Team USA made a meaningful comeback after being in dead last after round one to tie for fourth place in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at Hickstead Friday. The all-women team had a bit of a disastrous start to their day in England, but rallied in the second round to finish on their first round score; the exact opposite performance of nearly all the other teams competing today.
The Germans were the only exception to the roller coaster of team drama from round to round, instead delivering a commanding performance that launched them to victory and guaranteed their slot at the Nations Cup Finals in Barcelona.
How good are the Germans, you ask? The Germans are so good that arguably their best rider, Ludger Beerbaum, didn’t even have to get on his horse to earn a winning sash today. Both Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Janne Friederike Meyer delivered two double-clear rounds, and Patrick Stühlmeyer had a single rail, which the team had in-hand anyway.
“We had a great team – it’s not often the last rider doesn’t have to jump in both rounds,” said pathfinder Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum.
Chef d’equipe Otto Becker added: “It was a great performance today and all these guys here deserve the victory – I’m very happy with that.”
Ireland and Belgium tied for second with 8 faults each.
Americans Prove Their Scrappiness Under Pressure
Team USA had a very shaky start to their contest, as Lillie Keenan and Super Sox started off nearly perfect save a foot in the open water, followed by Paris Sellon on Adare and Katie Dinan on Dougie Douglas both having faults. The women and coach Robert Ridland were holding their breath as Lauren Hough and Cornet 39 entered to try and deliver a much needed clear round, but miscommunication led to eight faults for the flashy gelding. The US would enter the second round in dead last as the only team on 12 faults.
But rather than disintegrating, the team came back with fire and vengeance on their minds. Lillie, Katie, and Lauren all delivered clear rounds on their second attempt, and were able to drop Paris’ single rail to stay on their twelve faults.
“It’s my first time jumping in a five-star Nations Cup and my second time at the senior level. I was lucky to take part in the developing tour a few years ago and do my first senior Nations Cup in Slovakia; it was a great learning experience,” Lillie said. “I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity; I believe you learn by doing. Today my horse was fantastic. We just had a toe on the tape at the open water in the first round and came back to go clear in the second round. I think I could have had a double-clear round if I had gotten him a bit closer to the water, but I am thrilled with how today went.”
“To come back from last place after round one is spectacular. It is so reminiscent of the Pan American Games, where we had some minor mistakes in round one but came back clear in round two; it was fantastic,” Ridland said enthusiastically.
“It is the unique aspect of a Nations Cup’s second round. It often doesn’t ride the same just because you are riding the same horse; the horse either knows the course and tends to speed down the distances or he is tired. It’s a new ballgame. Today, we kept plugging away and fighting for every jump and it paid off. It was exciting because it is a glimpse of our future with Lillie and Paris competing in their first Nations Cup at the five-star level.”
Clear Teams Crumble in Round Two
There were several teams who entered round two either 0 or 4 penalties, and exited with major battle wounds. Netherlands had been tied for first on a 0 after round one, and accumulated 28 faults in the second round to finish in dead last.
Team Italy — who just last week upset the world stage with a win at Dublin — disastrously fell apart in round two and added 24 faults to a single rail from round one, which not only dropped them into the basement for the day but also jeopardized their qualification for the Finals.
Great Britain too added sixteen faults to the second round, eight of which were a devastating shock for globally-ranked Scott Brash. His exceptional gelding Hello Guv’Nor spooked badly at a white gate fence and never fully recovered, and teammate Ben Maher’s expression of frustration and disappointment said it all.
Ireland, Belgium, and the USA were the only teams to have successful return trips. Ireland’s Shane Breen delivered a clutch comeback performance after retiring in round 1 when his gorgeous stallion Golden Hawk refused the open water. His second round masterfully avenged him, and gave Ireland the silver slot. Shane Breen and Golden Hawk. Screenshot via FEI TV
Belgium too locked in the second position, despite having no drop score after Catherine Van Roosbroeck and Gautcho Da Quinta were disqualified. Niels Bruynseels and Karel Cox both put in double clears, and Olivier Philippaerts added just a rail.
Europe 1 Division Nations Cup Finals Dramatic End
Despite Belgium’s heroic finish today, it was not enough to boost them into a qualifying spot for the Finals in Barcelona; a disappointing finish as previous champions.
Great Britain too, had been floating near the qualifying cut-off, and today’s disastrous second round proved costly on all levels, ultimately shuffling them out of the Finals.
Italy JUST eeked into the very last qualifying spot for Barcelona despite today’s poor finish, much in thanks to their win in Dublin last week.
This was the final event for the Europe 1 Division, and the Penultimate qualifying event – the final being a Europe 2 Qualifier August 24 in Gijon, Spain.
Detailed Scores for Team USA: