International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Dr. Thomas Bach expressed his appreciation for the FEI Eventing World Championships 2022 venue during his visit to the iconic grounds in Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA) on Saturday.
Accompanied by FEI President and IOC member Ingmar De Vos, FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez, Olympic gold medallist and Chair of the FEI Eventing Committee David O’Connor and President of the Italian Equestrian Federation Marco Di Paola, President Bach had the opportunity to tour the venue, take in the cross country competition and meet with some of the sport’s top athletes.
“These are amazing facilities to see and it is a pleasure to experience a real Olympic legacy and sustainability success story,” Bach said. “I’m very impressed by the many measures the FEI has taken to safeguard the wellbeing and the health of the horses, and I am pleased with everything the International Federation is doing to ensure the future of the sport.”
The Rocca di Papa Equestrian Sports Centre, in the heart of the beautiful Parco dei Castelli Romani, was also the cross country venue at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. The cross country course designed by Event Director Giuseppe della Chiesa for the FEI World Championships, featured fences that were also used during the Olympic Games over 60 years ago.
Eventing has been an Olympic discipline since 1912, and the FEI Eventing World Championships 2022 in Pratoni del Vivaro will provide the first qualifying opportunity for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, with seven team qualifying spots on offer. More than 22,000 spectators were in attendance during cross country day which saw Germany, USA and Great Britain take the team lead going into the Jumping phase of the competition.
“We are very pleased that President Bach could join us here in Pratoni to witness some of best the discipline of Eventing has to offer,” Ingmar De Vos said. “Eventing has grown and evolved over the years, as evidenced by the incredibly high level of sportsmanship at these World Championships.
“What has remained, however, is the close knit nature of the Eventing community and the respect for good horsemanship practices. This truly is a sport where the focus is on ability and expertise, rather than gender. Women have participated alongside men in all the FEI Eventing World Championships since 1966 and I know that the amazing atmosphere here in Pratoni has only encouraged our athletes to give the best of themselves and their horses.”
The FEI Eventing World Championships has also put a spotlight on the intergenerational dynamics of the sport. At 22-years of age, Nadja Minder (SUI), Jarno Verwimp (BEL) and Alina Dibowski (GER) competed against veteran Eventer Andrew Hoy (AUS) who at 65 years, was the oldest competitor in Pratoni. Hoy, who took part in the 1978 World Championships, is already the owner of an impressive portfolio of six Olympic medals and four World Championship medals.
While there are 13 former Olympic medalists participating at the FEI World Championships in Pratoni, athletes from Lithuania and Thailand were also present to make their mark in their countries’ first ever appearance in the competition.
“Eventing is a complete test of horse and rider,” David O’Connor explained. “For the human athlete, Eventing puts their relationship with their horse well and truly under a microscope. A rider needs to be able to keep their horse centred and in a strong frame of mind during the Dressage test, and then guide the horse’s natural instincts through the challenges of a cross country course, while maintaining this focus when Jumping.
“It takes a great deal of horsemanship and expertise for the athlete and horse to carry out three completely different tests, and this relationship between the human and equine athlete is not one that is forged overnight. Patience and time is required for this mutual confidence to develop, and the athletes train as intensively as they would for any other sport.”
Catch up on EN’s coverage of the 2022 FEI World Championships for Eventing here.