Ukraine Victorious in Longines EEF Nations Cup of Athens
As the sun shone over the Markopoulo Olympic Equestrian Centre in Athens this afternoon, the crowds were treated to a spectacle of a competition in the Longines EEF Series Southern Region 2nd qualifier, which saw Ukraine take an emphatic victory.
In a tense battle to take the top spot after an extremely tight first round, it was the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine that was hoisted high above the podium this afternoon, and the team of four riders who have been through so much in the last 12 months, could not be more delighted with their result.
“We’re ecstatic about the win and we’re thrilled to be continuing onwards to the semi-finals!” team anchorwoman, Anastasia Bondarieva beamed. “There was a lot of pressure on us today, but we’re so pleased with the result and it’s a moment we’ll never forget – we made history for our country and it was beautiful. I’ve had some great wins in my life, but to do it with the team and for Ukraine was so special.”
After a dramatic first round over a cleverly designed course by Andreas Bamberger and George Fradelakis which saw fences fall evenly throughout the course, it was all to play for between three teams on a score of just 4 penalties, with Bulgaria entering round two in the lead, closely followed by Ukraine and host nation, Greece.
Sadly, it wasn’t Bulgaria’s day with only anchor man Ivaylo Bonev securing a clear in round two onboard Othello van de Vlasbloemhoeve, whilst Ventsislav Izov retired on course with J. Caplan BMG and both Rossen Raitchev on Independent and Angel Niagolov with Chaccball picked up 8 faults apiece. This put the team out of contention with a finishing score of 20, which saw them drop dramatically to the bottom of the leaderboard. On a more positive note, as the team completed the competition, they collect 60 qualifying points and guarantee their place at the Longines EEF Series South & Central Semi-Final in Ebreichsdorf, Austria later this month.
Home team, Greece, had more success in the second round thanks to a brilliant double clear from Angelos Touloupis and Lord Mexx, whilst Kriton Zafiropoulos with Dicaprio and Ilias Baliousis on board Casper d’Argouges had just one pole down each, adding 8 penalties to their tally to sit on a final score of 12.
But it was the Ukrainian team who held their nerve with two double clears from Mykola Pylypeiko on Karat and Anastasia Bondarieva with Calder, and an additional 0 fault round from Konstantin Zolin and Hending van de Bresser in the second round, meaning the team finished on their first-round score of 4 penalties earning the maximum 100 qualifying points, securing their ticket to Austria, also.
Behind the competition for the top spot, the contest was being closely fought between Italy and Romania. Both teams finished round one on a competitive score of 8 penalty points, but it was the Italian team who ended out in front thanks to exceptional second clear rounds from Andrea Benatti riding Idento van Maarle and Federico Ciriesi on Electra, with both Roberto Previtali and Come on Semilly, and Filippo Codecasa onboard Lugano van het Lindehof just tipping the one pole each. With one of these scores being dropped, it meant the team only had to add 4 faults for a final score of 12.
With Romania’s fourth rider, Ionel Bucur, retiring Cassius S on course in round 2, it meant that the team had to carry the 4 fault rounds from teammates Andrea Herck with Epsilon de Roulard and Constantin Cojocariu on Huracan RC into their final score, to accompany the classy clear round posted by Luca Ruxandariu and Django de Hu., With a final team score of 16, it was enough for the team to earn themselves 70 points and bag their place in the Semi-finals.
So, with the Longines EEF Series Southern Region Qualifiers all wrapped up, the five teams that are heading to Austria for their Southern and Central Semi-final on 30th June are decided. Reigning Longines EEF Series champions, Italy and today’s victors, Ukraine head up the table with both teams finishing with 170 points each. Bulgaria, Greece and Romania claim the remaining spaces, and we will see which of the Central Region teams will be joining them at their qualifier in Bratislava, Slovakia next Friday.
Photo: Mariana Gkliati