Sweden sending out the fabulous foursome of Henrik von Eckermann, Wilma Hellström, Peder Fredricson and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson who are likely to be the ones to beat.
The Swedes have been a force to be reckoned with for a long time now, clinching team gold at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021, at the FEI World Championship in 2022 and once more at the European Championship in 2023.
Fearless Fredricson helped clinch that Tokyo team title in a thrilling jump-off, while von Eckermann went on to add individual gold to the team title at the FEI World Championships in Herning (DEN) in 2022, and has been leading the individual world rankings for much of the time since then. Bengtsson is a five-time Olympian and former European gold medallist and Hellström has been a rock-solid member of the Swedish side for some time now.
Team Brazil are also on something of a roll, having picked up a qualifying spot for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2023 last October and team bronze at the Pan American Games 2023 in Chile a few weeks later. Former Portuguese team member, Luciana Diniz, returned to ride under the Brazilian flag at last year’s Barcelona Final, and she will line-out in Abu Dhabi alongside Marlon Zanotelli, Yuri Mansur and Luiz Felipe de Azevedo Filho.
Belgium will be represented by the experienced side of Tokyo team bronze medallist Gregory Wathelet, Koen Vereecke, Abdel Saïd and Wilm Vermeir while France sends out Olympic and European champions Kevin Staut and Roger Yves Bost, Olivier Robert and Olivier Perreau.
Flying the flag for Great Britain will be Skye Higgin, Joseph Stockdale and Donald and Jack Whitaker while Germany, winners of the 2023 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ title, field double Olympic team bronze medallist and former European and World Cup champion Christian Ahlmann, Jörne Sprehe and 2021 European team silver medallists David Will and Christian Kukuk. The Irish side will include Michael Pender, Richard Howley, Mark McAuley and Denis Lynch.
For the Netherlands, Kim Emmen, Loewie Joppen and Leopold van Asten will be backed up by World gold and Olympic silver medallist Jur Vrieling, while Janika Sprunger and Barbara Schnieper will join 2021 European team gold medallist Elian Baumann and double-Olympian Pius Schwizer in the Swiss side.
Team USA will include Alise Oken, Callie Schott, Hannah Selleck and Aaron Vale, and the hosts will be hoping for a good result from their selection that consists of Abdullah Mohd Al Marri, Omar Abdul Aziz Al Marzooqi, Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi and Ali Hamad Al Kirbi.
With €700,000 in prize money at each qualifier and €1,600,000 on offer at the Final along with a range of extra bonus payments and of course the honour and prestige that goes with the taking of the very first Longines League of Nations™ title, it’s all to play for.
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