24 August 2014

WEG Normandy: Four-in-hand drivers ready for titanic battle

Some 46 four-in-hand drivers from 17 nations, including world champion and title defender Boyd Exell from Australia, are getting ready for the titanic battle, which will get underway on 4 September at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian GamesTM 2014 in Normandy.

Exell will be facing a tough competition as his biggest opponent Chester Weber form the USA has firmly put his foot down this season, with victories at the key international Driving events at Windsor (GBR), Saumur (FRA) and Aachen (GER). The 2012 silver medallist, who recently became father of a baby son, Douglas, also won the test event at Caen in 2013, leaving nothing to chance.

Title defender Boyd Exell (AUS) won the CAI3* competition in Horst (NED) earlier this season. Photo: Rinaldo de Craen/FEI.

But the Australian has proven to be an excellent competitor in all circumstances and is able to keep a cool head under pressure, which guarantees a nail-biting competition until the very last minute.

Dutch driver Theo Timmerman is also aiming for a place on the individual podium. The 2013 European four-in-hand champion won in Riesenbeck (GER) and finished second at the CAI3* events in Horst (NED) and Saumur. Timmerman is in great form and is determined to improve on his individual fourth place at the FEI World Four-in-Hand Championships 2012.

Timmerman’s teammates IJsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde will do everything not only to defend their team gold, which has been in Dutch hands since 2008, but will also be battling it out for the individual honours. De Ronde finished third at Windsor, Saumur, Aachen and Riesenbeck, while Chardon settled for a top five placings at Windsor, Vecsés and Riesenbeck, trying to find the right combination of horses for his four-in-hand team.

With Germany’s leading driver Christoph Sandmann, Hungarian top drivers József Dobrovitz and Zoltán Lázár, and former world champion Werner Ulrich from Switzerland, the outcome of the competition for the individual medals is anyone’s guess.

Host nation France is well represented with eight competitors – three team members and five individuals – amongst whom several drivers from whom strong performances in the individual phases are to be expected.

A special spotlight will be on the Lusitano stallion Xisto, part of the four-in-hand of Portuguese driver Manuel Campilho. Xisto was photographed by Portuguese photographer Filipa Scarpa, who has won the top prize in the FEI Solidarity World Photo Grand Prix for her stunning image of the 11-year-old stallion.

A total of 14 teams will line up in the nations competition, in which the Netherlands is the defending champion.

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian GamesTM 2014 in Normandy is the world championship debut for 24-year-old Edouard Simonet (BEL), 35-year-old Sébastien Mourier (FRA), 27-year-old Sébastien Vincent (FRA) and 41-year-old François Vogel (FRA).

At 22, Hungary’s József Dobrovitz Jr. is the youngest driver whereas Carlo Mascheroni (ITA) is, at 74, the oldest athlete of the entire Games.

The course design is in the capable hands of FEI Level 4 Course Designer Richard Nicoll (USA), former chairman of the FEI Driving Committee, who was in charge of the course at the previous Alltech FEI World Equestrian GamesTM 2010 in Kentucky to great success.

The experienced Dr. Klaus Christ from Germany, who is also a member of the FEI Driving Committee, leads the Ground Jury.