So let’s cut straight to the mustard; Britain had a great end to the FEI Top Level Nations Cup with a win in Dublin and second in Rotterdam; I am told that we will therefore win a Team medal: Oh that sport was that simple (but then it would be boring)....I would just point out to all that there are 9 Nations here that have been 1st or 2nd in a 5* Nations Cup in 2011 (the 8 FEI Nations Cup shows and Gijon CSIO5*). That is (at least) 9 Nations that have a very realistic chance of winning a Team medal....I do not think the sport this week will be boring.
For Team GBR, Madrid 2011 is about securing the best possible results in, initially, the Team competition and then, if appropriate, the Individual competition. But for all but GBR, GER, FRA and BEL, Madrid 2011 marks the final opportunity to qualify a Team Quota place for London 2012; the three best ranked Teams in the Team competition (less GBR, GER, FRA and BEL) will qualify for London 2012: It is tough being European and trying to qualify for the Games – at least 2 Teams that have been 1st or 2nd in a 5* Nations Cup in 2011 will not qualify for London 2012. Globalisation of sport is vital but it does not always sit easily with Teams from Europe in what is a Eurocentric sport.
I have already seen a number of my counterparts out here....my friend Ad Wagemakers from NED looking a little focused as, NED set out this week to secure Olympic qualification
Rob Hoekstra (World Class Programme Performance Manager for Jumping) was keen to have a training camp prior to moving in to the venue....and what a location was found...stunning
View from the training camp outside Madrid
The Team were guests of Alicia Daurella and Alfredo Fernández Duran; their beautiful estate provided the Team with exactly what was required; elite training facilities, outstanding accommodation for humans and horses and all the trimmings to help all relax, gel as a team and prepare for the Championships. Jumping riders spend so much time on the road that there is never an opportunity to unwind; Alicia and Alfredo were the perfect hosts and when I arrived on Sunday (the horses arrived last Thursday) the atmosphere was as positive as I have known within a GBR jumping team. If things go well this week then we should dedicate our success to Alicia and Alfredo. We also managed a day trip to a beautiful estate some 100 kms from where we were training.....and an estate full of wild pigs....I seem to have an affinity with wild pigs....we communicate.
Yes, where we went was very comfortable and we were very well looked after but it was time extremely well spent and I think Rob made a great call. This is a sport where week in week out the riders compete against each other for, quite often, decent sums of money. All 5 riders left the training camp as a team ready to do their very very best. Unfortunately only 4 can compete and Rob (having met with co-selector Di Lampard) has had the difficult task of telling one that they are now the non jumping reserve – I am not sure whether the process has been completed so I will not name the 4 or the, bound to be very disappointed, 5th rider. Sometimes being a Chef d’Equipe is a lonely job.
We all left the training camp around midday on Monday. I understand that Jeremy Clarkson may be the new voice of Tom Tom....I think Mr Clarkson may have had something to say about our journey...the intended (I think not....excuses, excuses) fly past of the Madrid Bull Ring....might have attracted a Clarksonian comment.
So on arrival there were riders and Performance Directors bedding down the stables (I have a blister to prove that I undertook manual work) and then Nick Bob the Builder Skelton set about hanging a sun screen above the aisle between the two blocks of stables. Riders also proved themselves to be closet sparkies (electricians), running cables to each stable so fans could be hung to keep the stables cool. Andy Fingers Thomas proved himself a right little interior designer hanging flags and bunting oh so decoratively....All in all the stables now look very smart: I hope the horses appreciate the efforts!
I look out from my hotel over Madrid; towering above the skyline are four skyscrapers – I hope and pray that by Friday evening there will be 4 British rider/ horse skyscrapers towering above the opposition here in Madrid.