All 16 qualifying leagues for the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final have completed, with riders from all corners of the globe taking part.
From Jakarta in Indonesia to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, throughout the Middle East and Australia, South Africa and China, and across the European continent, athletes and their horses have been participating in the most comprehensive of all equestrian series, providing the opportunity for ambition and improvement like none other.
The much-anticipated final this year returns to the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden, from April 24 to 28, where the inaugural season-closer was staged back in 1979. But the experience of competing at regional level in the FEI World Cup Jumping series is always special, and for many is also an important stepping-stone on the path to future glory.
The leagues vary from the little to the large, with 145 athletes competing in the high-profile Rolex Western European series, while just six took on the challenge in the Central America and Caribbean Islands League. The scale and scope of these two tournaments are significantly different, but the achievement of Guatemala’s Alvaro Enrique Tejada Arriola and Eduardo Antonio Castillo Tejada in taking the top two places in the latter is notable, because it underlines the world-wide appeal of this series which is continually expanding its reach.
There were 10 starters in the three-leg South America North League won by Santiago Medina who is also an experienced eventer. The 30-year-old Colombian finished ahead of Venezuela’s Andres Rodriguez and Noel Vanososte in second and third places. In stark contrast, the six-leg South American series attracted 72 competitors and it was 29-year-old Brazilian, Daniel Chaves Anicet, who emerged as the clear winner ahead of fellow-countryman Cesar Almeida, while Carlos Milthaler from Chile finished third.
In the South-East Asian series, which attracted 11 competitors from four nations and visited Jakarta, Selangor in Malaysia and Pattaya in Thailand, it was 24-year-old Indonesian Ferry Wanyu Hadiyanto who came out on top ahead of Sweden’s Helen Gabrielsson, while Malaysia’s Gabil Ambak Dato Mahammad slotted into third.
Riders from Georgia and Azerbaijan competed in the six-leg Caucasian League in which 25-year-old Shalva
Gachechiladze reigned supreme for Georgia. Azerbaijan’s Sayid Musayev and Kanan Novruzov claimed the next two
placings and amongst the remaining eight competitors who lined out during the season was former Belgian athlete, Patrick McEntee, now flying the Azerbaijani flag.
A total of 17 contested the Central Asian League, which visited Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Astana in Kazakhstan and Bishkek in Kyrgystan. It was a close-fought affair in which 42-year-old Gairat Nazarov from Uzbekistan pipped Kazakhstan’s Alexander Tishkov by just a single point, while another Uzbeki, Vladimir Shmelyov, was next on the final leaderboard standings.
There were 24 athletes in action in the Chinese League, won by 25-year-old Raena Leung from Hong Kong. China’s Ciren Bianba finished second here ahead of Hong Kong’s Patrick Lam, and two of the three legs of the series took place at the Beijing International Equestrian Club.
A total of 26 competed in the three-leg Japan League, in which 23-year-old Koki Saito had a 10-point winning margin over Daisuke Mizuyama, with Koji Yamada in third. Meanwhile it was neck-and-neck in the race to the finish of the South African League in which both Jodi Pieters and Shaun Neill completed with 63 points. Pieters was declared champion when they were separated on the basis of placings following the final leg in Cape Town. Jeanne Engela finished third.
In the New Zealand League, which started out in Hastings last October and concluded in Tauranga in February, the busy Maurice Beatson headed up the 17-strong starting list. The 59-year-old, who represented his country at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, combines sheep and cattle-farming with horse breeding as well as an active competitive career, and he left fellow-Kiwis Bernard Denton and Ross Smith in his wake when topping the regional table.
There was a big turnout of 65 competitors in the Australian League, which concluded in Sydney last December. Alison Rowland pipped Evie Buller for the title following a great run that saw her accumulate 113 points, with victories at Gatton, Melbourne and Sale proving decisive. Third place in the Australian series went to Billy Raymont.
North American and Arab Leagues
Competition amongst US riders on the North American circuit is always sharp, but it was Egypt’s Nayel Nasser who won the West Coast League with a series of very strong performances. The impressive 22-year-old, who is a student at Stanford University in California, competed as an extra athlete and pinned defending Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping champion Rich Fellers into runner-up spot, while US team-member Ashlee Bond slotted into third. The USA’s Karl Cook and Lucy Davis finished fourth and fifth to earn their places on the Gothenburg start list.
At last year’s final, Fellers cemented his place in the record books when bringing the coveted World Cup title back to the USA for the first time in 25 years riding the brilliant stallion Flexible, whose toughness, courage and durability is second-to-none. Now aged 17, Flexible and his 53-year-old rider will be fighting to retain the honours when the show gets under way in Gothenburg on 24 April.
The North America East Coast champion was 32-year-old Kent Farrington, who saw off the attention of the other 92 riders who lined out in this highly competitive series. Runner-up was 18-year-old Katie Dinan, while US-based Irishman, Shane Sweetnam – competing as an extra athlete – finished third.
There was also a big turnout in the 12-leg Arab League which kicked off in Tetouan, Morocco in October and concluded at Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates in February. It was 30-year-old Abdullah Al Sharbatly, individual silver medallist at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010 and a member of the Saudi Arabian bronze medal team at the London 2012 Olympic Games, who topped the leaderboard, followed by Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani in second and fellow-Qatari Bassem Hassan Mohammed in third.
Central European League
There are two sub-leagues in Central Europe, and, from the 48 competing athletes, it was Turkey’s Omer Kaaevli who emerged victorious in the Southern Sub-League. The 35-year-old, who was Turkish national champion in 2012, competed at six of the eight qualifiers and completed with a 27-point lead over second-placed Rossen Raitchev from Bulgaria, while Hungary’s Laszio Toth lined up in third.
The Northern Sub-League was won by Latvia’s Kristaps Neretnieks ahead of Russia’s Anna Gromzina in second and Estonia’s Gunnar Klettenberg in third. But at the Central European League Final in Warsaw, Poland, last month, Gromzina overwhelmed all-comers to clinch the overall regional title. Neretnieks had to settle for runner-up spot ahead of Poland’s Skrzyczynski with Klettenberg finishing fourth this time around. Central Europe will be represented by the top-three finishers in the final standings at the final.
The record books show that the majority of series champions have emerged from the Western European League which, this season, was topped by Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya. Despite tying for points with Frenchman Kevin Staut, World No. 1 and 2011 Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping champion Christian Ahlmann (GER) finished second overall on the Western European League table due to his higher placings during the season.
Excitement is building ahead of the 35th final, and riders and horses are being prepared for the great battle that will decide who will take the most coveted crown of indoor international jumping.