British showjumpers Ellen Whitaker, Joe Stockdale, Jodie Hall McAteer and Lily Attwood will be flying the flag this afternoon (Thursday 29 September) in the first round of the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain.
A total of 14 nations line up for this prestigious finale to the Nations Cup series, held at the Real Club de Barcelona, all bidding for a place in Sunday afternoon’s final when the winner will be decided.
With an average age of just 25, the British squad is packed full of young talent. Pathfinder Ellen Whitaker, 36, is the senior member of the team and rides Tilly Shaw’s 10-year-old mare Equine America Spacecake. The only rider from GB’s bronze medal-winning team at the World Showjumping Championships last month is 22-year-old Joe Stockdale with his top mare Equine America Cacharel. Jodie Hall McAteer, also 22, brings her superstar 13-year-old Salt’N Peppa and team anchor is 20-year-old Lily Attwood and the hugely consistent Cor-Leon V Vlierbeek Z. The fifth member of the British squad in Barcelona is William Whitaker, a late replacement for Harry Charles after his mount Casquo Blue wasn’t quite fit enough to compete.
“The Brits always look forward to coming to Barcelona for the Nations Cup Final and we have a group of riders who are very excited to be here,” said chef d’equipe Di Lampard.
Nations Cup Final defending champions
The defending champions are the Netherlands, three-time winners of this final, who are represented by big names Maikel van der Vleuten (Beauville Z NOP), Johnny Pals (Zarkava Hero Z), Jur Vrieling (Long John Silver 3) and Harrie Smolders riding Monaco NOP with Jos Lansink at the helm.
Argentina and Brazil, who have been drawn first, will represent South America while Canada and Mexico qualified ahead of surprise absentees USA.
Hosts Spain, as well as Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland will also be in action.
France’s chef d’equpe Henk Nooren said: “We are bringing the same team as we had at the World Championships in Herning but we need to see how the form of the horses is because most of them have only jumped one show since Herning so there’s a bit of a question mark but we will see!”
Irish team ‘hope to be lucky – and good’
Ireland will be well represented by Trevor Breen (Highland President), Jack Ryan (BBS McGregor), Mark McAuley (Jasco V Bisschop) and Andrew Bourns (Sea Topblue).
“We love Barcelona and we are reasonably lucky here normally so we hope we will be lucky, and good, this year!” said Irish chef d’equipe Michael Blake. “We have a slightly less experienced team, they have experience but have never been to this final before.”
The reigning Olympic and world champions Sweden are another country bringing a younger team of riders to Barcelona – having finished bottom of the European Division 1 series alongside Norway they didn’t earn direct qualification to the Nations Cup Final, however with no participating teams from the Middle East region attending, both countries were invited to compete.
“We are excited to be here and happy to be here because we were struggling a bit, but now we are here with a team of the future I hope,” said Henrik Ankarcrona, Sweden’s chef d’equipe.
With eight of the top 18 riders in the world rankings in action, this is sure to be a hard-fought and thrilling contest.
Surprisingly, the Swiss have never won the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final title but they, along with Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Norway, will be bidding for the single qualifying spot on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games from this competition.
Competition begins for all 14 nations at 1pm BST on Thursday 29 September, with the top eight finishers going straight through to Sunday’s €1,250,000 final. The remaining six countries return for Saturday night’s Challenge Cup, won last year by Great Britain. Olympic course-designer Santiago Varela will once again be setting the tracks.
- H&H will be bringing you all the latest news from the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final online and there will be a full report in next week’s magazine, on sale in shops on Thursday 6 October
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Credit: Peter Nixon
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