Team Poland, under the direction of Germany’s Andreas Dibowski, took first place at the Group C FEI Designated Olympic Qualifier for Eventing at Baborówko (POL) this weekend, in a battle between three Central European nations seeking team qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
With only one Team quota place on offer at this qualifying event, it was a disappointment for the teams from the Czech Republic and Hungary, who finished in second and third place respectively, after three days of exhilarating competition in the bucolic countryside near Poznań.
Poland were the favourites heading into the weekend’s competition, having been victorious at the same venue in 2019 to secure a place on the start list at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where they finished in 13th place. After Friday’s Dressage phase, Poland were indeed in the driver’s seat, leading Hungary by nearly 10 total points. Polish athlete Pawel Warszawski led the field on a score of 29.7 points with Lucinda Ex Ani 4. He was helped out by teammates Jan Kiminski (Jard), Wiktoria Knap (Quintus 134), and Malgorzata Korycka (Canvalencia), who finished second, fourth, and eighth, respectively.
Poland’s dominance was cemented in the cross country on Saturday, where they again finished first, this time on Marcin Konarski’s 5,700-metre course, which had an optimum time of 10 minutes. Riding last for the Polish team, Warszawksi had the confidence of knowing that all three athletes before him had gone clear and finished with 16.4 time penalties and no obstacle penalties. Kaminski snagged just 1.2 time penalties, and Korycka added 6.4. Knap happily ended the day on her Dressage score, crossing the beam with one second to spare on the clock.
Whilst Hungary still hoped to overtake Poland in the cross country phase, with a reasonable difference between the two teams after Dressage, they soon found their team unravelling. Only Imre Tóth finished the course, riding clear aboard Zypresse 8 but picking up 8 time penalties. Noémi Viola Doerfer and Crystal Barney were eliminated after a fall – the result of misjudging strides between two elements of a combination – and Balázs Kaizinger elected to retire on the course with Clover 15.
Of Saturday’s performance, Jan Kaminski, who took over the leaderboard individually in the qualifying class, said, ” I knew I had to make it to the end for the country.”
In the Jumping round on Sunday, the track created by course designer Szymon Tarant helped Team Poland put a bow on their win. All four Polish riders completed the course, adding only 9.2 total points to their overall team score. With a fence in hand and room for a few seconds on the clock, Jan Kaminski held onto his first-place position, joined on the podium by teammate Malgorzata Korycka in third, with their compatriot Mateusz Kiempa taking home the individual silver medal. The Czech Republic finished second overall on 1,158.8 points to Poland’s 129.9, Matej Sukdolak (Quaid) and Miroslav Trunda (Trnka Ruf) taking eighth and ninth. Hungary ended in third place on 2,117.9 points.
Talking of Poland’s win, Chef d’Equipe Andreas Dibowski said, “It was a result from very good team spirit and teamwork. The first thing I told the riders was we needed safe rounds, and it would be okay to take some time penalties.”
There are 16 Team slots on offer for Eventing at Paris 2024, including one for host nation France. That makes competition fierce for remaining places, with Poland now taking the ninth team slot, since Germany (2022 world champions at Herning), the USA, New Zealand, Great Britain (2020 Tokyo champions), Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland claimed seven of those 16 as the highest ranked teams at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championship at Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA).
The FEI Designated Olympic Qualification Event at Millstreet, Ireland in June for Groups F & G (Africa, Middle East, South East Asia and Oceania) will select two more teams from the highest placed finishers who have not yet qualified, as will the FEI Eventing European Championship at Haras du Pin, France this August and the 2023 Pan American Games at Santiago, Chile in October. The last chance to earn a single Team slot to Paris 2024 will be the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Series, which wraps up at Boekelo in the Netherlands in autumn.
Along with the British defending champions and France, who were awarded the Team bronze medal in Eventing at Tokyo, the Australians — who won silver — will surely be eager to make the roster. Of the teams who finished in the top 10 in Japan, Italy (seventh) and the People’s Republic of China (ninth) have also yet to qualify.
All is not lost for athletes whose teams don’t ultimately qualify to compete at the Château de Versailles next year. In addition to the 16 Team spots (48 athletes), there are 17 Individual quota places to be allocated across multiple Olympic groups. Final places will be determined in 2024 and will be announced by the FEI once they have been confirmed.
Full results here.
For more information on qualification systems, qualifying and MER events & qualified nations, visit the FEI Paris 2024 Olympic hub.