Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games to break records

A record-breaking 100 riders from 33 nations will compete at the biggest World Equestrian Games ever. 21 Aug 2014
Sophie Christiansen

Great Britain's Sophie Christiansen sits atop the podium after winning gold in the freestyle grade 1a event at the 2013 JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark.

ⒸLiz Gregg | FEI
By Robert Howell | For the IPC

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, France, will see a record-breaking 33 nations and 100 riders and horses compete for medals at the prestigious La Prairie racecourse venue, from 23 August - 7 September.

Victory is not the only prize on offer however, with this competition also serving as the first Rio 2016 Paralympic Games qualifier for para-equestrian dressage.

Trond Asmyr, FEI Director, is delighted how the sport of para-equestrian and dressage has progressed.

She said: “Para-equestrian dressage will be the biggest it has ever been at a world Games. Sixty riders and horses from 16 countries competed at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 in Kentucky, where para-equestrian dressage made its début on the World Games programme.

“At this year’s Games, we will see more than double the number of nations competing, and of the 12 countries taking part in their first World Games, three will be doing so in para-equestrian dressage.”

The team competition in Normandy will be contested by 19 nations, including Great Britain, the current world, European and Paralympic champions, which have one of the most experienced squads heading to Normandy. Germany, the London 2012 and Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2010 runners-up, will be in hot pursuit, as will the strong Irish, Danish and Dutch teams.

The Grade 1b competition is tipped to be one of the fiercest competitions in Normandy, with six world, European and Paralympic medallists going head-to-head for the first time at a World Games.

Great Britain’s “godfather” of para-equestrian dressage, Lee Pearson - triple gold medallist at the Sydney, Athens and Beijing Paralympic Games and reigning world champion - will face stiff competition from Austria’s Pepo Puch, who took freestyle gold at London 2012.

Australia’s Joann Formosa is also determined to prove that her London 2012 individual gold medal was not a one off, and Great Britain’s Ricky Balshaw, silver freestyle medallist in Beijing and at last year’s JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark, also has his eyes on the coveted world title.

In Grade Ia, Great Britain’s Sophie Christiansen will want to continue the superb form of the past few years which saw her win triple gold at London 2012 and the JYSK FEI European Para-Dressage Championships in Herning, Denmark, last year.

But she will face stiff competition from the likes of Singapore’s most-medalled athlete Laurentia Tan, Ireland’s Helen Kearney, who won individual silver and bronze and team bronze at London 2012, and Italy’s Sara Morganti, bronze medallist at the 2013 Europeans.

In Grade II, Great Britain’s Natasha Baker will be a force to be reckoned with at her first World Games. Baker won three gold medals at her first Europeans in 2011, Great Britain’s first gold of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and at the 2013 European Championships, she scored team, individual and freestyle gold.

Her strongest competition in Normandy is expected to come from Germany’s London 2012 silver and bronze medallists Britta Näpel and Angelika Trabert. The USA’s Rebecca Hart, fifth in London, could also be a medal contender.

Grade III is expected to be a close battle between Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands. Germany’s Hannelore Brenner, the London 2012 individual and freestyle gold medallist and defending world champion, is pitched against Denmark’s Annika Lykke Risum, double bronze medallist at London 2012 and runner up in Kentucky. The Netherlands’ Sanne Voets, who won the freestyle title at last year’s Europeans, is also expected to be strong.

Great Britain’s Sophie Wells will start as favourite in Grade IV, aiming to defend her individual and freestyle world titles. Her main competition is likely to come from Belgium’s individual and freestyle London 2012 gold medallist Michèle George, who was also freestyle runner up in 2010.

The 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games kick off with the first team test on Monday 25 August, and the first individual medals will be awarded on Wednesday 27 August.