Swiss jumpers win team gold Europeans

August 29, 2009

The Swiss claimed their fourth team jumping title at the Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships at Windsor, Great Britain, yesterday, and the Italians continued to amaze in taking silver ahead of Germany.

Out in front after Wednesday night's Speed and Handiness leg, the eventual winners lost their grip at the half-way stage, but they pulled themselves together again and came back out with all guns blazing in round two when foot-perfect runs from Daniel Etter (Peu a Peu) and anchorman Steve Guerdat (Jalisca Solier) sealed the result.


European team champions Switzerland, with chef d'equipe Rolf Grass © Dirk Caremans
The individual performance of the day came from Italy's Natale Chiaudani, who steered Snai Seldana di Compalto to the only double-clear of the entire competition, and who has now gone into the lead ahead of Sunday's top-25 individual final.

Germany finished in bronze medal position, while the defending champions from The Netherlands had to settle for fourth ahead of the much-fancied French who didn't quite live up to expectations. And hopes for a home side medal were dashed when, despite a gallant effort, the British slotted into sixth ahead of the Irish in seventh place.

Bob Ellis's 13-fence track proved formidable, the open water once again influential as it had been in the first-leg competition on Wednesday night. The seventh fence on the track, it was the first obstacle in a tricky line that included the following double - triple-bar to vertical - and then upright planks, and the penultimate triple combination was also a bit of a puzzler.

Riders generally approached on a strong six strides from the preceding vertical but with horses sometimes baulking at the water under the first two elements and often struggling to meet it on a nice distance it hit the floor on a regular basis.

Ireland's Darragh Kerins and his little gelding Night Train were one of the few to succeed in negotiating it on a seven-stride pattern when one of nine combinations to record a single clear round.


Team Switzerland: Clarissa Crotta, Puis Schwizer, Daniel Etter and Steve Guerdat. © Lulu Kyriacou
At the halfway stage the Dutch took the lead when Angelique Hoorn (Blauwendraad's O'Brien), Albert Zoer (Oki Doki) and Marc Houtzager (Opium VS) collected just four faults each, and the British moved up from seventh to second thanks to just a single time penalty from Geoff Billington (Rosinus), five faults from Peter Charles (Murkas Pom d'Ami) and a great clear from Ben Maher (Robin Hood).

The Italians were lying third and the Swiss dropped to fourth when first-leg winner Pius Schwizer (Ulysse) left three fences on the floor, and single errors from both Etter and Clarissa Crotta (West Side v. Meerputhoeve) had to be added to eight faults from Steve Guerdat (Jalisca Solier).

As Guerdat explained later, "we knew we could do better, I was disappointed because I didn't ride well in the first round but we knew our horses were jumping good so we went back in to fight and to try even harder".

The Germans, lying fifth, began to move up the order when Marcus Ehning (Plot Blue), Carsten-Otto Nagel (Corradina) and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (Checkmate) all lowered one fence each, but the Dutch lost their grip on pole position when Hoorn hit the second elements of both the double at 8 and the triple combination at 12 and Harrie Smolders (Exquis Walnut de Muze) left four on the floor. Albert Zoer and Oki Doki jumped clear but that would not be enough to retrieve the situation when Houtzager's stallion hit the planks, the middle element of the treble and collected a time penalty.

The British too began to fade when Tim Stockdale's opening mistake with Corlato at the vertical at 11 was followed by 13 faults from Billington, nine from Charles and five from Maher, but the Italians were holding their own despite three mistakes from pathfinders Juan Carlos Garcia and Hamilton de Perhet. Giuseppe d'Onofrio and Landzeu hit only the oxer at 10 and Chiaudani's second clear suddenly put them right back in the frame. Guerdat however had already sealed gold with a superb round under tremendous pressure. The 28 year old kept a cool head to finalise the Swiss total at 27.66 and the Germans were now lying second with 31.75.

Last man in for Italy, Piergiorgio Bucci left two on the floor with Kanebo but that would still be good enough for the team relegated from the 2009 Meydan FEI Nations Cup series after a string of below-par performances to squeeze the Germans down to bronze medal position and to claim silver behind the golden Swiss.

Former Swiss star Markus Fuch was also the centre of attention as he is the man responsible for spurring Italy to success at the final leg of the Meydan series in Dublin earlier this month and now to an historic first European Championship medal - just weeks after his appointment as Italian coach.

"I'm full of emotion," said the man who for so many years was the lynchpin of his national team.

"If you asked me three days ago how I would feel if Italy beat Switzerland I would have said it would be a miracle!" he said, "but hey, you see the character of this team, they are fantastic. Maybe Natale was right when he said I am a nicer person at night than I am during the day because I push them so hard, but maybe I am a better motivator than I was a rider!" he said, delighted with the result.

"The competition was so close, and every rider counted," said Guerdat, and his team-mate Daniel Etter pointed out that this was the first time for this particular team combination to compete together. "We knew we all had good horses and our goal was to win a medal but the golden one was a dream - now its a dream come true!" he said.

The stats

This was Switzerland's fourth victory in the European Team Jumping Championships. They previously took the title in 1983 at Hickstead (GBR), in 1993 at Gijon (ESP) and in 1995 at St Gallen (SUI).

A total of 17 teams competed in round 1, and 10 teams returned in round 2 along with 12 individual riders.

Silver medallists Italy had never previously been placed in any European Team Jumping Championships.

Italy's Natale Chiaudani and Snai Seldana di Campalto completed the only double-clear round of the competition.

There were only 9 single clear rounds.

In the first round the bogey fences were the open water (7) and the penultimate triple combination (12). In round two the planks (fence 9) which followed the tricky double (8) were highly influential.