The Nations Cup Final in Barcelona is always a prestigious event, but this year the pressure was increased. After all, there was one Olympic ticket to be awarded to the best yet non-qualified country. On Friday, during the first round, it turned out that Ireland, Italy and Colombia would be the ultimate contenders for that final ticket. That also meant there was an extra reason to looking forward to the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final!
Right from the start, the course designed by Santiago Varela Ullastres proved to be a difficult feat, with a double combination, a 4-fold line with open water and a triple running right along the packed stands. Of the first group of 8 riders, no one was able to keep the zero on the scoreboard, until the last rider Olivier Philippaerts with H&M Extra. The 10-year-old Berlin son jumped fantastic and ensured that the reigning European champions immediately took the lead. Peter Moloney and Chianti’s Champion achieved 4 penalty points for Ireland, just like Rene Lopez and Twig du Veillon for Colombia. Italy had a dramatic start after Lorenzo de Luca received 12 penalty points with Dinky Toy vd Kranenburg.
When the second riders had to start, it soon became apparent that an Olympic ticket for Colombia would no longer be an easy task since Carlos Enrique Lopez Lizarazo left the course with 20 penalty points. The Italian Massimo Grossato finished with a clear round, just like Paul O’Shea. The Belgians, too, seemed on their way to another clear round by Niels Bruynseels with the approved stallion Jenson van ‘t Meulenhof, but at the last minute they saw the final fence come down.
One thing was clear: the third riders would decide who could take that Olympic ticket home, so Darragh Kenny and Balou du Reventon put everything on everything for a clear round. Darragh took his time and got one time penalty, but the Irishman didn’t even bother: the ticket belonged to the Irish, the pressure for them was gone! With a total of 5 penalty points, Ireland was also in second place, just behind Belgium, but Jérôme Guery and Quelle Homme de Hus still had to complete their round… Guery and the Quidam stallion, however, did not disappoint and recorded another strong clear round.
In the fourth round, all eyes were back on the victory of the Nations Cup Final. Belgium was in the lead with 4 penalty points, followed by Ireland with 5 and Italy and France on 20 penalty points. One mistake from Cian O’Connor and PSG Final would mean that Belgium would go home again with the title, while a clear round would put all the pressure on Gregory Wathelet’s shoulders… And that is what happened! After criticism from various corners about their selection for the team, Cian O’Connor and PSG Final majestically silenced the criticaster with a clear round!
All eyes were now on Gregory Wathelet and MJT Nevados. As the very last starter, they had the fate of the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in their hands. A clear round would earn the Belgians gold again and Wathelet seemed well on his way … Until the penultimate obstacle! To the disbelief of the public and Wathelet himself, MJT Nevados shot past the fence to the left, preventing the Belgians from dropping their 4 penalty points and having to settle for silver.
In the end it was the Irish team consisting of Peter Moloney, Paul O’Shea, Darragh Kenny, Cian O’Connor and chef d’équipe Rodrigo Pessoa who were allowed to go home with both the victory and the Olympic ticket. The Swedish team, consisting of Henrik von Eckermann, Evelina Tovek, Fredrik Jönsson and Peder Fredricson, were good for bronze.
Daniel Deusser and Olivier Philippaerts also each earned 50,000 euros. With Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z and H&M Extra, respectively, they were the only two combinations that managed to jump clear both Friday and Sunday.