With the equestrian sports calendar suddenly bursting into action again after the many complications imposed by the pandemic over the last year, this week all eyes are on St Gallen in Switzerland where the much-anticipated Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2021 series gets underway.
And there is great news for the show organisers, as it has been officially confirmed that a limited public audience will be permitted to the showgrounds at the Gründenmoos.
This will be a season like no other, with just four of the seven legs of the Europe Division 1 series going ahead following the cancellation of the rounds at both Falsterbo (SWE) and Hickstead (GBR) in July and Dublin (IRL) in August, and some of the parameters have been changed.
The Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Covid-19 By-Laws have been updated to allow for invitations to be re-allocated so that every Division 1 country can compete in the same number of events. The updated allocation list is published here.
Therefore this season, Division 1 nations will compete in three events each instead of four, and teams will consist of four athletes instead of five with a maximum of 10 teams at each leg.
The new system offers more countries the opportunity to compete before the Tokyo Olympic Games which begin in July, and Chefs d’Equipe and selectors will be watching every horse and every rider very closely.
The quality of the 10-nation line-up for St Gallen confirms that fact, and it’s likely to be a mighty clash when the Europe Division 1 sides of Germany, Great Britain, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden and the hosts from Switzerland take on the non-Division 1 teams from Brazil, Egypt, Israel and Mexico next Sunday afternoon.
With the exception of Italy, all of these countries will face each other again in Tokyo in the first week of August, and every outing in the lead-up to final Olympic selection will be a crucial one. There’s also the psychological advantage of having beaten your rivals for Olympic glory in the lead-up to the Games. And there’s a lot of confidence to be gained by a good result at each leg of this summer’s series which will move on to La Baule (FRA) on Friday 11 June, then to Sopot (POL) on Sunday 20 June and finally Rotterdam (NED) on 2 July.
The Swiss are taking no chances on home ground as Chef d’Equipe Michel Sorg sends out the No. 1 and No. 3 riders in the Longines world rankings, Steve Guerdat and Martin Fuchs, along with Bryan Balsiger and Beat Mandli. And there’s a mass of experience in both Henrik Ankarcrona’s Swedish side of Malin Baryard-Johnsson, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, Douglas Lindelow and Evelina Tovek and in Rob Ehrens’ Dutch foursome of Bart Bles, Jeroen Dubbeldam, Kevin Jochems and Jur Vrieling.
The British have been rebuilding steadily, and Di Lampard has chosen Scott Brash, Harry Charles, William Funnell and Holly Smith to fly the flag, while Germany’s Otto Becker sends Christian Kukuk, Maurice Tebbel, Andre Thieme and Philipp Weishaupt and they will definitely have to be taken seriously.
However the best teams in the world know that there is nothing predictable about Nations Cup Jumping, that’s the charm of it as it makes compelling viewing and stirs national pride.
The 2021 series will not count toward qualification for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final which once again returns to the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) from 30 September to 3 October. Instead, all ten Division 1 teams - Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden - will be eligible to compete for the prestigious title that last went to Team Ireland in 2019.
And this year’s Final will also decide which nation is relegated to the EEF Series in 2022. Previously that was the fate of the country that finished bottom of the Division 1 standings at the end of the season, but this time around it will be the tenth-placed team in Barcelona, so the Final will have an even sharper edge to it.
It’s going to be quite different, but it’s also going to be very much the same as the best of the best go head-to-head over the four legs of fantastic sport and then chase down the ultimate prize, the title of Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2021 champions.
The action at St Gallen kicks off at 13.30 local time on Sunday 6 June, and if you can’t be there then you can follow every exciting moment on www.feitv.org
Don’t miss a hoofbeat…
The FEI Jumping Quiz arrives on Wednesday!
It's time to test your knowledge of FEI Jumping competitions. Connect every week to answer a quiz session and get as many points as you can!
Beware: the clock is ticking and the faster you answer, the more points you earn! Climb to the top of the leaderboards to win one of our great prize, there is notably a Longines timepiece, a Horse Pilot Tempest sweatshirt and many FEI.tv subscriptions to be won!