World Games Open–Germany Looking Tougher Despite Totilas Withdrawal With Dutch Team Reeling
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Aug. 23, 2014
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
CAEN, France, Aug. 23, 2014–The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, an event horse fans celebrate every four years as the global championships of eight international sports, opened Saturday night with a parade of a record 74 nations.
Dressage is the first of the headliner Olympic sports–eventing and jumping are the other two–kicks off competition Monday with two days of Grand Prix in which 103 horse and rider combinations from 31 countries are scheduled to compete.
Twenty-five of the countries are fielding teams to battle for the Nations Cup which went through a short roller coaster ride with the withdrawal of Totilas, the black stallion ridden by Matthias Alexander Rath from the German team.
A day later the Netherlands took a double whammy when Edward Gal had to switch frim his top horse, Glock’s Undercover, to Glock’s Voice and Danielle Heijkoop’s injured Kingsley Siro had to be replaced by Diederik van Silfhout on Arlando NH.
Whether there will be other withdrawals of combinations that tilt the drive to be on the medals podium will be clearer Sunday morning when the horsego through the mandatory veterinary check.
Germany, still with three combinations capable of 80 per cent, is a stronger favorite than ever favorite to win team gold with world No. 2 Helen Langehanenberg on Damon Hill NRW, Isabell Werth on the newest star, Bella Rose, and Kristina Sprehe on Desperados plus newly elevated Fabienne Lütkemeier on D’Agostino FRH.
The country last year won the European Championships to come back from a three-year back seat to the Netherlands and Great Britain.
“Our two stallions–Damon Hill and Desperados–are doing better than last year,” team coach Monica Theodorescu said. Bella Rose is only 10 years old but is already considered a force, trained since the age of three by the incomparable Isabell Werth.
Since the World Games were launched in 1990 as the championships to be held once every four years of horse sports governed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), Germany has won team gold in five of the six events. The Netherlands claimed the top spot at Kentucky in 2010, Great Britain won silver and Germany bronze.
Isabell has won three team gold medals, the same number as compatriot Nadine Capellmann but Isabell would stand alone with four golds if Germany wins in Normandy. She also has three individual WEG gold medals.
The loss of two of the top three Dutch combinations–Edward on Undercover at No. 3 in the world and Danielle on Siro No. 10–throws wide open the Nations Cup competition for silver and bronze.
The gap is much narrower between Great Britain and the Netherlands and the group of nations that previously had hovered beneath the medals podium–Denmark, Sweden, Spain and the United States.
Undercover was the top mount for Edward, having competed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the European Championships in 2013 where the pair scored 81.763 per cent for third place in the Grand Prix. The highest score for Voice has been 75.780 per cent at Rotterdam in June.
“It’s a huge setback,” said Dutch coach Wim Ernes, “but with the dressage team consisting of these two spare combinations and Adelinde Cornelissen with Jerich Parzival and Hans Peter Minderhoud with Glock’s Johnson TN we can still compete for the medals at the world championships.”
Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro holds the world records for the Grand Prix, the Special and the Freestyle. Despite the aberration of their performance in Aachen, Germany last month, the Olympic double gold pair are expected to lead Britain to the medals podium and now has a chance to step higher.
For Britain to finish ahead of the Netherlands would be retribution for the 2013 European Championships where the score of a single judge for one British combination skewed the medal awards in favor of Holland.
Most riders, officials and spectators questioned on the seeming turnabout in national fortunes, shared the sentiment of Robert Dover, the leader of the United States dressage team as Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe: “Sad not to see these great combinations…”
Withdrawals have not just occured at the top of the betting order.
Norway announced that Cathrine Rasmussen withdrew Fernandez that had been injured and was replaced by Ellen Brigitte Farbrot on Tailormade Aka Askelund so the nation will have a full four-member team.