by Louise Parkes
The excitement is already building ahead of the opening round of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2019 series which will kick off at Deeridge Farm in Wellington, Florida (USA) next month. This top-class team sport, which combines national pride and passion with super-sharp competition, is as fresh as ever as it celebrates its 110th season.
Trust and understanding between horses and their riders, solidarity amongst the team members and their support crews, and the unique camaraderie between athletes from a wide range of countries as they challenge for the title they all want to win, sets this series apart from the rest. It’s the battlefield of the greats, and each and every horseman and horsewoman wants to place their names amongst those who have gone before them in pursuit of Nations Cup glory.
The Wellington fixture is part of the three-leg North America, Central America & Caribbean league that also includes a visit to Coapexpan (MEX) in May and to Langley (CAN) in June. There will be a single qualifier for the Middle East region at Abu Dhabi (UAE) in February, while the sole Europe Division 2 qualifier looks set to take place in Athens (GRE), with full details yet to be confirmed.
For the 10 Europe Division 1 teams the edge-of-the-seat action gets underway at La Baule (FRA) in May, and from there it moves on to St Gallen (SUI), Sopot (POL) and Geesteren (NED) in June, and then to Falsterbo (SWE) and Hickstead (GBR) in July. This league is always hotly contested, with emotions running particularly high when riders are flying their country’s flag in front of their home crowd. The last of the seven legs in this division will take place in Dublin (IRL) in August, and each team has been allocated four specific qualifying opportunities, with all four results counting in the battle for a qualifying spot at the 2019 Final.
The reigning champions from Belgium have been allocated points-gaining opportunities at La Baule, Sopot, Geesteren and Hickstead, and after their heady win in 2018 they will be hoping to do it all over again.
Peter Weinberg’s “Never Give Up Team” demonstrated the very essence of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ concept when producing a gutsy, determined performance to clinch victory in the super-tough finale at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) last October. They had only just climbed back into Europe Division 1 after relegation, so their victory was all the sweeter.
“We call ourselves the “Never Give Up Team” because we were fighting to the very last rider!” said the Belgian Chef d’Equipe that day.
For the seventh successive season the Final will return to the Spanish venue from 3 to 6 October this year, and there will be an extra-special edge to it. Because along with the hugely prestigious Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2019 trophy, the last remaining qualifying spot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will also be up for grabs. This will go to the highest-placed team not already qualified, so as the race to earn a starting spot at the 2019 Final begins there is a whole lot hanging in the balance, and fantastic days of superb sport ahead.
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Calendar details here