FEI World Championship 2022, Butheeb (UAE) Endurance, written by Zein Jardaneh
It was a great day all-around for Bahrain at the 18th FEI Endurance World Championship 2022 held in Butheeb (UAE) on Saturday, February 25 2023, as it claimed the top prize in both the individual and team podiums.
HH Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, with the horse Darco La Majorie, added senior world champion – individual and team – to his already successful equestrian record of achievements, only months after he claimed gold at the FEI Endurance World Championship for Young Horses in Vic (ESP) in October. Khalifa, who shouted “We’re number one!” upon learning of his win, becomes a Senior World Champion for the first time in his storied career; he has participated in 19 Championships since 2004 and has successfully qualified in 14 of them. He won his first gold at the FEI Endurance World Championship for Young Horses in Bablona (HUN) in August 2012.
The Organising Committee and the Championship’s host, the United Arab Emirates Equestrian and Racing Federation, pulled out all the stops to set the stage for an outstanding championship in record time, with the well-being of horses and riders at the heart of all their endeavours. The 160 km track, which was run over six loops, is set against a stunning backdrop and was prepared to the highest standards with world-class permanent infrastructures and facilities at the Butheeb International Endurance Village. Proper hydration and temperature control were optimised with multiple water points throughout the ride for the competitors to rehydrate.
All eyes were on the previous reigning champion, Salem Hamad Saeed Malhoof Al Kitbi from host nation UAE, with the horse Haleh, who came in second at Butheeb but had won gold at the last iteration of the FEI Endurance World Championship, held in Pisa (ITA) in 2021. “Haleh is a good horse, today was a very hard race. We are happy with the results,” Al Kitbi said.
In third place was Jaume Punti Dachs of Spain, with the horse Echo Falls, making this his fifth medal in Endurance World Championships. He is tied with Becky Hart (USA) and HH Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (UAE) for the athletes with the most medals in Endurance World Championships.
Reflecting the overall diversity of this year’s championship, the top ten athletes at the individual podium represented eight separate countries: Bahrain (two spots), UAE, Spain (two spots), Australia, Portugal, Lithuania, Oman and Kuwait. Taking the start were 117 combinations, with 36 nations represented, 23 teams, and 13 nations with individual riders, and a remarkably gender balanced field of participants with 60 female and 57 male athletes competing in Butheeb.
For the first time since the FEI Endurance World Championship was held in 1986, Team Bahrain captured gold, ending Team Spain’s reign as champions, following three successive titles since the World Championship in Caen (FRA) in 2014. Team France, which came in second, is moving up the ranks after being bronze medallists at the World Championship in Pisa (ITA) in 2021. Their 13th team medal, Team France holds the record for the most team medals in the history of the championship. With a total of 24 medals claimed at FEI Endurance World Championships, France is also the nation with the most medals overall.
With favoured teams UAE and Spain having horses and riders eliminated throughout the day, most notably Fares Ahmad Saeed Daafoos Amer Al Mansoori and Saeed Salem Atiq Khamis Al Muhairi from the UAE, who were disqualified from the top individual podium spots due to their horses failing the maximum heart rate parameter exam, Portugal ultimately captured Team bronze.
The last double gold at an FEI Endurance World Championship – for both team and individual podiums – was claimed by Spain and third-place winner Jaume Punti Dachs of Spain in Samorin (SVK) in 2016.
The full roster of countries that participated in the 18th FEI Endurance World Championship is: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, and Uruguay.