Silver in the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final
Last weekend it was all about the big Longines FEI Nations Cup Final, where Team Belgium appeared at the start as the title defender. Niels also went to Barcelona with Jenson van ‘t Meulenhof and Utamaro d’Ecaussines, who made his comeback after CHIO Aachen.
The competition started well for Niels, with Utamaro immediately delivering a clear round in the 1m45 opening class. Later that day, the qualification for the big Nations Cup Final was on the schedule and here the team consisting of Pieter Devos, Gregory Wathelet, Jérôme Guery and Olivier Philippaerts managed to take home the victory. After consulting with chef d’équipe Peter Weinberg, it was decided that Niels and Jenson would jump for the team in the big Final on Sunday (replacing Pieter Devos and Jade van de Bisschop).
But first it was Utamaro’s turn again on Saturday, this time in the 1m50 class. Utamaro proved to be completely back in shape and after a double clear round they managed to take home a tenth place.
On Sunday, the highlight of the weekend was on the program: the Super Final. Olivier Philippaerts and H&M Extra were the first combination that managed to record a clear round which immediately put Belgium in the lead! Niels and Jenson started as second and seemed to be on their way to a brilliant clear round ... Until the last moment when the last oxer rolled out of the cup! Niels was very disappointed, but Belgium was still in the lead. When the third riders had to start, it turned out that Belgium had the most competition from Ireland, which in addition to the Nations Cup title also jumped for an Olympic Ticket. Darragh Kenny finished the course with Balou du Reventon as third starter with 1 time penalty and thus put pressure on Jérôme Guery and Quel Homme de Hus. Guery did what was expected of him and after a clear round he brought Belgium back to the lead with 4 penalty points. Ireland followed with 5 penalty points while Italy and France shared third with no less than 20 penalty points…
Everything was now in the hands of Cian O’Connor, because a flawless round of the Irishman would put all the pressure on Gregory Wathelet, while one penalty point for O’Connor would mean another gold medal for Team Belgium. Unfortunately for the Belgians, O’Connor did what was asked and so it was Wathelet who, as a last starter, with MJT Nevados, had the fate of the competition in his hands. Wathelet seemed on his way to a perfect round and everything looked in the bag... Until Nevados refused on the penultimate obstacle. The Belgians conclude a beautiful outdoor season with European Gold and Silver in the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final.