Delayed start doesn’t hinder fantastic finale; USA pips Belgium for runner-up spot
It was a clear-cut victory for The Netherlands on a thrilling night at the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2017 Final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) tonight where a fused floodlight failed to spoil the party. Finishing with just a single time fault, the new champions pinned Team USA into runner-up spot while Belgium, who also finished on a four-fault scoreline, lined up third when combined times were taken into account.
It was almost two hours after the scheduled start-time when the action got underway with the lighting fully restored. But the man who clinched victory for his country, Harrie Smolders (37), said it didn’t matter.
“In Spain everything is always later. They start later in the morning, and they finish later in the evening – we wanted to win anyway!” he joked.
Another masterful (and last-minute) course designed by Santiago Varela ensured that it came down to the last-line riders to decide the result of this 2017 title-decider, and it was cliff-hanger until Smolders sealed it with a copybook round from his European individual silver medal-winning ride Don VHP.
Welcome back to #OrangeIsTheNewGold as the Ruiters in Oranje return to the glory of 2014 with a spectacular win in the LONGINES FEI Nations Cup Jumping final at csiobarcelona tonight! 🙌👏👏 #SupportYourNation #Longines
Posted by Fédération Equestre Internationale on Saturday, September 30, 2017
Jur Vrieling (48) set the stage with a similarly impressive run with the fabulous stallion, VDL Glasgow V. Merelsnest and the only fault they would count would come from Michel Hendrix (30) and Baileys who went just over the time-allowed of 81 seconds. Third-line rider Marc Houtzager was the only one to post a single error, with Sterrehof’s Calimero, at the first element of the double at fence five for the discount score.
“Barcelona is wonderful and the Final of the Nations Cup is always thrilling. It’s very difficult already on the first day, you start with 15 countries and separating the teams is very hard. We saw that by what happened to Ireland who were the gold medal winners at Gothenburg (Longines FEI European Championships staged in August), but that is the jumping sport and that is what makes it exciting!” said Dutch Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens.
He was delighted with the performances of all his team members and their horses.
“Jur is experienced but Glasgow is quite green, this year is his first time in a Championship and he was extremely good this week. That’s a horse for me to keep over the winter season because I think this should be a combination for the World Equestrian Games next year. Michel Hendrix is an up-and-coming rider, very talented, he produced this horse himself. And Harrie is in brilliant form this year, he’s in the flow! I’m very happy for him and also for the country. He is a top jockey and an unbelievably good team player” he said.
Smolders was delighted to bring it home for The Netherlands, but admitted that it took a bit of an effort.
“I felt he (Don VHP) started to get a little tired and that I had to carry him around a bit in the second round today, but he gave everything. He gets a rest now that he really deserves. I’m super confident this season because he jumps clear after clear, but still you have to do it, and it was a big track today, a big challenge, the time was really tight so I couldn’t afford to leave it somewhere. I had to be really on it, but my horse was incredible!” he said.
Celebrate good times!! Teamwork in success & teamwork celebration for Ruiters in Oranje after their win in the LONGINES FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final 🥂🥂 #SupportYourNation #Longines
Posted by FEI Nations Cup Jumping on Saturday, September 30, 2017
“The only thing I have to do is tell them what time to get out of bed, what time to get into bed and what time to walk the course. I have an easy job and I’m a happy coach!” he said.
Team USA a Deserving Silver Team
The U.S. team of Lauren Hough, Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden, and McLain Ward proved their experience and fortitude, finishing on a mere four faults. The U.S. team took home third in 2016, only to climb up the podium to second in 2017.
“Last year third, this year second. It was tremendous,” said U.S. team Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. “Beezie is on a young horse, a new combination, and it is fabulous. Same thing with Laura – that is a relatively new combination and the other two, perfection. We knew we were coming with a good team. There is no question about that. We had four veteran riders out there, but the combinations themselves were relatively new, and we really couldn’t be happier.”
“I’ve actually never had that happen before,” said Lauren of the competition delay. “I had to get the horse ready twice, and it was a lot of sitting around. I had to stay focused without letting that nervous energy bunch up too much. But [Ohlala] was absolutely perfect. I’m thrilled, I’m absolutely thrilled.”
"We are marching up the ladder a little bit, now we can't wait for next year. Last year third, this year second. It was tremendous" – 🇺🇸 Chef d'Equipe Robert RidlandLauren Hough and Ohlala delivered two clear performances across two days of competition to help the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team secure a silver medal behind the Netherlands in the Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final at csiobarcelona! McLain Ward and HH Azur also went double clear for USA. #JoinTheJoy
Posted by US Equestrian on Saturday, September 30, 2017
“It felt like Rio all over again,” said McLain. “In that situation, you fight to be the best you can be on the day – that is my job, particularly as anchor, to be able to handle that. I knew that the time was going to be the factor, so I tried to think about that on my round, and Azur performed beautifully. She felt really good. She felt brilliant the other day, brilliant today, maybe even better.”
With a second position finish, Ridland says the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team will now set their sights on the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG).
“It was an unbelievably consistent week,” said Ridland. “Our first round on Thursday night, and tonight we had four veteran riders, a couple of them on relatively new combinations, so in reality, we couldn’t be happier. This was one of our big priorities of the year. We feel we are on the right path, and at this point in time, we start looking forward to the WEG.”