29 September 2013

Izsák: Double Gold for The Netherlands!

After a breath taking obstacle driving competition, Theo Timmerman (NED) won the eighth edition of the FEI European Four-in-Hand Driving Championships in Izsák (HUN). The individual silver medal went to Tomas Eriksson (SWE), Zoltán Lázár (HUN) won the bronze medal. The Dutch team with Timmerman, Koos de Ronde and IJsbrand Chardon successfully defended their golden team medal and will remain European Champion for another two years. The silver medal was won by Germany, the bronze went to host nation Hungary.

The number five of the standings after dressage and marathon Georg von Stein (GER) was the first driver to pass the finish line within the time allowed and without any knockdowns. Von Stein herewith also secured the team silver for Germany, who was in a neck-to-neck race with Hungary. Zoltán Lázár was in fourth position and equalled Von Stein’s clear round which put the pressure even more on Tomas Eriksson. Eriksson could not afford a knock down or he would loose his bronze medal. The double World Champion however drove a fast and double clear round, securing his bronze. Koos de Ronde was on silver and he could also not afford any penalty points. Unfortunately Koos knocked a ball of the fourth cone and dropped to the fourth place. Last starter Theo Timmerman refrained from stress and nerves and entered the arena, silently followed by the many spectators. The tension grew as Timmerman continued driving clear and the discharge amongst the Dutch team was enormous when he remained faultless within time, securing his gold medal.

It was the first time in the Driving history that Izsák hosted an international Driving Championship. The accommodation and organisation ensured excellent conditions for this Championship, which will enter the history books as a very successful edition. Carriage driving sport is very popular in Hungary, which was shown by the large number of spectators visiting the event during the three competition days. Apart from storm and rain during the opening ceremony, Izsák was blessed with good weather conditions for both horses and people throughout the event.

World Champion pair driving (1997) and four-in-hand driving (2004) Zoltán Lázár was member of the Hungarian team that won the gold only four weeks ago at the FEI World Pair Driving Championships in Topol’cianky (SVK), where he won individual bronze as well. Lázár went back to driving a four-in-hand immediately after Topol’cianky to prepare for Izsák. The pair he drove at the World Championships formed the leaders of his four-in-hand in Izsák. Lázár finished fourth in dressage and fifth in the marathon and was on fourth position in the standings. The 40-year-old businessman however kept his head cool in the cones and drove clear. After Koos de Ronde knocked a ball down, it became clear that Lázár had won the individual bronze medal.

Only two weeks before the start of the event, course designer Dr. Wolfgang Asendorf (GER) suddenly had to withdraw from his function at Izsák due to an ear disease. Gábor Fintha (HUN), who recently built his first World Championship in Topol’cianky, replaced Asendorf. The obstacles and the cones course were much praised by the competitors and their teams. Fintha competed himself as an individual driver for Hungary at the European four-in-hand Championships in 1977 and 1981. In 1975, he was at the European Championships as a groom for György Bárdos (HUN), who was member of the gold medal team.

Georg von Stein put down the best German performance, finishing fifth in the individual results and contributing to the silver medal for Germany in all three phases of the competition. The German team consisted beside Von Stein of Michael Brauchle, who finished second in the marathon and eighth overall, and the only lady driver Mareike Harm. It is the first time that the 27-year-old driver was member of the German team at a four-in-hand Championship. Mareike was member of the gold medal winning German team at the FEI World Single Driving Championships in 2010. Mareike finished on a very respectable 13th place.

The Hungarian team was composed of Zoltán Lázár and father and son József Dobrovitz senior and junior, who finished 6th and 10th in the individual results.
24-year-old Glenn Geerts (BEL), who finished, put down an outstanding performance 7th and contributed to the fourth place of the Belgian team. His 24-year-old compatriot Edouard Simonet made his debut at an international Championship in Izsák, driving a very nice team of Arabo Friesian horses.

Theo Timmerman set the base for his first ever-individual medal in the dressage competition, which he won. Timmerman was crowned Dutch Champion four-in-hand driving for the first time in his driving career three weeks ago and continued his good performances in Izsák. Theo decided to drive as fast as possible in the marathon without taking any risks. The golden team member nearly lost his chances to a good placing in the marathon when one of his wheeler horses fell in the last water obstacle which was very slippery, but luckily the horse quickly got back up and Theo was able to continue and finished 10th. He kept the lead in the standings, but was very closely followed (0,32 penalty points) by his compatriot Koos de Ronde and 2,27 difference to Tomas Eriksson, which resulted in a breath taking obstacle driving competition.

Tomas Eriksson came from far this season. In Aachen this year he announced that it would be his last competition as due to a lack of sponsors, he was unable to continue competition-driving sport. That same competition, a private sponsor stood up and came to an agreement with the double World Champion, which enabled him to continue competing for at least until after the Alltech FEI World Equestrain Games in Normandy 2014. Eriksson bought two horses, which were formerly driven in a pair, and his dressage results progressed immediately. In Izsák, Eriksson came sixth in dressage with a respectable gap between the leaders. The multiple Swedish Champion won the marathon and moved up to the bronze position in the standings. When De Ronde knocked a ball down, Eriksson took the silver.

Theo Timmerman (NED): “I started the competition very well with the first place in dressage and I was happy that I was able to keep my leading position after the marathon. I knew I had to drive clear in the cones to be able to keep the gold, but I was not stressed or nervous at all. I was able to lock myself off completely. My horses did a great job and I am so happy with my gold medals!”

Tomas Eriksson (SWE): “I could have done an even better dressage if I had been able to use both new horses, but I had been unable to qualify one of them. But I was happy anyway. In the marathon I put the new horse Pamino for the first time in the lead. That was a bit of a risk, but I new by experienced horse Saco would slow the team down too much. I really wanted to win the marathon so I gave everything I could and it went well. In the cones I used Saco again. I knew I could drive clear but Lázár put be under a lot of pressure when he drove clear. But I perform better under pressure and I proofed that today!”

Zoltán Lázár (HUN): “I am very happy with my bronze medal. I need to work on my dressage more, but I have done the best I could here in Izsák.”

Click here for the results.

Click here for the photoalbum.