The China League of the Longines FEI World Cup for 2015 concluded in thrilling style at Beijing’s Chaoyang Park on October 6th. Leading up to the event, the China League was closely contested with several riders vying for top spot. Patrick Lam (HKG) held a narrow lead over Raena Leung (CHN), with John Zhuangzhuang Han (CHN) in third position.
Several international riders made the trip to China for this event. Olympic silver medalist and current team European Champion Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) arrived in Beijing as the defending champion from last year’s event. He claimed victory in 2014 riding the Dutch Warmblood Ziemar. Man of the moment and world number one Scott Brash (GBR) was also competing, having arrived in China at 5am local time on the day of the first qualifying class. Brash flew in from the USA, where only two days before he had finished second in the FEI 5* Los Angeles Masters event. Sydney Olympian Jerry Smit (ITA) was also in attendance as were competitors from Korea, Taiwan, Germany, and Belgium.
Qualifying event, October 6th
Van der Vleuten set the pace early, winning the qualifying event against the clock with a fast clear round 0.3 seconds ahead of Ciren Bianba (CHN) and Simon Buckley (GBR). Scott Brash overcame some serious jetlag and an unfamiliar horse to finish the qualifier with two fences down on the grey KWPN mare Wavanta. China League points leader Patrick Lam was sixth with a slower clear round while Raena Leung was not on top form with eight penalties.
Main event, October 7th
Wednesday’s final competition offered prizemoney of 240 000 Yen (equivalent to 30 000 Euros). A difficult jumping course produced only two clear rounds: local 2008 Olympian and 2014 China League winner Zhao ‘Daniel‘ Zhiwen (CHN) riding the 14yo gelding Bolero and Liu Tongyan (CHN) riding the 12yo mare KuBu Qi.
Zhiwen rode first in the jump-off to finish with a fast time of 42.96 seconds. Tongyan had the more advantageous position riding last, but he sensibly retired his horse midway through the jumpoff when he realized he would not be able to beat Zhiwen’s time.
Zhiwen was clearly on form for this competition, also finishing fourth on his second ride Fancyface. Fellow Chinese rider Ciren Bianba also continued his success from the qualifying event to finish fifth.
L to R: Scott Brash (GBR) and Daniel Zhiwen (CHN). Photos by Baker Equine Photos and Sasse & Schockemohle.
The international riders on their borrowed local horses had mixed fortunes. Vincent Lambrecht (BEL) riding the Hanoverian Enjoy was the fastest of the four-faulters to finish third, with van der Vleuten also receiving four faults to finish sixth. Brash repeated his score from the qualifying event to finish in 11th with eight penalties.
Lam and Leung, the leaders of the China League prior to this event, finished down the order in 22nd and tenth respectively. This meant that Zhiwen moved up to lead the League points table, a repeat of his 2014 performance. He was delighted with his victory in the 2015 League and in the World Cup event itself, especially with a strong field of local and international riders. Zhiwen received CNY 79 000 and a Longines watch after his win.
L to R: Simon Buckley (GBR) and Scott Brash in the warm-up ring, a local Chinese rider riding a horse with a very expressive jump. Photos by Baker Equine Photography and Sasse & Schockemohle.
Quarantine: Chinese riders in Europe
Daniel Zhiwen aims to compete in the World Cup finals in Göteborg 2016, but first he will need a sponsor to find a suitable competition horse in Europe. Due to quarantine regulations, his Chinese horses can’t leave China. Fellow countryman John Zhuangzhuang Han (who did not compete in this event) was also in contention for a high finish in the China League but faces the same obstacle if he wishes to compete overseas. Patrick Lam and Raena Leung do not have to deal with these quarantine issues as they’re both based in Europe, at yards in Austria and Germany respectively. Raena was the first rider to represent the China League at the World Cup finals in Göteborg in 2013 and she has her sights firmly set on the finals in Göteborg 2016.
John Roche, FEI director of show jumping stated that the organisation is still working on modifying quarantine restrictions regarding the import and export of horses to and from China. He also expressed support for the well-organised Beijing event and commented on the great improvement that equestrian sports have made in China since his last visit to Beijing in 2013.
L to R: Podium after Qualifying event (winner: Maikel van der Vleuten), podium after main event (Daniel Zhiwen won the event and also the China League for 2015). Photos by Sasse and Schockemohle and Ahle Communications.
Look out for Part II of our coverage of this event, featuring exclusive rider profiles and interviews!
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