The U.S. team finishes a disappointing eighth but will be back in the Super League next year.
The German team bounced back from a disappointing Olympic Games in Hong Kong to reassert their show jumping dominance at the FEI Samsung Super League Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain, on Sept. 21. It was their third consecutive Super League Final win.
Marco Kutscher and Ludger Beerbaum, on their Olympic mounts of Cornet Obolensky and All Inclusive NRW, anchored the German effort with matching double-clear performances as the Germans cruised to the win with just a total of 4 faults in the two rounds. Belgium wrapped up second place with 12 total faults.
The U.S. team couldn’t do better than eighth, defeating only the three-man Swedish team. Laura Kraut and Cedric—fresh from their team gold-medal performance at the Olympics—put in a valiant effort of 0- and 1-fault rounds, but they couldn’t overcome the faults collected by the other team members.
Nicole Shahinian-Simpson and SRF Dragonfly, seasoned veterans of the Super League series this summer, led off the U.S. effort with a startling 24 faults in Round 1. Georgina Bloomberg, in her first Nations Cup appearance of the year, turned in a score of 20 on Curius, and things looked grim.
James Benedetto put things back on the upswing with a 4-fault round on Kannan S Gigi Z, which Kraut followed with a clear round, but the damage had been done. Benedetto jumped his way onto the Super League team with stellar performances on the U.S. team on the regular Nations Cup tour this summer. It was his Super League debut.
“It was just an honor and so much fun,” he said of the experience. “Watching people like Ludger [Beerbaum] and Jos [Lansink] was like having a riding lesson in between rounds.”
Shahinian-Simpson rebounded spectacularly with a clear round in Round 2. “Dragonfly was just off, but she came out in the second round and redeemed herself,” she said. Bloomberg had another 12, and then Benedetto collected 11 faults when “Gigi” stopped at a double of liverpools.
“The footing was getting chewed up, and when she landed, she slipped a little and slid into the second element. We circled around and jumped it and went on. She finished just like she’d jumped all the jumps—jumping 2 feet over them,” Benedetto said.
Kraut’s single time fault in the second round wasn’t enough to keep them in the hunt, and the team finished eighth. In the series, the U.S. team ended up in sixth place, keeping them in the Super League for 2009.
In contrast, the German team kept themselves on top with relentless consistency. Carsten-Otto Nagel led off with a 4-fault score that would end up being the only faults on the board for Germany. Otto Becker was the drop score in both rounds on Con Air, with 12 in Round 1 and 4 in Round 2. But when Nagel, Kutscher and Beerbaum all went clear in Round 2, their victory was sealed.
It’ll Be A Different Super League Next Year
Since the title sponsors—Samsung—decided to discontinue their connection with the FEI Super League Nations Cup series after the 2008 final, FEI officials decided to revamp the series.
In 2009, the series will be comprised of eight events, with 10 teams competing at each event instead of the eight that competed in the Samsung series. “Long-term the intention is to include more nations, to move the sport outside Europe and to enable more countries to take part at a top level. There has been criticism of the current format which has been described as a ‘closed shop’ with very little opportunity for new countries to break in,” said FEI First Vice-President Sven Holmberg.
The top seven teams—Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, United States and Switzerland—of the 2008 Super League series qualify for the 2009 season and the remaining three teams will qualify by the Rolex World Rankings as of Dec. 31, 2008.
For 2009, the show venues for the series will be La Baule (France), Rome (Italy), St. Gallen (Switzerland), Falsterbo (Sweden), Rotterdam (the Netherlands), Aachen (Germany), Hickstead (England) and Dublin (Ireland). Shows will have a one-year contract with the series. Shows must offer $434,000 in prize money for both the Nations Cup and grand prix classes, with the Nations Cup prize money being provided by the sponsor and the grand prix prize money provided by the show organizer.
The new format will be reviewed and modified after the 2009 season. Eventually, there will be three tiers of Nations Cup competition—Top Level, Promotional and Lower. FEI officials are in negotiations with a new sponsor for the series.