The 100-day countdown to the much-anticipated FEI Jumping European Championship 2023 in Milan (ITA) has begun, and the tension is already rising.
This Championship has marked the crowning moment in the careers of many of the world’s greatest riders and their horses, and this 37th edition will be as hotly-contested as any that have gone before.
There will be team and individual medals up for grabs when the action takes place from 30 August to 3 September, and adding to the heat of battle will be the chance for three further countries to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. So there is a whole lot to play for over five days of fabulous competition.
The iconic venue at the Ippodromo Snai San Siro racecourse, which first opened in 1920, is an oasis of natural beauty located in the very heart of the stylish city of Milan. It hosts a botanical park which is often described as “a big green lung” in which a small lake welcomes many rare and migratory birds.
At the entrance to the racecourse is the world’s largest equestrian sculpture, cast in bronze by the American sculptor Nina Akamu who was inspired by the ingenious drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo started work on the statue in 1482, but his classic ability to procrastinate saw the project abandoned when the French invaded the city seven years later. However in 1977 a US civilian pilot, Charles Dent, created a foundation that led to its completion and erection in 1999 – more than 500 years late, but nonetheless glorious…!
The equestrian arena is a more recent addition, sitting in the centre of the race-track where it has replaced a former golf course. It is just two years since the first 3-Star international horse show took place there, with a 4-Star following in 2022 and the FEI Jumping European Championship taking centre stage this year.
The statistics show that Germany holds the upper hand when it comes to European Jumping titles, with 15 individual and 7 team gold medals in the bag.
The individual Championship dates back to 1957 in Rotterdam (NED) when the great Hans Günter Winkler reigned supreme with Sonnenglanz, while Germany also won the first team title when it was included in the schedule on home ground at Munich in 1975. That team consisted of four more legends – Alwin Schockemöhle, Hartwig Steenken, Sönke Sönksen and Hendrik Snoek.
Defending individual champion is Germany’s Andre Thieme who pinned 2019 European gold medallist, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, into silver medal spot in Riesenbeck (GER) in 2021. However Fuchs had the satisfaction of leading his country to team gold for the fifth time in the 66-year history of the event.
There have been two three-time champions – the brilliant David Broome from Great Britain who came out on top with Sunsalve in 1961 and with Mr Softee in 1967 and 1969, and Germany’s Paul Schockemöhle who has the unique distinction of three back-to-back wins with the mighty Deister in 1981, 1983 and 1985.
Mr Softee also has a special place in the history books, because five years before he posted his first victory for David Broome he carried fellow-Briton, David Barker, to the top of the individual podium in 1962.
The separate issue of Olympic qualification adds even more spice to the week of super sport. The three highest-ranked teams from FEI Olympic Groups A and/or B will each earn a much-sought-after ticket to Paris 2024, excluding countries already qualified.
Sweden, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland and Germany bagged the first five Olympic qualifying spots on offer at the FEI Jumping World Championship in Herning (DEN) last August, while Belgium clinched the single slot up for grabs at the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona (ESP) last September. France, as host country, is automatically qualified.
For the rest of the European nations there is a whole lot hanging in the balance when the FEI Jumping European Championships 2023 kick off in 100 days…
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