By Louise Parkes
Abdullah Alsharbatly won the FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2015/2016 Arab League for the second year in a row as athletes from Saudi Arabia dominated this series when filling three of the top four places at the end of the 16 qualifying rounds.
Riders from 15 different leagues across the globe have been battling it out for a qualifying spot at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final which will take place in Gothenburg (SWE) from 23 to 28 March 2016, and the Arab League is the latest to conclude, finishing up with an exciting event at Al Ain (UAE) last weekend.
A total of 86 athletes competed in this series which began with two qualifiers in Alexandria (EGY) last September. However Alsharbatly made his season debut in Tetouan (MAR) in October where he collected 17 valuable points, and he capitalised on that when claiming the maximum 20 at round nine on home turf in Riyadh (KSA) the following month with the same horse, the 13-year-old gelding Domingo which was previously competed by Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels.
Sharbatly has always been highly competitive, taking team gold at the Asian Games in Doha (QAT) in 2006 and the Pan-Arab Games in Cairo (EGY) in 2007, but he really rocketed to centre stage when clinching individual silver at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky (USA) in 2010 before going on to help his country claim team bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In the meantime he added another team gold medal at the Asian Games in Guangzhou (CHN) in 2010, and although his team had to settle for silver at the Asian Games in Incheon (KOR) in 2014, Alsharbatly emerged to take the individual title in convincing fashion. It is quite a track record, and the 33-year-old rider was looking confident once again coming into this season’s Arab League final leg at Al Ain, but he still needed points to be assured of success.
Strong international line-up
There was a strong international line-up at the event which was sponsored by the FEI’s top partner, Longines, and Germany’s David Will and Joerg Naeve took the top two places ahead of Russia’s Vladimir Tuganov at the end of the Two-Round competition that decided the final Arab League placings. A single first-round mistake with the Dutch-bred Tobalio left Alsharbatly having to settle for equal-11th place in the final analysis, but that proved good enough to add 10 more pivotal points and provide him with the league title once again.
Egypt’s Mohamed Talaat jumped double-clear with the German-bred 14-year-old Connaught to finish seventh and best of the Arab League athletes. And this promoted him to runner-up spot on the league leaderboard ahead of Ramzy Al Duhami, another experienced member of that bronze medal winning side at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Cementing the authority of the Saudi Arabian athletes, 20-year-old Abdulrahman Alrajhi who produced an impressive win at the 13th leg of the series in Abu Dhabi (UAE) last month, finished fourth in the final league standings ahead of Syria’s Ahmad Saber Hamcho in fith place.
Talking about the success and the continued expansion of this series, FEI Arab League Coordinator, Karim Badaro, explained yesterday, “the Arab League World Cup qualifying season is made up of sixteen legs and the big number of events shows the involvement of the Arab Federations. The geographical dispersion of the Arab countries competing in the league stretches from Morocco to the United Arab Emirates. This is a big commitment for Arab athletes who spare no effort to be part of it.
This season we witnessed three new events, at Alexandria (EGY) which staged two qualifiers and Mostaganem (Algeria). The League is now in its eleventh year and has greatly contributed to the improvement of the competitive level of Arab riders and horses who have become a force to be reckoned with in all major equestrian meetings around the globe. I sure hope this trend will continue on an upward curve!”, he said.
Detailed results of FEI World Cup™ Jumping Arab League here