After a last minute invite to compete, the British team narrowly missed out on victory at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona on Saturday.
With Britain and Germany tied on a score after the final round, Nick Skelton and Marcus Ehning had to jump-off for overall team honours, and the Germans ended up lifting the Furusiyya trophy.
The Brits had failed to qualify for the Final after being demoted from Division One after this year’s Nations Cup series, but they were given an invitation to take part in the Final. It did raise a question though – as the winner of the Final automatically gets a place in next year’s Division One series.
Eight teams qualified in Thursday’s first round, with the score reset to zero for the final round. The Brits got off to a flying start when pathfinder Skelton jumped clear on his Olympic champion Big Star, a feat replicated by teammate Michael Whitaker and Viking.
Last minute call up Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T), who originally replaced Tim Stockdale on the named squad of five and took the place of John Whitaker, who competed in Thursday’s opening round, finished on 12 faults; with former world number one Scott Brash delivering a third clear on Ursula.
But the Germans were just as strong, with Christian Ahlmann (Taloubet Z), Janne Friederike Meyer (Goya) and Ludger Beerbaum (Casello) all jumping clear, with Marcus Ehning (Pret a Tout) picking up just four faults to level with the Brits.
Ludger was the last to jump, and his clear was of incredible significance – not only did it guarantee a jump-off against the Brits, but it was also his last performance on the German team following the announcement of his impending retirement.
The Brits were first to jump-off, and they selected their reigning Olympic individual champion to jump-off, with Nick Skelton already proving his supremacy when jumping-off first last month in Rio.
But his time of 41.82sec was beatable, according to Germany’s nominated rider, Marcus Ehning. “I watched him go and I knew I could be faster than him. I was really under pressure – I wanted this win for Ludger as it was his last Nations Cup,” said the German, who used all his skill at turning fast and cutting corners to shave more than 2sec off Skelton’s time.
The win obviously meant a lot for the Germans, for whom Ludger Beerbaum has been an icon for many years. “I can still remember my first Nations Cup with Ludger in Rotterdam, he has always been a great idol for my generation and I was so proud to be with him again in his last Nations Cup,” said Janne Friederike Meyer. “There are some special days and today was one of them – everyone could feel it when Ludger went in and everybody knew this man had to go clear to keep the chance of winning. Every single fence, everybody jumped with him and then he was clear and everyone went crazy.”
For Daniel Deusser, who missed out on a team place after his horse fell in, it was important for Ludger to go out on a high. “At the Olympic Games we were really happy, we had a great fight and finished with the bronze medal which made us extremely happy but somehow the last last big win was still missing. All five of us worked together and the dream really came true, that we won Ludger’s last Nations Cup, it couldn’t be better,” he said.
Team USA claimed third, with four faults, while Italy, Ireland and Switzerland all finished on five faults apiece.
1, Germany 0 in first round, 0/39.80 in jump-off: Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) 0, Pret a Tout (Marcus Ehning) 4/0 39.80, Goja (Janne Freiderike Meyer) 0, Casello (Ludger Beerbaum) 0.
2, Great Britain 0 in first round, 0/41.57 in jump-off: Big Star (Nick Skelton) 0/0 41.57, Viking (Michael Whitaker) 0, Spirit T (Jessica Mendoza) 12, Ursula Xll (Scott Brash) 0.
3, USA 4 faults: Ohlala (Lauren Hough) 4, Capital Colorado (Audrey Coulter) 8, Super Sox (Lillie Keenan) 0, Zeremonie (Laura Kraut) 0.
4, Italy 5 faults/ 223.03 seconds: Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 8, Ensor de Litrange Lxll (Lorenzo de Luca) 0, Antonio (Gianni Govoni) 1, Tower Mouche (Bruno Chimirri) 4.
5, Ireland 5 faults/225.81 seconds: Golden Hawk (Shane Breen) 8, Go Easy de Muze (Darragh Kenny) 0, All Star 5 (Denis Lynch) 1, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 4.
6, Switzerland 5 faults/226.34 seconds: Quorida de Trejo (Romain Duguet) 0, Corbinian (Steve Guerdat) 8, Lord Pepsi (Paul Estermann) 1, Clooney 51 (Martin Fuchs) 4.
7, Belgium 16 faults: Bisquet Balou C (Nicola Philippaerts) 4, Cas de Liberte (Niels Bruynseels) 8, Grand Cru van de Rozenberg (Jerome Guery) 8, Coree (Gregory Wathelet) 4.
8, Netherlands 20 faults: Emerald NOP (Harrie Smolders) 9, VDL Groep Arera C (Maikel van der Vleuten) 8, Caruso S La Silla (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 4, Glock’s London NOP (Gerco Schroder) 8.