Sweden Sends Out the Big Guns for the Final Assault in the Samsung Super League with FEI
RELEASE: September 13, 2007
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Louise Parkes
The Swedish team will be coming out with all guns blazing for the final of the 2007 Samsung Super League with FEI series, which takes place in Barcelona, Spain, next Sunday. An unfortunate afternoon at the second-last leg in Dublin last month saw them bringing up the rear, and they go into Sunday's decider at the bottom of the series leaderboard knowing that nothing short of a strong performance can save them from relegation.
Ironically it seems that the Irish, who lost out in a valiant battle with the Swedes at the 2006 finale, look set to re-join the elite eight nations in 2008 as they continue to head up the 2007 FEI Nations Cup series with only four legs remaining. But Swedish form at last month's European Championships in Mannheim suggests that they can shrug off that Dublin disaster, and Chef d'Equipe Maria Gretzer has three of the squad that secured Olympic qualification when finishing a strong fifth at the German fixture available to her, including Rolf-Goran Bengtson, Helena Lundback and Royne Zetterman, who will be joined by Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Peter Eriksson.
The double-points available at the final leg of the series could make all the difference. In Barcelona, points will be awarded as follows: 1st-20; 2nd-14; 3rd-10; 4th-8; 5th-6; 6th-4; 7th-2; 8th-1.
So perhaps it is the French, lying second-last and only four points ahead of the Swedes, who should be feeling the pressure. For the first time since 1932, France has failed to qualify for the Olympic Games and manager Gilles Bertran de Balanda will need a resolute effort from Florian Angot, Aymeric de Ponnat, Olivier Guillon, Philippe Leoni and Kevin Staut to ensure his country does not lose it's Samsung Super League with FEI status now.
The Dutch are lying sixth and just nine points ahead of Sweden on the leaderboard, but it would be difficult to imagine them in trouble after their superb performances over the past year. Their Team Gold at the European Championships was won convincingly just as it was at last summer's World Equestrian Games, and manager Rob Ehrens seems unlikely to lose the smile he has been wearing ever since with Jeroen Dubbeldam, Albert Zoer, both Ben and Gerco Schroder and the promising new partnership of Willem Greve and KEC Maximum Joe available to him—he is almost spoiled for choice.
The Americans, just a single point better than the Dutch, seem comfortable too with a total of 26.5 to their credit, but after the season they have had they need to maintain concentration. Just 10 points separate them from the Swedes, and although they have recently raised their game and subsequently moved steadily up the order, they had a poor start to the season and cannot afford to be complacent this weekend. George Morris steps back in to take over from Deputy Chef d'Equipe Melanie Taylor-Smith, and he will be expecting a strong show from Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden, Christine McCrea, Todd Minikus and Ken Berkley, who is a newcomer to the series.
The Belgians are another point better off, and manager Lucien Somers has Niels Bruynseels, Marc Van Dijck, Vincent Lambrecht, Philippe Lejeune and Jos Lansink on call, while Derek Ricketts' British squad includes John Whitaker, Robert Smith, David McPherson, Tina Fletcher and James Davenport. Their Bronze-medal finish at Mannheim should have seriously boosted British confidence, and, lying third with 30.5 points, they seem in no danger. Nor do the Swiss, two points ahead and although just nudged out of Bronze-medal position at the European Championships, they are looking strong with Markus Fuchs, Christina Liebherr, Theo Muff, Hansueli Sprunger and Jane Richard—the latter very impressive in Dublin where she finished third in the grand prix.
Germany heads up the table with a 15-point lead over Switzerland and looks perfectly poised to scoop the Samsung Super League with FEI title for the second year running, but manager