The CSI3*-W Designated Olympic Qualifier for Group C held in Budapest was the last opportunity for nations of the region to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Although it was all together twelve countries that could earn Olympic qualification, only six nations entered the competition to fight for a spot at the Olympics, as the rest of the teams did not believe they stood a chance.
As far as the final results go, history repeated itself, as the outcome turned out to be the same as the qualifier’s in Samorin four years ago: Ukraine triumphed, with Czech Republic grabbing second place and the Hungarian team finishing third.
Victory was not easy to earn, as the course was on the verge of the Olympic level. Forty-eight horse-and-rider combinations entered the competition, and not a single one managed no complete the course with a clear-round, even though the line-up mainly included world-class athletes.
Hungary finished with 29 faults in the first round, where András Kövy Jr. had the best performance with a result of 6 faults.
András Kövy Jr. & Heureka
The rest of our team bravely stood their ground as well, as the Hungarian team was the only one of which all riders managed to actually complete the course.
Balázs Horváth & Zordon
Mariann Hugyecz & Chacco Boy
Ukraine’s two-time Olympic gold medallist, Ulrich Kirchhoff, got eliminated for a fall, while the horse of Czech Republic’s Emma Augier De Moussac had two refusals at the water jump, and none of the riders of the Greek team completed the course, which resulted in them not being able to participate in the second round. With Lithuania withdrawing from the second round, only four teams remained in the competition.
This time it was Gábor Szabó Jr. who was the most successful from the Hungarian team, pushing Bulgaria back to the fourth place and leaving only the Czech and Ukrainian riders to battle for the Olympic qualification.
Gábor Szabó Jr. & Timpex Bölcsész
As the experienced members of the Czech team, Zuzana Zelinkova and Ales Opartny, brought the expected results, the leading Ukrainian team had to step up its game as well.
Zuzana Zelinkova & Caleri II
The Hungarian-born Ferenc Szentirmai only collected one knock-down and finished the competition as the best of the Ukrainian team, earning the nation the Olympic qualification, as were it not for his result, the Czech team would have prevailed. Ulrich Kirchhoff was later disqualified due to a small injury on his horse’s flanks caused by his spur, and the last rider, Rene Tebbel, had a knock-down and a refusal at the last fence.
Finally, Ukraine won the competition with 50 penalties, with the Czech Republic finishing with 58, and Hungary with 64.
Ulrich KIRCHHOFF: “It was today a really tough competition with big fences, and we did not see any clear rounds. I was a little bit unlucky, because I had a green horse and in the first round I flipped off in the water. It was a really annoying mistake, because I was in a very good position before. I was clear and my horse was really sharp and in a top form to make it clear. But it sometimes happens. Luckily we have a good, strong team, and the other rides were very good, so in the end we are qualified for the Olympic Games in Tokyo.”
Ulrich Kirchhoff & Al Pacino
Rene TEBBEL: “Competition was very big. I saw the course map and spoke it supposed to be 140-160 centimeters but that was a very-very big class today. The first round was easy for me but the second round you see, lot of things can happen. But I’m really happy that we are qualified for the Olympics. Thank you for my sponsors and my colleagues to make this happen.”
Tebbel Rene & Saxo De La Cour
Andre SCHRODER: “The competition was really difficult. It was really high, they try to get everything from us. We have to prove our skills in this course and yeah we will made it in the end. I’m happy with our performance. I hope this luck will stay with us until Sunday, when I compete in the Grand Prix with my other horse.”
Andre Schroder & Allegro
Ferenc SZENTIRMAI: “I believe the team performed really well. The course was hard enough, the results also prove. We need some luck to win, but I feel me and my horse did everything. In the first round we had a mistake at the combination, but the second round was good enough to win. We have a two week rest now, but then we go to Samorin for two or three weeks, and to the Europen Championship in the middle of August. And next year will be about preparing for the Olympics.”
Szentirmai Ferenc & Valour
Congratulations to all the riders, and we wish the Ukrainian team, the best of luck at the Olympics. Ukraine will, together with the winner of the Moscow qualifier, represent Group C in Tokyo.
Photo: CSIO Budapest / Hajdu Krisztina