The FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2021/2022 qualifying season came to an exciting conclusion at Motesice in Slovakia last Sunday where Freestyle victory secured a place at next month’s Final for former champion, Helen Langehanenberg, while Moldova’s Alisa Glinka was confirmed winner of the Central European League.
Only top spot would be enough to help Langehanenberg make the cut to the 35th showdown of the series that dates all the way back to 1986. The German rider, who won the FEI Dressage World Cup™ title with the great Damon Hill back in 2013, was lying ninth on the Western European League leaderboard with 33 points going into yesterday’s last-chance competition.
Compatriot, Frederic Wandres, was holding third place on the league table with 52 points, so she needed the maximum 20 cross-over points from the Central European series to overtake him and to clinch that last of three qualifying slots on offer to German riders.
Having steered the 14-year-old mare Annabelle to a narrow victory over Poland’s Katarzyna Milczarek in the Short Grand Prix, Langehanenberg put more distance between them when posting 77.905 in Sunday’s Freestyle. She will now fly her country’s flag alongside defending champion Isabell Werth and reigning Olympic and European champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl when the Final kicks off on their home turf in Leipzig (GER) in three weeks’ time.
Saturday’s win in the last leg of the Western European League at ’s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands boosted von Bredow-Werndl to pole position in the final standings while success in Slovakia saw Langehanenberg rocket up to second place ahead of Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour in third.
A total of nine athletes can qualify from this league but only a maximum of three from any country, so Wandres, who finished fourth, has missed out by an agonising single point.
Sweden’s Patrik Kittel, Denmark’s Nanna Skodberg Merrald and Spain’s Juan Matute Guimon fill the next three placings ahead of French rider Morgan Barbançon and The Netherlands’ Thamar Zweistra who finished in equal-eighth place. As Wandres cannot compete, tenth-placed Briton, Charlotte Fry, has made the cut.
Just two slots are available to athletes from the Central European League which kicked off in Minsk (BLR) in April 2021 with victory for the eventual league winner, Glinka. The 35-year-old athlete then went on to win three more rounds of the 19-leg series, at Zhashkiv (UKR) and Kunkiai (LTU) in May 2021 and in Kharkiv (UKR) in June partnering her super-consistent horse Aachen, and the impressive pair also posted two runner-up finishes during the season.
Katarzyna Milczarek finished eight points behind on the final leaderboard but showed just how competitive she is when putting former champion, Langehanenberg, under plenty of pressure over the weekend. The veteran Polish athlete who, with Ekwador, represented her country at the London 2012 Olympic Games posted a win with Guapo at this season’s fifth qualifier in Samorin (SVK), and last weekend’s second-place result with the 11-year-old stallion bought her ticket to the 2022 Final.
Across the globe
Meanwhile across the globe Ashley Holzer and Anna Buffini claimed the two qualifying spots on offer in the North American League.
Former Canadian Olympian Holzer, who took up American citizenship five years ago, posted a double of wins in Ocala, Florida (USA) in October and December 2021 and added further points in Wellington, Florida (USA) in January and February this year with her 15-year-old mare Havanna to top the league standings.
Buffini’s FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final ride is also a 15-year-old mare, FRH Davinia la Douce. Victory and a personal-best score at the last of the eight qualifying legs in Wellington earlier this month sealed second place in the North American rankings and has confirmed a slot for the 27-year-old amongst the total of 18 world-class Dressage athletes who will battle it out for the coveted series title at Leipzig Exhibition Centre from 6 to 10 April 2022.
*Ed. Note: Canada’s Brittany Fraser-Beaulieu finished in 5th place in this league.
Further details and league final standings here.