From left: Team Italy in second place – Chef D’Equipe Giacomo Della Chiesa, Matteo Orlandi, Fosco Girardi, and Evelina Bertoli; Team winners Belgium – Jarno Verwimp, Karin Donckers, Lara De Liedekerke Meier, Senne Vervaecke, and Chef D’Equipe Kai-Steffen Meier; Third place Switzerland – Felix Vogg, Roxane Gonfard, and Chef D’Equipe Dominik Burger. Copyright ©FEI / Massimo Argenziano.
It was a clean sweep for Team Belgium who claimed the first leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ held in Montelibretti (ITA). With consistent three phase performances by all four of their riders, they finished on a score of 93.7 penalties. The home nation Italy lagged some way behind in second on a score of 152.3, whilst Switzerland finished third on 192.1.
Three of the four Belgian riders finished inside the top ten which gave them a healthy lead with almost a 60 point margin over Italy. Jarno Verwimp put in an exemplary display in all three phases with her Belgian bred mare Mahalia, and a double clear with just 1.2 cross-country time penalties left the athlete on a final score of 26.9, good enough for a second position in the individual ranking, just a whisker behind Austrian athlete Lea Siegl, who finished on 24.9 for Austria. Belgian teammate Lara De Liedekerke Meier was fourth on Ducati D’Arville, whilst eventing stalwart Karin Donckers finished eight on Fletcha Van’t Verahof.
Both the jumping phases proved challenging to a number of combinations and shook up the leader board after both phases. The cross-country phase proved particularly influential with eight combinations eliminated or retiring and a further seven finishing jumping penalties. No combinations finished within the time allowed.
Riders and nations have just one season left to qualify for the Paris Olympics held next year and the Belgians are yet to qualify. Whilst they will have a chance at the European Championships held in Le Pin au Haras (FRA) later this year, the Nations Cup Series provides an opportunity for teams and individuals to gain qualification through the FEI points allocation system. The nations qualified for Paris so far are host nation France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA.
The FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Series now moves to the prestigious venue of Chatsworth in Great Britain, which runs from 13-14 May.
by Eleanore Kelly