The Swiss Have the Edge as Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ Continues in Rome
RELEASE: May 27, 2009
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Malina Gueorguiev
After the thrilling opening leg in La Baule, France, 11 days ago, the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ comes to the Piazza di Siena in Rome this week with Switzerland heading Sweden at the top of the leaderboard and Ireland and Great Britain filling the last two places.
Under the newly-devised Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ rules, the two countries finishing the eight-leg series at the bottom of the table will be relegated and replaced in 2010 by the two leading nations from the 2009 Promotional League. So the battle to stay in the premiership of international jumping has been made tougher than ever this season, and the introduction of two extra teams, bringing the number of participating nations from eight to 10, has further increased the tension and pressure. Well-Armed
Swiss Chef d'Equipe Rolf Grass brings only one of his winning team to Rome—Steve Guerdat, who will celebrate his 28th birthday in two weeks' time—but he looks well-armed with Christina Liebherr and Daniel Etter, who have both been showing great recent form while the relatively untried 31-year-old Clarissa Crotta will get her chance to show what she can do.
The Swedish side was the biggest surprise at the opening fixture with Svante Johansson going into a thrilling third-round head-to-head with Switzerland's Markus Fuchs to decide the result. Like the Italians, the Swedes suffered relegation during the six-year Samsung Super League with FEI series but they never stopped fighting to get back in the game, and Johansson is joined by La Baule teammate Malin-Baryard Johnsson together with Jens Fredricson and Lotta Schultz.
Dutch team manager Rob Ehrens has opted for a completely new selection to the one that placed equal-third last time out. He has called up Nathalie Van Der Mei, Jur Vrieling and father-and-son Eric and Maikel Van der Vleuten. The Netherlands shared third spot with Germany, but the German squad travelling to Rome is all new. Heinrich-Hermann Engemann replaces Otto Becker as chef d'equipe while the rider line-up includes Janne-Friederike Meyer, Thomas Muhlbauer, Holger Wulschner and Carsten-Otto Nagel.
The French really rose to the occasion on their return to the top end of the sport after a year's absence, and Nicolas Delmotte is the only change to the side that finished fifth as Timothee Anciaume, Penelope Leprovost and Kevin Staut are called into action once again. Belgium finished sixth in La Baule, but Niels Bruynseels is the only remaining member of that team as Chef d'Equipe Lucien Somers sends out Dirk Demeersman, Rik Hemeryck and Peter Postelmans to fight at his side this week.Buzz
The Americans always create a buzz of excitement wherever they go, and Chef d'Equipe George Morris has three rotations of riders for the European summer tour—Laura Kraut, Lauren Hough, Richard Spooner and Ashlee Bond his choice from the current squad for this week's event. Kraut has nothing to prove after her superb Olympic Team Gold medal-winning performance in Hong Kong last summer, but the big surprise in the U.S. package has been the polished performances of 26-year-old Bond.
The British and Irish come to Italy knowing they really need to step up a gear, the former pulling out all the stops as they field their most experienced trio, brothers Michael and John Whitaker along with Nick Skelton, along with the talented Ben Maher while Shane Sweetnam, Kevin Babington and Denis Lynch go back into action for Ireland along with Billy Twomey on his 2009 team debut.
However they will need to stay sharp to keep the Italians in check. Like a rising tide, the host country has been reasserting itself in show jumping arenas all around the world over the past year or more, and with riders of the calibre of Juan Carlos Garcia, Piergiorgio Bucci, Giulia Martinengo Marquet and the on-form Gianni Govoni on call-up, new Italian Chef d'Equipe Emilio Puricelli will be ke