This will be a first-ever Olympic Eventing team slot for China and Thailand, although both have had individual starters at previous Olympics. The two nations finished second and third at the FEI designated Olympic qualifier held at Samur for Olympic Groups F and G.
Japan, already assured of a starting place on home ground next summer, were fractionally behind China after Saturday’s cross country test, but regained the lead to take top spot by 6.1 penalties ahead of the Chinese. Team China, led by double Olympian Alex Hua Tian who finished eighth in Rio 2016, held on for second place and a Tokyo ticket ahead of Thailand, who have also booked their place on the 2020 startlist.
Hua Tian, who made his Olympic debut at the age of 18 at Beijing 2008, was bidding for individual success with the talented Don Geniro, but four faults in the show jumping handed victory to the 1993 European champion, Frenchman Jean Lou Bigot with Aktion De Belheme. Britain’s Francis Whittington finished in third with Farndon.
Bigot commented: “Belhelme’s Aktion is a jumping horse and today’s show jumping test proved it again. With such horses, you must not miss, and you have to take your time. So I had chosen this long test to continue to maintain his beautiful gallop – what he showed me yesterday I liked very much, it is very encouraging for the future. To win and finish second in the CCI 4 * L, at home, it’s great! All weekend, I was surrounded by all my owners, my partners, and this victory is definitely for them!”
Hua Tian commented: “I’m delighted with my second place. This is actually the first time this horse has finished a long format since its participation in the Rio Olympics. The great concern of the weekend was qualification of the team. And let’s just say we’ve just lived a true fairy tale. I would like to congratulate the FEI for implementing this qualification system. You can’t imagine how much the news of this qualification is important to China. For the future of sport in China, it’s extraordinary. This qualification is only the first step, now remains to qualify the riders individually to build the team. But I’m confident.”
The CCI4*-Lat Saumur was won by Australian Christopher Burton riding Polystar I. It was a pillar to post win for the pair who finished with a score of 31.8 penalties. He finished ahead of Bigot riding Utrilllo Du Halage in second and Christopher Six and Totem De Brecey in third.
Burton commented: “It’s amazing. The horse was exceptional today. I’m having trouble believing that I’m paid to ride such an extraordinary horse. He is now qualified for Tokyo, so we only have to think about the direction we want to give to his preparation, and to move forward.”
Pawel Spisak led Poland to victory at Baborówko to book their place at next year’s Olympic Games. Riding his Rio 2016 horse Banderas, the 37-year-old also claimed the individual honours ahead of two-time Olympic champion, Germany’s Michael Jung with Fischerchipmunk FRH. Poland’s Jan Kaminski finished third with Jard.
Both Belarus and Russia also fielded teams at Baborówko, which hosted the Olympic Group C qualifier. However, when just two of the Belarussians and one Russian completed all three phases, the Poles were left untroubled at the top. It will be the country’s first appearance in the eventing competition since the Olympic Games were held in Athens in 2004.
Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand have already booked their place in the team eventing competition at Tokyo, having secured Olympic qualification at last year’s FEI World Equestrian Games™. Japan, as host nation, automatically qualify.
There are still spaces available for five more teams to make up the full quota of 15 Eventing teams for Tokyo. An additional 20 individual places are up for grabs via the FEI Olympic rankings to fill the overall quota of 65 starters.
The remaining opportunities for nations to qualify are at the Pan-American Games in Lima (PER) at the beginning of August and the FEI European Eventing Championships in Luhmühlen (GER) at the end of August, both of which have two slots available. Additionally, the highest ranked nation at the end of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ series 2019, which winds up at Boekelo (NED) in mid-October, will also book their ticket for next year’s Games.