The best 18 teams from all over the world competed with their horses in 2021 for a spot in the big Nations Cup final in Barcelona during the first weekend of October. The Real Club de Polo was the stage for a thriller of format during this denouement. Eight countries made it to the last and decisive round in this final. The Netherlands was one of them and took the gold medal in this grand final!
As one of the highlights of 2021, we would like to take you along on the rollercoaster ride of the 2021 Nations Cup!
Finalists get ready for the final
After three of the seven qualifying competitions this season were cancelled due to Covid-19, all the teams from Europe Division I that qualified were finally announced. Those teams consisted of the following countries: Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden, as well as the hosts Spain, but also Brazil, Canada and the USA. The world's best riders and horses made their way to sunny Spain with high hopes for a medal.
Netherlands put together a strong team
Rob Ehrens sent young talent Sanne Thijssen with Con Quidam Rb (by Quinar) to Spain. Also Willem Greve and Carambole (by Cassini I) traveled to Barcelona. Maikel van der Vleuten could count on Beauville Z (by Bustique) and finally Harrie Smolders put on his orange jacket and took Monaco (by Cassini II) with him to Barcelona. Kevin Jochems and Turbo Z (by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve) traveled to Spanish soil as a reserve combination.
Rob Ehrens said that he traveled to Spain with a good feeling. In Aachen, the Dutch team didn’t perform very well but according to Ehrens this was a good preparation. "We had little luck in the Nations Cup in Aachen, but they were good rounds. We are certainly not going to Barcelona with bad hopes," he said.
Suspenseful until the very last moment
The Netherlands were not at the top of their game after some disappointing previous Nations Cup competitions. In Tokyo, it didn't work out for the Dutch team in the Nations Cup. Also in Riesenbeck and Aachen the performances were not very thrilling. But in the Nations Cup final in Barcelona Team NL came back stronger than ever before and took home the gold!
Both Maikel van der Vleuten (Beauville Z) and Willem Greve (Carambole) had a clear round behind their names when the young rider Sanne Thijssen with Con Quidam entered the arena. However, they got one jumping fault behind their name, putting all the pressure on Harrie Smolders. If anyone can handle pressure, it's Harrie Smolders. In the saddle of Monaco he jumped a perfect round and didn’t touch one pole, which gave Team NL the gold.
Harrie Smolders had to enter the ring as the last rider. The pressure was incredibly high for him as he had everything in his hands: "Pressure?", he laughed afterwards. "No, the assignment was simple. Jump clear!". Willem Greve, who jumped a clear round with Carambole, was also visibly emotional: "He really is my 'horse of a lifetime'. I'm glad he was able to show the world once again what a great horse he really is!"
Sanne Thijssen, the only woman on the team said, "I am so incredibly proud of everyone and of course of my horse. He did so well!" Olympic medalist Maikel van der Vleuten was also thrilled about their win: "It's always extra special to win a medal with a team. And this time it's a gold one, so that's even more beautiful!"
Bonus for Maikel van der Vleuten
Maikel van der Vleuten with Beauville Z was one of the three combinations who stayed completely clear over two rounds in the final. Van der Vleuten and Henrik von Eckermann together with Darragh Kenny were granted a bonus of 100,000 Euros for this exceptionally good performance.
Troublesome but very successful Nations Cup for Ireland
The Irish did not start their tournament in the best possible way. Denis Lynch was excluded two days before the final after a rail wound on the sides of Cristello (by Numero Uno). During the final, Lynch managed to ride a clear round. Eoin McMahon was able to count on Chacon 2 (by Chaco-Blue) to come out strong as a reserve combination and recorded just one-time fault. Last starter for Ireland was Darragh Kenny who solved the eight-fault third combination, Michael Duffy. With VDL Cartello (by Cartani 4) the duo made a strong impression. With only one penalty point as the final total, the defending champions were happy with the silver medal.
Bronze for Belgium
The original plan was to send Pieter Devos along with the Belgian team. But that turned out differently. He broke his hand right before CHIO Aachen, rode there with a brace but suffered greatly from his injury. Devos decided to take a week off and hoped to be back in Barcelona. In the end, he was not able to make it because he was not sufficiently recovered. Devos: "I am sad I cannot start in Barcelona this year, it is a place with many beautiful memories." Nicola Philippaerts and Katanga v.h. Dingeshof (by Cardento 933) came to the rescue and completed team BE again. Nicola could grab his red jacket out of the closet again, to replace Devos in this Nations Cup final.
For the Belgians, Nicola Philippaerts was the first to start. He seemed well on his way with Katanga vh Dingeshof to score the first clear round but the last triple jump decided otherwise. They finished with one jumping fault. The same happened to Niels Bruynseels and Delux van T&L. They also crossed the finish line with a clear round but saw one pole fall to the ground on the last vertical. The two strongholds of the team, Jérôme Guery with Quel Homme de Hus and Gregory Wathelet with Nevados S did what was expected of them: jumping clear. The Belgian team thus ended with a total of 4 penalty points, just like the Swedes. The combined time of the Belgians was slightly faster, allowing them to claim a place on the podium and earn a bronze medal!
Reclaiming their 2017 title
TeamNL's showjumping riders have magisterially concluded the outdoor season with an impressive victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. This takes the prestigious title, last won in 2017, back to the Netherlands.