Will Switzerland Make it a Hat Trick at CSIO St Gallen

Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2023 St. Gallen, Switzerland MARTIN FUCHS of Switzerland on LEONE JEI tackles a jump in a jump-off against Brazil on the way to win the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Switzerland in St. Gallen, Switzerland, June 2, 2023.

They’ve had it all their own way at the last two editions of CSIO St Gallen, but Team Switzerland face a mighty task in their quest to make it a hat-trick of victories on home ground when the third leg of the brand new Longines League of Nations™ 2024 gets underway in ten days’ time.

The ten competing countries are battling it out for the eight places on offer at the inaugural Final, which will take place at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain, on 6 October. After two thrilling legs so far, Ireland, winners in Ocala, USA, in March, leads the leaderboard. Team Germany, which came out on top in the opening leg of the iconic new series at Abu Dhabi, UAE, in February, is close behind in second place. 

Switzerland lies third ahead of USA, Brazil, Sweden and The Netherlands. But already battling it out for that eighth and last place with only two more legs to go are Belgium, France and Great Britain. Just ten weeks ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, every nation wants to look strong, so it’s no surprise that among the athletes signed up for next week’s penultimate qualifier are the top three in the world rankings who, between them, hold the individual Olympic, World and European titles.

Selection

The British selection includes Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher along with Harry Charles, Tim Gredley and Robert Whitaker, and they know they have a job to do to move their country off that bottom end of the LLN leaderboard. 

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Harry Charles (GBR) and Sherlock - winners of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2023/24 - La Coruña (ESP) Copyright ©FEI/Mackenzie Clark
Harry Charles (GBR) and Sherlock – winners of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2023/24 – La Coruña (ESP) Copyright ©FEI/Mackenzie Clark

The same applies to Team Belgium, and Chef d’Equipe Peter Weinberg sends out a sharp side with Abdel Saïd joined by rising star Gilles Thomas and the experienced duo of Koen Vereecke and Gregory Wathelet, the latter a member of the bronze-medal-winning team in Tokyo three years ago.

The French, meanwhile, are also sharing eighth and last place with just 85 points racked up to date, and Henk Nooren has chosen Francois Xavier Boudant, Marc Dilasser, Aurelien Leroy, and Olivier Perreau to boost their chances at the next leg. 

The Dutch need to add to the 115 points they have collected in order to stay well out of the danger zone and with Willem Greve, Harrie Smolders and the Van Asten brothers Leopold and Mathijs on call-up this time around they look well set to do just that. 

Just five points ahead of The Netherlands are Team Sweden who finished third in the opening leg of the series but ninth last time out. World number one, double World Champion and the man who collected his second successive Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ title in thrilling fashion in Riyadh, KSA last month, Henrik von Eckermann, was on both of those teams, jumping double-clear in Abu Dhabi but picking up eight faults in Ocala where Henrik Ankarcrona’s side failed to make it into the second round. They’ll be expected to be back to their normal level of brilliance in St Gallen where von Eckermann will be joined by Wilma Hellström, Amanda Landeblad and Fredrik Spetz. 

Fifth

In fifth place on the leaderboard are Team Brazil, and although St Gallen is known as something of a fairytale town in Swiss folklore it was no fairytale for the South American visitors last year when they lost out to the hosts in a two-way third-round jump-off against the clock. They’ll be wanting to put that to rights this time out, and with Luciana Diniz, Santiago Lambre, Yuri Mansur and Pedro Veniss saddling up they look ready to present powerful opposition to the rest of the field.

The Swiss are taking no chances either, however. It was Martin Fuchs who clinched that 2023 victory, all the more sweet for the fact that it was two-in-a-row after a drought of 22 years for the host nation. The world’s number five rider is backed up by the 2012 Olympic gold medallist, multiple World Cup champions and reigning individual European champion Steve Guerdat once again next week, along with Alain Jufer and the rock-solid Pius Schwizer. The home team won’t be giving anything away easily that’s for sure.

Martin Fuchs (SUI) riding Leone Jei in the second qualifying Competition - Individuals and Final Teams at the FEI Jumping European Championship Milano 2023 Copyright ©FEI/Leanjo de Koster
Martin Fuchs (SUI) riding Leone Jei in the second qualifying Competition – Individuals and Final Teams at the FEI Jumping European Championship Milano 2023. Copyright ©FEI/Leanjo de Koster

They lie a comfortable third on the leaderboard, with a 15-point advantage over the fourth-placed Americans who carry 135 points. Robert Ridland’s US team consists of Natalie Dean, Katie Dinan, Callie Schott and Spencer Smith who will be aiming to improve on that running tally.

At the top

At the top of the League table the Irish have a 30-point advantage over Germany in second place, but German team manager Otto Becker is bringing out more of his big guns in an effort to alter that. His very much on-form foursome of Hans-Dieter Dreher, Andre Thieme, Richard Vogel and Jana Wargers are a formidable force, and Michael Blake’s Irish side of Bertram Allen, Denis Lynch, Mark McAuley and Cian O’Connor will probably need to be at their very best to keep them from moving ahead before the final qualifier in Rotterdam in The Netherlands at the end of June.

Of course the format for the newly minted Longines League of Nations™ adds a whole new level of pressure for every team, with only the top eight sides and only three of the four team members returning to decide the result in the second round. 

Tense, fiercely competitive, fascinating and completely unpredictable the series has already produced superb sport, and you can watch it continue to unfold in St Gallen on Friday 31 May when the excitement begins with the Parade of Nations at 15.30 local time.

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