A dramatic clash between the world’s top show jumping teams will take place in Barcelona this week, as the 2005 Samsung Super League series draws to a close. With a tightly packed leader board and double points up for grabs, the closing stages of the eight-leg series are guaranteed to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
If past form is anything to go by, the ultimate battle will be between the USA, Germany and Britain. The Americans are in the strongest position, having achieved a convincing win in Aachen two weeks ago, pushing them into first place. Their team members have remained in Europe for the final, rather than travelling back to North America for Spruce Meadows, so their team of McLain Ward, Lauren Hough, Laura Kraut, Aaron Vale and Jeffery Welles is as strong as ever.
But their lead is still fragile, only four points ahead of the almighty Germans. Pia-Louise Aufrecht, Markus Beerbaum, Heinrich Hermann Engemann, Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst and Ulrich Kirchhoff will certainly prove hot competition. However, a disappointing performance at Aachan casts a shadow of doubt over their current form, and indicates that the British, who lie just two points behind, are still in with a fighting chance.
The British team has shown improving form this season, winning in Rome and Dublin. Although Nick Skelton’s presence will be missed in Barcelona, the mighty triumvirate of Michael Whitaker, his niece Ellen and his nephew Robert will make formidable opposition, along with Robert Maguire and newcomer Tim Gredley. Michael Whitaker was part of the winning team in both Rome and Dublin, while Robert Whitaker helped Britain to nations’ cup victory in Lummen. Ellen Whitaker has also been enjoying a cracking season and was the BSJA show jumper of the month in May.
Currently nine points further adrift in fourth place, the Swiss have a little catching up to do. It thus comes as no surprise that they are sending the best team possible. Markus Fuchs, European silver medallist Christina Liebherr, Lesley McNaught, Niklaus Schurtenberger and Pius Schwizer will not only be vying for the Samsung crown, but also proving Switzerland’s position within the series, having failed to qualify in 2003.
Having finished second at Aachan at the end of last month, the French team make an alarming wild card. They had previously being enjoying mixed fortunes, winning at St Gallan, but producing poor performances at Hickstead and Dublin. But their recent success at Aachan, coupled with the fact they are once again with their top horses, ensures their potential for league success must not be overlooked.
Competing nations will feel particular pressure to score maximum points in Barcelona for ranking on the Samsung leader board not only determines a winner, but also a loser. The team that finishes in last place will drop down to the ordinary nations’ cup series, while another country will take their place. It is a fate that could befall any of the last three teams since there is only a difference of four points between the Belgians in sixth spot, the Dutch in seventh and the Irish in eighth as the final leg begins.
A total of nine teams will compete in Barcelona as the host country will also be represented by Ricardo Jurado, Rutherford Latham, Sergio Alvarez Moya, Alvaro Munoz Escassi and Miguel Honrubia.
Samsung Super League leader board
1. USA – 43
2. Germany – 39
3. Britain – 37
4. Switzerland – 28
5. France – 27.5
6. Belgium – 19
7. The Netherlands – 18.5
8. Ireland – 15
For more information visit: www.csiobarcelona.com.