Aachen to Decide German, Danish Olympic Teams, Complete Other Squads

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Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The World Equestrian Festival at Aachen, Germany, this week will decide the Olympic teams for Germany and Denmark–the gold and bronze medal winners from the Games four years ago–the last of the 10 nations seeking to be on the medals podium in London not much more than a month from now.

Hartpury, England, CDI3* will be a celebration of Great Britain’s rise to the top of the dressage world with both Carl Hester on Uthopia and Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro competing in the Grand Prix as their final Olympic tuneup show, while Laura Bechtolsheimer and Richard Davison will give demonstrations. The Canadian squad will also compete at Hartpury before the official announcement of their team for the dressage competition beginning with the Nations Cup Grand Prix at London’s Greenwich Park on Aug. 2.

The fate of several individual combinations will also be decided at both competitions and in a legal arena in Lausanne, Switzerland, over the sole combination from South America in a week certain to provide fodder for dressage fans around the world.

Host Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and USA have  selected their teams–some are awaiting an official stamp of approval–while Poland qualified three individuals for the country’s first team since the Cold War. The team competition will be determined by both the Grand Prix and the Special for the first time.

Both Germany and Denmark, like Britain, the Netherlands and the United States, get to send four riders and horses to London, three for the team and one individual combination.

The team that is selected by Germany will be looking to extend the nation’s record of seven straight Olympic team gold medals, of which Isabell Werth was on four of them but will not be this year.

The German team for the Aachen Nations Cup includes three of the top contenders for London–Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW, a 12-year-old Westfalen stallion (Donnerhall x Romanze x Rubinstein I), the 2012 German national champions; 26-year-old Kristina Sprehe and her 11-year-old Hanoverian stallion, Desperados (De Niro x Wie Musik x Wolkenstein II), and Anabel Balkenhol and Dablino, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (De Niro x Wanda x Wanderbursch II). Anabel is the daughter of Klaus Balkenhol, German Olympic gold medalist and former U.S. team coach.

The biggest unknown is the status of Matthias Alexander Rath, the rider of Totilas, who reported a week ago he has mononucleosis, a virus that can be debilitating for several weeks.

Totilas ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Jonny Hilberath, the German coach, has said that Matthias is recovering well but he will visit the rider later this week before deciding whether the pair should be selected for London, possibly as the individual.

This has fired up speculation that has dogged the pair since the super stallion was sold to Germany by the Netherlands at the end of 2010.

The partnership has been marked by canceled show appearances due to injuries such as their first scheduled competition, the Frankfurt World Cup event last December and a trip to Florida last winter to success in becoming the CDIO champion at Aachen a year ago. All of it has been accompanied by a public relations campaign probably unpecedented in the sport and targeted at non-equestrian popular celebrity media such as Germany’s largest circulation tabloid newspaper.

Denmark will be seeking its second team Olympic medal in history, that coach Rudolf Zeillnger said will be chosen after Aachen and chnces are will be made up of very young and very exerienced.

Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and her Digby, a 15-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Donnerhall x Oxenholm Pamina x Sandro), who led her team to the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, are the top ranked pair on the squad at Aachen.

Team mates are:

–22-year-old Anna Kasprzak and Donnperignon, 13-year-old Finnish Warmblood gelding (Donnerhall x Montserrat x Mozart 1179) that her family acquired from Germany. The pair has posted spectacular results at top German CDIs this year, with scores in the high 70 percent range in both the Grand Prix and the Special;

–Sidsel Johansen, who turned 30 years old in January, and Schianto, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Gribaldi x Schimonn Enshoej x Schwadroneur) who have finished in the top 10 in every competition in their four CDIs in 2012, and

–Anne van Olst, an Olympic veteran including the 2008 medalist team, who will be aboard Clearwater, the 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Carpaccio x Abigirl x Limebrand). She rode Taikoen on the team at Rotterdman and will compete the 12-year-old KWPN gelding in the CDI4* at Aachen.

Danish Olympians Lone Jørgensen and FBW De Vito and Andreas Helgstrand on Laetere both competed at Rotterdam a week ago.

Also at Aachen, vying for the Netherlands’ individual place will be Imke Schellekens-Bartels on Toots and Patrik van der Meer on Uzzo. Anky van Grunsven and Salinero, Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival and Edward Gal and Undercover have been named to the team.

Australia’s team–three of the four members are based in Germany–for the Nations Cup in Aachen could experience some tension.

The team will be led by Lyndal Oatley, who automatically qualified for the Olympics with Sandro Boy, an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Sandro Hit x Utopia x Argentinus) by winning the two European observation events.

Kristy Oatley, her cousin, an Olympic and world championship veteran, was also selected for the Aussie Olympic team, is scheduled to ride in the Nations Cup on Clive, the 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Caletto I x Brasilia 1 x Landgraf I) which she was selected to ride in London.

Hayley Beresford, who was not selected for the Olympic squad although her scores with Bellissimo NRW, 13-year-old Rhinelander stallion (Beltain x Roxa x Romadour II) in the observation events were second behind Lyndal, will also be on the Aachen team. Hayley, who was on the 2008 Olympic and 2010 World Equestrian Games teams, appealed the selection of Kristy and Clive and Mary Hanna and Sancette ahead of her. The appeal was rejected.

The week will start with the Court of Arbitration for Sport conducting a hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland, Monday on an appeal by the Dominican Republic over Brazil being declared the individual qualifier from South America as Luíza Tavares de Almeida competed at events most of which had a majority of Brazilian judges.

Luiza will compete her second horse, 16-year-old Pastor, in the CDI4* at Aachen while Yvonne Losos de Muñiz who rode Liebling II to second place in the indnvidual rankings for the Dominican Republic will be showing at the Hartpury CDI3*. Yvonne is based at the stables of Carl Hester who rode Liebling to team silver medals for Great Britain at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and the 2009 European Championships.

Yvonne Losos de Muñiz and Liebling II. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Also at Hartpury, eyes will be on New Zealand rider Vanessa Way, who brought her horse, KH Arvan, halfway around the world (11,700 miles-18,800 km) determined to fulfill the dream of representing her nation that set a higher qualifying standard than the minimum required by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).

Vanessa and the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Anamour x Demure x Dynamit) have been based at Carl Hester’s stables as they prepared for this last ditch effort to be the second individual from New Zealand to ride in London. The country had to scuttle plans to field their first Olympic dressage team because there were not three combinations able to meet N.Z. Olympic Committee requirements.

If the NZOC requirements are not met and New Zealand does not name the pair as a definite entry, the individual place would go to Finland, giving the country two individual spots.