Photo caption: Kristina Cook leads Great Britain to Gold at HSBC FEI European Championships 2009 in Fontainebleau (FRA). Image: Kit Houghton/FEI.
Lausanne (SUI), 22 August 2011
The hand of history will be resting heavily on some of the 71 riders heading for this week’s HSBC FEI European Eventing Championship in Luhmühlen (GER) on 25-28 August, as anticipation mounts for what promises to be an enthralling competition.
Host nation Germany, the reigning Olympic Champions, were World Champions in 2006, and their superstar rider Michael Jung (GER) is widely tipped for yet more individual honours. But they are making no secret of their longing to win European team gold on home ground for the first time - they had to settle for silver last time in Luhmühlen in 1999.
German team trainers Hans Melzer and Christopher Bartle have some of the world’s most talented and experienced riders from which to choose a dozen representatives - the home side is allowed 12 places.
Most notable among them are the World Champion Jung, riding his fabulous horse La Biosthetique Sam, and a quartet of Olympic gold medallists: Ingrid Klimke, Frank Ostholt, Peter Thomsen and dual CCI4* winner Andreas Dibowski.
Add to that mix former Pau CCI4* winner Dirk Schrade and Luhmühlen CCI4* runner-up Sandra Auffarth, who has been taking the circuit by storm, plus a host of other consistently successful competitors, and German supporters could well be celebrating by Sunday evening.
But British enthusiasm for overseas championships is legendary, and their supporters will be equally keen to party. Great Britain has won the last eight meetings and will not be interrupting their record-breaking run without a fight. If they win team gold at this, the 30th European Eventing Championships, it will be their 22nd since the competition began in 1953.
Piggy French (GBR), the reigning European individual silver medallist and Badminton runner-up on Jakata, will make her senior team debut, joining Mary King (GBR) – who heads into Luhmühlen topping the HSBC Rankings - William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Nicola Wilson (GBR), team World Champions last year.
London 2012 is also calling..
The HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships have special significance for European nations not yet qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The two best ranked teams from Olympic Groups A, B and C will qualify to take part. Five nations have already earned their place after qualifying at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky last year: Canada, New Zealand, USA, Germany and Belgium. They will join host nation Great Britain.
Irish riders will be hoping Luhmühlen is a lucky place for them. Ireland last won team gold back here in 1979 when Sam Watson’s father, John, was among the medallists, while Germany's premier Eventing venue was also the setting for Belgium’s first ever medal, bronze, in 1999.
The French who, surprisingly, have never won the European team title, are sending a mix of old and new faces, including former dual individual gold medallist Nicolas Touzaint and rising star Donatien Schauly, who makes his senior team debut.
And everyone will be willing Italy’s brave Susanna Bordone to success. The versatile rider, who was flying the Italian flag at last week's FEI European Dressage Championships and is applying for a racing as well as her flying licence, suffered severe facial injuries at Luhmühlen CCI4* in June after being bitten by her horse.
Fourteen nations will be represented when the first Horse Inspection gets underway on Wednesday, 24 August: Belgium, Finland*, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania*, The Netherlands, Poland, Russia*, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland (*denotes individual riders only).
HSBC & Eventing
HSBC has renewed its support for a further three-year term to include title sponsorships of the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships in 2011 and 2013 and the HSBC FEI Classics™ until the end of 2013.
FEI TV Live Schedule:
27 August: Cross Country 10.30 - 16.00 CEST
28 August: Jumping Group 1 11.00 - 12.40 CEST and Jumping Group 2 and Medals Ceremony 13.40 - 15.20 CEST