Iran’s Pourrezai wins FEI World Jumping Challenge Final  

6 Jul 2015


By Louise Parkes

Iranian rider, Davood Pourrezai, galloped to gold in an exciting three-way jump-off against the clock in the closing competition at the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final 2015 in Zhitnica, Bulgaria yesterday. South Africa’s Simon Hendry took silver ahead of Namibia’s Michelle Kuenzle in bronze at the event which was staged at the HRC Trakietz Equestrian Centre. 
The Final is open to Category A riders from 10 FEI regional zones and this year attracted 22 riders from 17 countries. And the flags of Bermuda, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, India, Iran, Libya, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria, Swaziland, Uruguay and Venezuela were all flown with pride over the four days of competition.
The action got underway last Wednesday when 29 horses were presented for the veterinary inspection. The purpose of the FEI World Jumping Challenge series and Final is to introduce less experienced riders in comparatively remote countries to international-level competition. And the first test they face at the Final is building a relationship with a borrowed horse which is no mean feat at any time, even for the most professional of riders.
As always, the horse-and-rider combinations were decided by a draw, which was followed by a training session and then a confidence-building Warm-up competiiton. Run under Table A, article 238.1.1 rules, athletes with equality of penalties shared the prizes, so it was a seven-way divide between Giorgia Iermazzo from Dominican Republic, Uruguay’s Jorge Rossi, South Africa’s Simon Hendry, Chile’s Alfonse Anguita, Colombia’s Alejandro Castilla Galan, Saad Jabri from Morocco and India’s Rushil Patel when they all jumped clear.
The official Opening Ceremony was held that evening with all 22 competitors taking part in the athletes parade, and it was a very special occasion as the Organising Committee put together a programme that included traditional music and a video montage for each competing nation. Afterwards the athletes released air balloons to mark the beginning of the event.
Perfect start
The eventual champion got off to a perfect start the following day when, partnering the nine-year-old Drazki, he topped the one-round First Qualifier ahead of Colombia’s Castilla Galan while Saudi Arabia’s Meshal Alharbi slotted into third. It was an impressive opening effort from all the competitors, with 14 steering their mounts clear over the course. 
It was in Friday’s Second Qualifier that South Africa’s Hendry began to look seriously competitive when lining up second in the two-round class over a 1.20m course with the 11-year-old Mirella Freni. Winner here was Saad Jabri with the 10-year-old Finesse whose speedy turn of foot in the second round gave the Moroccan rider more than two seconds of a winning advantage.  Giorgia Ieromazzo finished third with Viziorka while Bulgaria’s Zhelyazko Dimitrov was fourth when producing the only other double-clear of the competition with Piquer.
The results of the first two qualifiers decided the top-10 who would go into the final day.
Satisfying result
Sunday’s action began with the Farewell competition for the athletes that didn’t make the cut to the Final, and Bermuda’s Krista Rabain had a particularly satisfying result when finishing third here with Rubine following her elimination for a fall in Friday’s class. There were only two clear rounds, and Venezuela’s Diego Malave Cariello produced by far the quickest of these when taking the win with Charizma who raced through the timers in 62.43 seconds. India’s Rushil Patel opted for a safe clear with Paris, and the decision paid off handsomely when the pair broke the beam in 77.8 seconds but left all the timber in place for runner-up spot.
Now it was down to the Final itself, and when only three managed to stay double-clear over the first two rounds, a thrilling jump-off was guaranteed. And it didn’t disappoint.
First out was Hendry who really put it up to the others when clear and fast in 36.00 seconds with Mirella Freni. And when Namibia’s Michelle Kuenzle had a pole down with her feisty stallion Charodey, then only Pourrezal stood between the South African and the coveted title. 
But the Iranian managed to squeeze home with Drazki in 35.23 seconds and that would clinch it. Pourrezai said afterwards that he knew Hendry would be his strongest opponent. He had selected him as the rider most likely to succeed in a survey undertaken earlier in the week by all the competitors. “I knew what I had to do, and when I came into the arena and saw the cup I thought to myself that to win it would be a dream!” His dream came true only a few seconds later. 
Eclectic group
Pourrezai said he thoroughly enjoyed competing against such an eclectic group from all around the globe. “I’d really like to compete in an event like this again” he said. Asked about riding an unfamiliar horse he explained that he is used to different rides, so it was not a particular challenge for him. And he was delighted with the performance of the horse allocated to him.
“My first impression was that Drazki was maybe not the best in the lot, but had potential” he said. He changed his mind after riding him for the first time and winning the First Qualifier however. “I could clearly feel that he was a good horse, and we really clicked!” said the delighted new champion. 



FEI World Jumping Challenge Final 2015: GOLD - Davood Pourrezai IRI; SILVER - Simon Hendry RSA; BRONZE - Michelle Kuenzle NAM.


Iran’s Davood Pourrezai steered Drazki to win gold at the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final 2015 at Zhitnica in Bulgaria. (FEI/Tanya Mladenova)

Iran’s Davood Pourrezai steered Drazki to win gold at the FEI World Jumping Challenge Final 2015 at Zhitnica in Bulgaria. (FEI/Tanya Mladenova)