It's tough at the Top.. and at the Bottom! 

14 Jul 2003

Situation before Hickstead, Switzerland leads the Samsung Nations Cup Series after Falsterbo 
 
IT’S TOUGH AT THE TOP…..AND AT THE BOTTOM! Next week the Samsung Super League will resume at Hickstead and, if the second half of the eight-leg series is anything like as exciting as the first four competitions, there is much to look forward to over the coming months. There are still so many unanswered questions. Can the French, who have held the lead from the very start, continue to maintain their advantage? They began so convincingly with wins in La Baule and Rome but have been losing their grip over the past few weeks. Can the Irish, who are lying second, just a half point behind, make it a successive hat-trick of wins by taking the British title? Their recent record at Hickstead is impressive - winners in 2000 and 2001 and runners-up by a margin of just 1.24 seconds to Germany last summer - and they look like real contenders for pole position in the second half of the series. Will the mighty Germans, who were expected to make more of an impression, suddenly produce a burst of energy and improve from their current third placing? And what about the British in fourth spot? Very little has gone their way in recent times but they were thoroughly consistent and doggedly determined in the first three legs of the Super League before finishing last in Aachen. The Belgians were desperately unlucky to be denied victory in Aachen, but, after a poor start, their second placing at this toughest of venues may have signalled a return to the kind of form normally expected of them. Carrying just 13 points, with the leaders currently on a total of 31 however, they need to ensure that they do not drop below their present standing of fifth position because the final three are seriously struggling. There has been great consternation in Sweden as the country which earned team silver at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez last September has floundered miserably over the first four legs of the series. They were convincing winners of the normal Nations Cup on their home ground in Falsterbo last Friday when they fielded three of the four World Championship team members but, at Super League level, Swedish results have been disappointing to say the least, and they are lying sixth with just 7.5 marks to their credit and only 0.5 points ahead of the Italians in seventh spot. Italy has a good record in Nations Cup competitions but the Italians finished bottom of the order at the two opening legs of the Samsung Super League and they are only 0.5 points ahead of the Dutch who are, surprisingly, at the bottom of the table at this halfway stage. So how can we explain this state of affairs? There is one thing for sure – the French and the Irish have given 100% commitment to the Samsung Super League, sending out their best possible team on each occasion and this has paid dividends. As the League has progressed it has become very clear that this is Nations Cup jumping at a consistently higher level than ever seen before. There is now a marked difference between normal Nations Cup competition and the Super League, with greater emphasis on accuracy and technicality. Leading course designer, Olaf Petersen, said at Aachen "the FEI made the right decision in separating the eight top teams from the rest. The Samsung Super League is a top-class series and is great for the sport. The tracks are big, difficult, technical and truly testing so the competitions are really exciting" he added. It is no place for inexperienced horses or riders. There is too much at stake and, for Holland, Italy and Sweden in particular, the next round of the series may be the most important yet. Because the Swiss are just waiting in the wings. They went out with all guns blazing into the normal Nations Cup series and currently lead the rankings by a comfortable margin of 7 points, although the Spanish are advancing ominously after Falsterbo where the USA also improved their position to third. The Swiss have made no secret of the fact that they intend to be Super League contenders in 2004 but they must be at the head of the Nations Cup league table right at the end of the 2003 series if they are to gain that much-desired promotion. The line-up for Hickstead on Friday 25 July indicates the seriousness with which each of the Super League nations are taking the situation. The French are taking no chances, sending out seasoned campaigners Reynald Angot, Edouard Couperie, Michel Hecart, Christian Hermon and Michel Robert. The Irish have had to make a late change to their line-up. Trevor Coyle was destined to return to Hickstead for the first time in many years with Beverley Hills Stud’s Fleur but, in a twist of fate which sees the British on the winning side this time around, Michael Whitaker is now to take over the mare leaving Coyle sidelined while a new face, Clem McMahon, is likely to take his place. McMahon may be relatively unknown internationally but he has plenty of experience and has been campaigning the Nations Cup circuit with great success in recent months. If he is selected he will be joined by Kevin Babington, Cian O'Connor, Billy Twomey and Peter Charles. The German selection includes Helena Weinberg, Toni Hassmann, Soren Von Ronne, Mylene Diederichsmeier and Pia-Luise Aufrecht and, as defending champions, they will mean business. Germany has claimed the Prince of Wales Cup on seven occasions in it’s 66-year history but the British have been victorious on 33 occasions and there is nothing they would like more than another win on their home ground. Robert Smith has been enjoying a good run of form while Nick Skelton has made a remarkable return after his very serious neck injury, and with the ever-reliable Michael Whitaker joined by Scott Smith and Richard Davenport to make up the British quota the home side is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The Belgians are looking strong with a line-up including Stanny Van Paesschen, Jos Lansink, Ludo Philippaerts, Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe and Dirk Demeersman and if they can follow up their excellent performance in Aachen with another good result here their position will be significantly strengthened. Maria Sundberg is the only member of the Falsterbo winning squad to line out for Sweden but Jerez silver medallest Peter Eriksson has been called into action along with Helena Persson, Maria Gretzer and Angelie Von Essen and they will be under no illusions about their task. They must make a better impact on the series if they want to rise above the scramble at the bottom of the league table. Roberto Arioldi, Vincenzo Chimirri, Enrico Maria Frana, Cristian Pitzianti and Luca Carini make up the Italian selection and they, too, will be feeling the heat along with Holland’s Jan Tops, Gerco and Wim Schroder, Gert Jan Bruggink and Jeroen Dubbeldam. Sweden, Holland and Italy have all been erratic throughout the Super League but if they can settle to their work in the second half of the series then there might not be such a sharp contrast between the top and bottom of the leaderboard as there is at present. So it is still all for play for as the Samsung Super League resumes in Hickstead next week. The French have the Irish breathing down their necks. They know there is no room for error and that they can be toppled from the lead very easily indeed. The Germans are likely to put on a strong show of force but Nations Cup jumping is about national pride and the British will be giving it everything they’ve got on their home ground. Hickstead provides Belgium with the chance to get right back in the race and for Sweden, Italy and Holland there is an opportunity to escape from the extremely tight situation at the bottom of the table. It may be tough at the top, but it's pretty tough at the bottom as well….Hickstead here we come! Keep up to date with the latest news from Hickstead at website www.hickstead.co.uk. For further information you can contact Press Officer, Peter Jeffery, at Tel:             0044 1643 831011      , Fax: 0044 1643 831040 or Email: jeffery.communications@btopenworld.com until Sunday July 20. After that date Peter is available on Tel:             0044 1273 834175       or Mobile:             0044 7721 622528       or Email: pressoffice@hickstead.co.uk. SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE LEADERBOARD 1. France - 31 points 2. Ireland - 30.5 points 3. Germany - 18.5 points 4. Great Britain- 16 points 5. Belgium - 13 points 6. Sweden - 7.5 points 7. Italy - 7 points 8. Holland - 6.5 points SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE – NATIONAL PRIDE, INTERNATIONAL PASSION!

 

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