Team Germany posted a convincing victory Sunday on the last day of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final 2023 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, with their faultless score line giving them a two-fence advantage over their nearest rivals from France, Belgium and Brazil, who filled the next three placings.
But it was a difficult day for the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team, whose finishing score of 9 saw them slot into fifth place and, crucially, miss out on the much-sought-after qualifying spot on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. That spot instead went to fourth-place finisher Brazil.
Switzerland and Great Britain finished sixth and seventh with 12 faults apiece, again separated by the combined times of their team members, while Team Ireland finished eighth and last, putting 13 faults on the board.
“I’m a lucky guy as chef d’equipe of this team, I’m super happy and super proud of them, they rode very well”, said German Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker.
A Disappointing U.S. Performance
The U.S. must now turn its sights to the 2023 Santiago Pan American Games as its final chance to qualify a jumping team for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
“We knew coming here we were going to face talented opposition. We knew Brazil was going to be tough, and we were right,” U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland said. “They were a better team than us on Thursday, and we had always said this was a team of five, and we didn’t want to leave anything on the table, so we brought in a fresh horse today.”
The team saw a substitution for the final round with Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue replacing Jessica Springsteen and Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve on the last day of competition.
McLain Ward of Brewster, New York, and Callas, a 15-year-old Holsteiner mare owned by Beechwood Stables LLC and cared for by Virginie Casterman, were the pathfinders for the team once again and crossed through the finish with a late 4 faults as the final rail of the triple combination dropped after a light rub.
Karl Cook of Rancho Santa Fe, California, and Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare owned by Signe Otsby and cared for by Sarah Griffin, followed as the second combination in the team order and were precise with their round but fell victim to the same rail as Ward and Callas, with the C element of the triple combination, a tall vertical, keeping them from a clear round just a fence from home. The pair finished with 4 faults to keep the team tightly contested with Brazil heading into the third rotation.
Third in the team order, Devin Ryan of Longwood, New Jersey, and Eddie Blue entered the ring with pressure for a clear. Ryan and Eddie Blue, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by LL Show Jumpers LLC and cared for by Angela Baugh, had an early 4 faults, after nudging out the top bricks of the wall, before dropping a rail in the one-stride combination towards the end of the course for a total of 8 faults.
Bringing it to the wire, Laura Kraut of Royal Palm Beach, Florida, and Dorado 212, a 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by St. Bride’s Farm and cared for by Margo Thomas, produced a nearly foot-perfect round crossing through the timers in 87.62 seconds, just barely over the time allowed to add a single time fault to their score. Brazil ultimately finished on a total of 8 faults, with the U.S. slotting in just behind them on 9.
The U.S. team has one last chance to get an Olympic berth via the Santiago Pan American Games, to be held Oct. 30-Nov. 3 in Chile, where three allocations will be awarded to the three highest-placed not-yet-qualified teams. The only team in Santiago that already has a ticket to Paris is Brazil.
“We barely missed today and of course it’s frustrating,” Ridland said. “It was a very close contest between us and Brazil, and we both finished in the top six of the 15 teams here, which shows the competitiveness of both our teams. We have to get it done in Santiago. It’s pretty simple what our job is there. We wanted to seal the deal today, but it wasn’t meant to be, and now we focus all our efforts on Santiago.”