At the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals, There's One Olympic Team Qualification Up For Grabs
Jerome Guery (BEL) and Quel Homme de Hus © FEI/Leanjo de Koster
With the FEI World Championships in Herning (GER) came another critically important season in the sport of show jumping: Olympic qualification.
Between August 2022 and October 2023, there are 20 "quotas" (team slots) up for grabs for the 2024 Paris Games, and with Herning completed, six of those quotas have been filled by Sweden, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany and host nation France.
Once those team quotas have been met, there will be 15 additional individual qualifiers, awarded to National Federations that do not have a team quota (The full breakdown of how quotas are awarded can be viewed here).
The next available quota will be awarded at this week's Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals in Barcelona (ESP), where the top placing team (that has not already qualified) will punch its ticket to Paris.
*It's important to note that only the country receives the quota. Any riders that contribute to Olympic qualification do not automatically qualify to compete. Each National Federation has its own policies and procedures on naming its Olympic team/representatives.*
It's been a shocking year for the United States, who not only did not earn Olympic qualification in Herning, but also did not qualify for Nations Cup Finals. In fact, no show jumping team from the Americas secured an Olympic berth in Herning. Canada and Mexico will line up this week in Barcelona, albeit with largely younger teams.
Who has the best chance to earn a coveted spot in Paris? The numbers say to look out for Belgium and Switzerland.
Avg. Ranking: 34
Belgium brought forward a strong team to Herning and was in strong contention for a team quota after the first round of team competition. But unpleasant surprises befell the squad. After Jos Verlooy was shockingly eliminated in the first round, team anchors Wathelet and Nevados S dropped three rails in the team final. It would ultimately drop the team two places, and they finished the competition less than two heartbreaking penalty points from Olympic qualification.
This group seems primed for vengeance in Barcelona, with all five of its riders—including its team alternate—ranked among the top 50 riders in the world. Moreover, every combination on the squad has averaged a rail or less since 2019.
World No. 15 Jerome Guery and the 16-year-old "late blooming" stallion Quel Pomme de Hus lead the group, averaging just 2 faults this year at heights from 1.45m to 1.65m. In three starts at 1.65m, they have averaged just 1 fault and a top four finish, and in Herning, they did not touch a pole, finishing only behind the magnificent performance of Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward.
If you ask me, Quel Pomme de Hus deserves some more of the spotlight after being overshadowed by the likes of King Edward and H&M All In (but who hasn't been overshadowed by Team Sweden in the last two years?).
Let's take a moment to appreciate this horse's medal count:
2022 FEI World Championships: Individual Silver
2021 Tokyo Olympic Games: Team Bronze
2021 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals: Team Bronze
2019 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals: Team Silver
2019 FEI European Championships: Team Gold
In five Championship appearances, this pair has never gone home without a medal. Just watch when this horse jumps into a combination: 40% of his rails have come in a combination, and 100% of those rails have come at the "A" element.
Avg. Ranking: 84
Team Switzerland boasts the World No. 2 in Martin Fuchs, who took the win in this year's Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals (GER). But Fuchs will have neither his World Cup Champion (The Sinner) or his World Championships mount (Leone Jei) with him in Barcelona. Instead, he will bring forward Conner Jei in what will be the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding's championship debut.
Still, this is a horse to watch (What a string Martin has!). Conner Jei is averaging just 1.5 faults at 1.60m this year and just 2.3 faults in 14 starts at the height since 2019. In his most recent Nations Cup start, the gelding jumped double-clear at Dublin (IRL), where Switzerland finished third.
Steve Guerdat's Venard de Cerisy stands tall as the veteran of the group, having won the 2021 CP International Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows (the richest Grand Prix in the world) and jumped at both Herning and Tokyo. At Herning, it was not Venard's show, and the gelding had two rails fall in both rounds of team competition. Venard's averages are down from 2021, but a return Spruce Meadows could have been just the spark he needed; he finished second in the CP International, only behind Daniel Deusser (GER) and Killer Queen VDM.
Should Switzerland take home a medal from these Championships, it would (surprisingly) be firsts in the event for both Fuchs and Guerdat in eight combined appearances.
Get it on the action and follow Belgium and Switzerland's riders in Barcelona at the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals by playing Prixview's fantasy games.