Bolstered by two of the four double-clear performances posted on the day, Team Germany won through in the second Europe Division 1 qualifier of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2022 series in Sopot, Poland this afternoon where France finished second and Switzerland slotted into third place.
Faultless rounds from both Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann riding Messi van’t Ruytershof and Andre Thieme partnering DSP Chakaria proved pivotal to the German victory, and Thieme was under intense pressure when last to go in the second round.
But the 46-year-old rider and the mare with which he claimed the individual European title on home ground in Riesenbeck last September left all the poles in place to record the second successive German success at the Polish fixture.
As team anchor he thought he might not have to line out in the second round, but when both pathfinders Philipp Weishaupt and Coby 8 and second-line rider Christian Kukuk and Mumbai each left a fence on the floor at their second attempt then it wasn’t looking quite so optimistic.
The French were carrying seven faults, and brilliant clears from Kevin Staut (Scuderia 1918 Viking d’La Rousserie), Edward Levy (Uno de Cerisy) and Julien Gonin (Valou du Lys) meant they added nothing more, Gregory Cottard (Bibici) unlucky to clip the flimsy penultimate planks on his second tour of the track.
Meanwhile clears from Alain Jufer (Dante MM) and a double-clear from Edouard Schmitz (Gamin van’t Naastveldhof) meant all the Swiss would have to add to their first-round four-fault tally was the single mistake from Elin Ott whose mare, Nanu ll, kicked a brick out of the wall at fence four, the eight picked up by Niklaus Schurtenberger (Quincassi) being their discard.
That left them on a final tally of eight faults, so Thieme knew he had little room for error if he was to take the win for his country when last into the ring. Germany needed to drop one of the two four-fault results posted in the second round to complete on the winning scoreline of just four faults, and although he could afford a couple of time faults he knew a fence down would hand victory to the French and leave his side on level pegging with the Swiss.
It was an exact repeat of what happened last year when he also decided the result as last rider into the ring in Sopot, and although he said he felt the pressure neither he nor his amazing mare flinched, galloping home well within the 69 seconds time-allowed to clinch it.
“My mare just jumped so outstanding - she made it happen and I’m thankful to her and to Otto that he gave me his trust to be last to go - I’m so happy we did it again!”, Thieme said afterwards.
Ireland lined up in fourth in today’s eight-nation contest helped by the last of the double-clears from Denis Lynch and his Rome Grand Prix winner Brooklyn Heights. Poland finished fifth while Sweden, Denmark and Norway filled the remaining three places in that order.
Thieme was complimentary about the 12-fence track set by Polish course designer Szymon Tarant. “The time allowed made it difficult, and especially in the first half there were many time faults, and there was a very tricky big vertical after the water and many had that down. But this was very smart course designing”, he said. And team-mate Philipp Weishaupt agreed. “It was a great course, tricky but very interesting so Szymon did a very great job today. Until the end we didn’t know who would win and this is what makes the Nations Cup so great!” he pointed out.
Christian Kukuk, who was on that 2021 winning team at Sopot with Mumbai alongside Thieme, said he wasn’t altogether pleased with his second-round error but very happy with his horse. And, as he rightly pointed out, “Janne and Andre with their double clear rounds saved us!”
Today was another kind of watershed moment for Janne Friederike Meyer-Zimmermann who gave birth to her son, Friedrich Alexander, just over four months ago. “I’m super happy, thankful and proud to be back in the saddle after my pregnancy!”, said the London 2012 Olympian.
Food for thought
For team manager Otto Becker today was also another significant day, giving him plenty more food for thought ahead of this summer’s FEI World Championships in Denmark. Riders are all very keen to show their potential for selection right now, and Thieme has it quietly in his sights.
He’s been planning his mare’s work schedule a little differently since taking the European title with her nine months ago. “After that we did one more show in Barcelona and we didn’t do the World Cup series so she had a break until January and then she started again in Florida where she only competed five times (over 12 weeks) and won a Grand prix and was third in the World Cup qualifier. She was already on fire over there!
“When she came back she had five weeks off and then went to Mannheim and won the Grand Prix, then had two weeks off and went to Hamburg and jumped double-clear and finished second in the Global Tour. This is only her third competition since coming back from America - we are trying to keep her fresh, but showing a little so she stays powerful. Now the plan is to do one more show - at Aachen - and then hopefully the Worlds….”, he explained.
Otto Becker thanked Kaja Koczurowska Wawrzkiewicz and her team for a great event. “Team Germany loves to come to Sopot. The class was very good and very exciting to the end, and two rounds make the Nations Cup the best competition in the world!”, he said.
And the Show President responded with a reminder of what is going on in the region right now.
“I’m out of words, completely exhausted but very happy. We had great crowds but this year was very tough for us. The situation is critical at our borders so it was hard organising the event while helping people at the same time, so I’m very glad it all went well”, she said.
Today’s result leaves Germany lying second in the Europe Division 1 standings with 170 points while the Swiss, winners on home ground at St Gallen last Monday, hold the lead at this early stage with a running total of 180. Only seven of the nine teams in Division 1 will qualify for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final which will take place at the traditional venue at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) from 29 September to 2 October 2022 and each nation gets four opportunities to qualify from six events.
Next stop on the road to the Spanish finale is Rotterdam in The Netherlands, where the action will take place on Friday 24 June.
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