FEI presidency: Three Europeans chase role

Pierre Durand and Jappeluop at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Pierre Durand and Jappeloup at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. © FEI

Frenchman Pierre Durand, whose gold-medal-winning exploits at the 1988 Olympics were made into a movie in 2013, has put his name forward for the presidency of the FEI.

Durand, 59, joins two other European candidates in the presidential contest, which will be decided at the FEI’s General Assembly in Baku, Azerbaijan, early in December.

Durand, nominated by the French Equestrian Federation, was its president from 1993 to 1998. He the won the Olympic showjumping gold in Seoul in 1988 atop the legendary horse, Jappeloup.

He has been joined in the race by Ulf Helgstrand, nominated by the Danish Equestrian Federation this week, and Swiss nominee Pierre Genecand, who announced his candidacy in April.

Helgstrand, 63, a doctor and professor of Vascular Surgery, is president of the Danish Equestrian Federation and vice-president of the European Equestrian Federation.

Genecand, 64, is a businessman and entrepreneur, who splits his time between Switzerland and Argentina, where he breeds horses.

Nominations for the presidency close on September 1.

The major contest for the presidency was sparked last week when the incumbent, Princess Haya, announced her intention to step down in December after eight years in the role. It was widely believed that she would seek a third term.

The French federation, in announcing Durand’s candidacy, said it had enjoyed excellent relations with Princess Haya and more generally with the FEI over the last eight years.

Ulf Helgstrand is president of the Danish Equestrian Federation and vice-president of the European Equestrian Federation.
Ulf Helgstrand is president of the Danish Equestrian Federation and vice-president of the European Equestrian Federation.

France played a major role on the international equestrian scene, it said, and was notable for the quality of its events, its riders and its breeding.

“The French Equestrian Federation wants a president who can embody the Olympic values ​​effectively and preserve the diversity of international equestrian sports, in respect for the cultures of the five continents,” it said in a statement.

It said Durand’s candidacy had the full support the federation’s president, Serge Lecomte, and the Federal Committee.

The movie, Jappeloup, directed by Christian Duguay, was released in 2013, telling the story of the pair’s rise to Olympic glory in Seoul.

At the start of the 1980s, Durand abandoned a promising legal career and threw himself into his passion, showjumping, putting his faith in Jappeloup, a small and stubborn horse, but with a remarkable jumping ability.

Jappeloup, who stood at only 15.2 hands, threw Durand into a jump at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and fled the ring.

Pierre Genecand
Pierre Genecand has been nominated by the Swiss Equestrian Federation.

They continued to build their partnership and four years later triumphed in Seoul, taking home the gold.

Helgstrand, who has been president of the Danish federation since 2003, said he believed he was ready for challenge of the presidency.

“I have thought of this a lot since Princess Haya stated that she is not running for a third period.

“But with the expression of support I have received from several places in the equestrian world, I’m confident that I’m ready for the post and the challenges the equestrian world faces if the national federations will give me their support.”

Helgstrand is a former board member and vice-president of the Danish Warmblood Association.

He has been deputy chairman of FEI Group II since 2007, and vice-president and a charter member of the European Equestrian Federation since 2010.

The father of three is married to Ewa and lives in Dragoer, Denmark.


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