Italy’s persistence in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Series proved worthwhile as they picked up the golden ticket for the Paris Olympics next year. Having competed at every one of the eight events in this popular competition, Olympic qualification was their primary focus and they made use of a large pool of talent to get them to this satisfying destination.

When Spain failed to enter here, Italy came to Boekelo knowing they had it in the bag, but it was still important to riders to prove to selectors that they were worthy contenders of an Olympic place. They finished third in the Nations Cup Series behind Belgium and France who were already qualified.

Umberto Riva was the highest placed Italian athlete at Boekelo. After storming around the cross-country clear inside the time on Flaconn Sunheup Z, he wound up in 27th place out of 112 competitors. “It’s a dream for our country to be able to present ourselves in Paris and we are very happy because it was our goal for the season and we achieved it. Knowing that we came had the qualification in the pocket was good of course but we wanted to do good, so there is always pressure in a competition. We are very happy to have lots of Italian riders to compete in the Nations Cup and that’s also why we achieved this result,” Riva said.

Riva was full of praise for the Series and the event here at Military Boekelo, which he felt was a great preparation for the Olympics, “I hope to go to Paris. I think my horse is a great fit for Paris. The atmosphere here was the reason we decided to come to Boekelo, it’s a great competition, great organisation and in the arena, you really feel the atmosphere and it’s a great exercise for big competitions like Olympics.”

Giovanni Ugolotti is a stalwart of the Italian team and a likely contender for the Italian team heading to Paris. He summed up what this result meant to his nation: “It’s amazing. It took a lot of pressure off us this weekend and for once we could enjoy the competition. It’s great for the country, to be qualified for the Olympics now we need to try to have the best possible horses to go there and try to do the best we can.”

“We used the Nations Cup competition because it was very important to try to do as many as we could. We actually have a very large group of riders in Italy, and we just mix a little the riders, using younger and more experienced riders in the team. We did the Europeans (Championships) but obviously not good enough to qualify and so it was great to qualify here.”

Like many riders at Boekelo, Ugolotti used the event to qualify his individual horses for the Olympics to give him plenty of options. “After this weekend I have five horses qualified and that’s a very good position to be in.”

Ugolotti also views Boekelo as a great acclimatisation for the Olympics. “It’s an event I have come to for many years and it’s a good one to train the horses to get used to crowds and people and become hopefully championship horses in the future. We are expecting crowds probably even more than this in Paris. I am expecting the course to be strung quite tight because I know they don’t have a lot of room there and I am expecting people to be all over the place, so this will be good practice.”

Boekelo was the eighth and final fixture in the popular Eventing Nations Cup Series, which saw 16 nations compete for the prestigious title over eight fixtures. Italy join France, Germany, the USA, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Australia and China as the nations heading to Paris next year.

There will be one final chance for Olympic team qualification later this month for some nations including Canada, Brazil and Argentina. This will be at the Pan American Games 2023 in Santiago, Chile which takes place from October 23-Nov. 5.