It was a clean sweep for Team Belgium who claimed the first leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ held in Montelibretti (ITA). With consistent three-phase performances by all four of their riders, they finished on a score of 93.7 penalties. The home nation Italy lagged some way behind in second on a score of 152.3, while Switzerland finished third on 192.1.
Three of the four Belgian riders finished inside the top ten which gave them a healthy lead with almost a 60 point margin over Italy. Jarno Verwimp put in an exemplary display in all three phases with his Belgian-bred mare Mahalia, and a double clear with just 1.2 cross-country time penalties left the athlete on a final score of 26.9, good enough for a second position in the individual ranking, just a whisker behind Austrian athlete Lea Siegl, who finished on 24.9 for Austria. Belgian Team mate Lara De Liedekerke Meier was fourth on Ducati D’Arville, while eventing stalwart Karin Donckers finished eighth on Fletcha Van’t Verahof.
Both the jumping phases proved challenging to a number of combinations and shook up the leaderboard after both phases. The cross-country phase proved particularly influential, with eight combinations eliminated or retiring and a further seven finishing with jumping penalties. No combinations finished within the time allowed.
Riders and nations have just one season left to qualify for the Paris Olympics next year and the Belgians are yet to qualify. Whilst they will have a chance at the European Championships held in Le Pin au Haras (FRA) later this year, the Nations Cup Series provides an opportunity for teams and individuals to gain qualification through the FEI points allocation system. The nations qualified for Paris so far are: host nation France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and the USA.
The FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ Series now moves to the prestigious venue of Chatsworth in Great Britain, which runs May 13-14.