1st season of the Samsung Super League is over  

24 Sep 2003

A glance back on 2003 
 
"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same…." French Chef d’Equipe, Jean-Maurice Bonneau, quoted this line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem "If" in the aftermath of the drama-filled Samsung Super League series final in Barcelona last Sunday when his side emerged victorious in the League but heavily defeated on the day. On that extraordinary afternoon the formbook was completely upturned in the second round. The Frenchman commented that he would have been very happy if his side was on the podium having taken one of the top-three final-leg placings but instead, he said "we felt like the actors in a horror movie" when it all went seriously wrong and they finished bottom of the pile. There were no begrudgers however as he held the League trophy aloft – "the results we produced earlier in the season paid off today" Bonneau said as he reflected on the eight rounds of the series dominated by his teams which recorded a hat-trick of wins in La Baule, Rome and Dublin. They had taken a firm hold at the top of the leaderboard from the start and when the second-placed Irish failed to capitalise on their moment of weakness last Sunday it was a "fait accompli". For the Swedes also it was a "fait accompli" of another kind as they had to accept relegation to ordinary Nations Cup level for 2004. They had a confidence-boost when joint-second in Rotterdam but joint-fifth position in Barcelona was not good enough to keep them in the frame. Perhaps after this year of turmoil within their National Federation the reigning World Silver medallists will return with greater resolve and energy but, right now, it’s time to re-group, re-organise and re-think future strategy. When it comes to strategy, there is no nation quite like the Germans. They arrived in Spain with all guns blazing and simply outclassed all the rest. Earlier in the season they had fielded some relatively unknown horse-and-rider combinations but this time it was super-stars all the way – Christian Ahlmann and Coster producing one of the most spectacular double-clear performances of the entire season. To add insult to injury they did all that without having to call out their fourth team member, Ludger Beerbaum, who could be seen impersonating Michael Schumacher as he played with the brand new Lexus car which he won with Champion du Lys in Saturday’s Queen’s Cup. Barcelona provided a heart-warming result for the Spanish who slotted into runner-up spot. They have been involved in the battle for promotion to Super League status next year but, despite adding seven more points to their Samsung Nations Cup tally they are still 10 points behind the two main protagonists – USA and Switzerland – who are currently playing a game of cat-and-mouse. Both countries have a score of 43 but the Swiss hold the advantage due to better overall placings throughout the series so now it depends on Swiss results from Zagreb this weekend and Athens next month. If Switzerland does well at both fixtures then the USA is out of luck but, should the Swiss falter and only pick up a few points, then the Americans might be able to outstrip them by competing in Buenos Aires in November – that is all still hanging in the balance. The Italians, so dangerously close to falling out of the Super League family, saved themselves by producing a truly spirited performance in Barcelona where they finished equal-third. With their backs against the wall they fought like a group of Gladiators determined to survive and, against all the odds, they achieved their objective much to the delight of Chef d’Equipe, Duccio Bartalucci, who spurred them on relentlessly. In the final rankings, Great Britain slotted into fourth place behind Germany in third, Ireland in second and France at the top of the order. Having failed to earn Olympic qualification, the British might well decide to make the Samsung Super League their priority in 2004 and, with so many of the other nations under pressure ahead of Athens, they would be in a very strong position indeed. Belgium finished fifth on the league table, well-assisted by the seven clear rounds produced by Jos Lansink. These included double-clears in Aachen, Dublin and Rotterdam which, at Super League level, are quite an achievement and leave Jos with the best individual performance record throughout the series. Holland completed in sixth position ahead of Italy in seventh and Sweden in eighth – the Dutch really rescued by success at their home event in Rotterdam which was full of surprises and which, like Barcelona, came as a reminder that the sport of show jumping can be very unpredicatable indeed. This very first Samsung Super League season has been memorable for many things but particularly for the early brilliance of the French. However their Chef d’Equipe might well have been referring to the Italians when he cited Kipling: "…..If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two imposters just the same;...... If you can make one heap of all your winnings, And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings, And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew, To serve you long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the will which says to them: "Hold On!". At the end, the series was as much about Italian determination and courage as it was about pure French flair. SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE – NATIONAL PRIDE, INTERNATIONAL PASSION!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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