As the FEI Nations’ Cup™ celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2012, the world-class series will have an extra edge in the lead-up to this summer’s London Olympic Games. Chefs d’equipe and trainers will use this team Jumping tournament to view the form and medal-winning potential of the talent available to them, and there is huge anticipation of a great season ahead.
French riders in particular will be on thier game as the action gets underway this Friday afternoon (May 11th) on their home ground at La Baule. Pascal Dubois, National Technical Director of the Fédération Française d’Equitation (FFE) said recently, “Because it is the only CSIO 5* in France, we have to honour our nation with a most experienced team in La Baule. The programme for the top 10 rider-horse couples in France amongst which the Olympic team will be chosen is set. According to the results obtained in La Baule, we will compose a team which will participate to the Rome CSIO 5*, to St Gallen and to Rotterdam. The FEI Nations Cup circuit is the format which comes the closest to the Olympic Games, requiring both performance but also a good team cohesion. Evidently, we are going to be very attentive to each rider’s performance.”
The French have a superb record in the FEI Nations’ Cup™ Top League, sharing the record for most wins – four in total – with Germany. When the Super League concept was born in 2003, under the Samsung banner, the French swept to stylish victories over the first two seasons before their grip was broken by the USA in 2005. Since then it has become a game of “cat-and-mouse” between themselves and the Germans, although the tough relegation process ensured that France spent 2008 on the sidelines while Germany recorded the third leg of an historic hat-trick.
Having fought their way back for the 2009 season however the French reigned supreme once again, showing the grit and determination that is key to this most enduring of all FEI disciplines. It is now 103 years since the first official Nations’ Cup event took place, yet for competitors, horse-owners, National Federations and the general public around the globe, the pride and passion it stirs has never faded. The FEI Nations’ Cup™ Top League is due for a “face-lift” at the end of this season, but the core values of sportsmanship, camaraderie and mutual respect will remain at the heart of it.
Having increased the number of participating countries to 10 in 2010, the eight-nation format was restored last season when Germany came out on top ahead of The Netherlands in second, Great Britain in third and Ireland in fourth place. France lined up fifth after the last of the eight events, while Belgium finished sixth. But for the USA it was the end of the line as they were relegated, along with Denmark.
These two teams are replaced in 2012 by Switzerland, winners of the FEI Promotional League series, and Sweden, who came out on top at the FEI Promotional League 2011 Final in Barcelona, Spain last September. Each of these two nations were competitive during the early years of the Top League but were relegated in 2010. They made it their business to regain their place amongst the elite however and will, no doubt, come out with all guns blazing this week to begin the eight-leg battle against the defending champions from Germany and their Dutch, British, Irish, French and Belgian counterparts.
Like the competing teams, the FEI Nations’ Cup™ Top League venues are also the best of the best. Having visited the gracious surroundings of the seaside resort at La Baule, the 2012 series moves on, in quick succession, to St Gallen (SUI) and to Rome, which this year celebrates 80 years of fantastic sport at the charming Piazza di Siena in the heart of the Italian capital city.
Rotterdam in The Netherlands is the next port of call in June, and then it is on to Aachen in July. With just three weeks to go to the opening of the Olympic Games at that stage, success at the prestigious German event will augur well for the winning nation, but there will still be time to add some finishing touches to final preparations at Falsterbo (SWE) and Hickstead (GBR), later in the month, while we will know the fate of the 2012 Olympic team title by the time the last leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Top League visits Dublin (IRL) in August.
The sport of Nations’ Cup Jumping has continuously evolved, and looks forward to some major changes in 2013. At last week’s Sports Forum, the FEI was delighted to announce that the Saudi Equestrian Fund will provide full financial support for the 2012 series and has also agreed to a five-year title sponsorship commencing next year, once a remodelling process has been finalised.
Organisers of the eight FEI Nations Cup™ Top League events were informed at a meeting with the FEI in Geneva last December that a funding solution had been found for the series, but no details of the agreement were released at that time. The FEI has been in ongoing discussions with the Saudi Equestrian Fund to formalise the agreement since then, resulting in this week’s announcement.
Before the changes are made however, eight top nations will line out at eight top-class venues in the 2012 FEI Nations Cup™ series which will decide the leading nation in the world when it comes to consistent performances over a four-month season of fantastic sport.
You can follow the action all LIVE on FEI TV. The series’ first leg in La Baule will be broadcast on Friday, May 11th, at 14.00 CEST (12.00 GMT).
103 years of team competition – the FEI Nations Cup™ series continues to thrive as it marches on in its second century.
8 top nations – France, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, The Netherlands, Great Britain and Belgium.
8 competitions at 8 world-class venues – La Baule (FRA), Rome (ITA), St Gallen (SUI), Rotterdam (NED), Falsterbo (SWE), Aachen (GER), Hickstead (GBR) and Dublin (IRE).
4 riders per team.
2 rounds of jumping – and possibly a third-round jump-off against the clock if teams are tied at the end of the second round.
2 new nations for 2012 – Sweden and Switzerland – who emerged from the 2011 Promotional League.
2 countries hold the record for most wins in the series – France and Germany have each won the title four times.
1 title-holder – Germany – winners in 2011 and also in 2006, 2007 and 2008.