BBC backs horse sport with extended Olympia coverage

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Jean-François Pignon and his troupe of dancing white horses.
Jean-François Pignon and his troupe of dancing white horses are the headline act at Olympia this year.

Just days before the start of London’s premier horse show, organisers have announced an extended relationship with the BBC for coverage of Olympic for the next four years.

The planned coverage will run from 2016 to 2019 inclusive, including broadcast on the BBC of the major classes including the Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping qualifier and the Reem Accra FEI World Cup Dressage to music.

Olympia has been broadcast on the BBC since its inception in 1971. During that time viewers have been treated to thrilling performances from a variety of top class riders from around the world. The nail-biting Alltech Puissance remains a highlight for many and has allowed viewers to witness heights of over 7ft being jumped as horse and rider combinations battle it out for victory.

BBC Sport Director Barbara Slater said Olympia was always a great event in the run-up to Christmas, and the broadcaster was pleased to continue its relationship with the show.

“With the 2016 Rio Olympics coming up, this is a great showcase for some of the best of Olympic sport for our audiences,” she said.

Three of the world’s number one-ranked equestrians will head up the competition for the seven days of the show, from December 15 to 21.

Showjumping sensation Scott Brash will be making a rare competitive appearance in the UK along with dressage star Charlotte Dujardin, and carriage driving’s unstoppable Australian Boyd Exell are descending upon the capital to compete.

Scott Brash and Hello Forever on their way to winning the American Invitational at the Longines Global Champions Tour on Miami Beach.
Scott Brash and Hello Forever on their way to winning the American Invitational at the Longines Global Champions Tour on Miami Beach earlier this year. © Stefano Grasso/LGCT

Showjumping

Talented Scotsman Brash, and Team GBR gold medal hopeful for Rio next year, has had an incredible 2015 and hopes to end it on a high at Olympia.

“I love Olympia. The atmosphere is always great and the home crowd always cheer me so I’m looking forward to that. I don’t often get the chance to ride in front of home fans as there aren’t many five star events in Britain.”

Brash will face fierce competition with some of the biggest international names in the sport confirmed, including a formidable team of German riders: Daniel Deusser, Marcus Ehning, Ludger Beerbaum and Hans-Dieter Dreher. And world No.6, Ireland’s rising star Bertram Allen, will be hungry for a victory to end the year.

From across the pond top French riders Simon Delestre and Kevin Staut are joined by Dutch European Team Champions, Maikel van der Vleuten and Jur Vrieling.

The best of the British will be out in force much to the delight of the home crowd, including Olympia’s favourite family, the Whitakers, with John, Michael, Robert and William all confirmed and armed with a strong team of horses. Former world No.1 Ben Maher will be hoping to defend his Olympia Grand Prix title, bringing with him a solid selection of horses including Diva II.  Jessica Mendoza, Joe Clee, Laura Renwick and Guy Williams complete the impressive line-up.

Showjumping takes place during every performance from Thursday, December 17 to Monday, December 21. Highlights include the Alltech Olympia Puissance, the Longines FEI World Cup Leg, and the Olympia Grand Prix.

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Charlotte Dujardin and Windsor CDI3* winner Uthopia.
Charlotte Dujardin and Uthopia. © Royal Windsor Horse Show.

Dressage

The Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage takes place on the first and second day of Olympia and welcomes a star-studded line-up. Returning this year is the current world, Olympic and European champion Charlotte Dujardin.

Dujardin will ride Carl Hester’s Olympic mount Uthopia, instead of her gold medalist Valegro.

Joining Dujardin at Olympic is Carl Hester and Nip Tuck, with whom he helped the team to score a silver medal at the European Championships earlier this year. With a career spanning over three decades, Hester is arguably one of the greatest dressage riders the world has seen and will be hoping to produce a shining performance under the bright lights of the Olympia arena. Fiona Bigwood, Henriette Andersen and Lara Griffith will complete the British line-up.

Leading the international contingent is one of The Netherlands best riders, Hans Peter Minderhoud, on his chestnut gelding Glock’s Flirt. Individual Bronze medallist at this year’s European Championships, Minderhoud will be joined by fellow Dutchmen, Diederik van Silfhout, both of whom will certainly provide stiff competition for the British riders.

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Boyd Exell won his second FEI World Cup Driving competition of the season at the Sweden International Horse Show in Stockholm.
Australian driver Boyd Exell. © Roland Thunholm/FEI

Driving

Seven of the world’s leading four-in-hand drivers will set the arena alight in what promises to be a flurry of nail biting competitions on December 17 and 18, with the Final taking place on Saturday, December 19.

Defending champion, Boyd Exell (AUS), who has won the FEI World Cup Driving Championship title a record six times, will be hoping to repeat last year’s success where he drove an unbeatable round to win by a four-second margin.

Ranked second and fourth from the outdoor season are Dutch competitors, Ijsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde, who have both competed at the show each year since 2011. Chardon has been at the top of world four-in-hand driving longer than any other driver currently on the circuit and his tally of medals is correspondingly larger; most recently he was on the gold medal winning team at last year’s WEG and this year’s European championships where he claimed second place individually. Just pipped to the post by Exell in 2014, he will be hungry for the win this year. De Ronde is also serially successful, having been a team member with Chardon over several years, he was third in the 2015 European Championships.

Jozsef Dobrovitz snr (HUN), ranked third in the world, is making his Olympia debut. Georg von Stein (GER) and Glen Geerts (BEL) will be looking to make the mark on the competition and flying the flag for Great Britain is Daniel Naprous, lead member of the Devil’s Horsemen Stunt Team, who emerged victorious from the three events staged in the autumn to be selected as the home driver. He will be bringing the daring, precision and skill of his display and film work to driving a four-in-hand.

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