On a gloriously sunny afternoon in Rome’s Villa Borghese’s Piazza di Siena the German team beat seven other countries to win the FEI Nation’s Cup. With only four penalty points, meaning one fence down, the German team finished ahead of the second place Switzerland, who had only eight penalty points. Belgium finished third with only 12 penalty points. Italy finished fourth with two clear rounds by crowd pleaser Francesca Copponi on Stallone.
The FEI Nations Cup winner is determined by two rounds. Each eligible national teams consists of four riders, with the three lowest scores from each round to count toward the final standings. This year eight teams, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Sweden, Great Britian, France, German, and the host country, Italy fielded teams.
After the first round the German team was the only team to have no penalty points. Only one German rider, Christian Ahlmann, had any points and with the three other German riders, Marco Kutscher, Marcus Ehning, and Ludger Beerbaum having perfect rounds, that was the score they could eliminate.
During the second round of jumping it was Marco Kutscher who had the only penalty points. However, the fourth German rider, Ludger Beerbaum didn’t ride a second round because his team was already in first place and there was no other team with enough perfect rounds to overtake them so he chose not to risk injury to himself or his horse
The easiest way for an American to explain why Italy was competing but was not in contention is by making an baseball analogy. There are only so many teams eligible for the major leagues, and Italy for various reasons isn’t considered in the top league, but as host nation for this leg of the Nations Cup they were given the privilege of competing. Italy’s fourth place finish was pleasing to the hometown crowd that hung on every stride of Francesca Copponi’s two perfect rounds.
Since this is an Olympic year many of the nations are using the early legs of the Nation’s Cup to audition their Olympic hopefuls. The first leg of the Nation’s Cup was held in Braule, France on May 11. Other stops after Rome include Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Great Britain and Ireland.