There are just two qualification routes left for teams to book Olympic places for Paris next year. The last will come at the Pan-American Games, which will take place in Santiago, Chile, in the last week of October, and will award two places to the highest-placed as-yet-unqualified teams — but before we get there, we’ve got one place up for grabs at the Nations Cup finale at Boekelo in the Netherlands, which will be held from October 5–8. The Olympic berth there is awarded not necessarily to the highest-place unqualified team at the competition itself, but rather, to the highest-placed unqualified team in the overall FEI Nations Cup series standings.
Though the qualification will only be technically confirmed at the close of the series, there’s actually one way it can go — and that’s the way of the Italians.
The Boekelo qualification route was originally set to be a showdown between Italy and Spain; after the seventh leg of the series, which took place at Arville in Belgium from August 17–20, Italy sat in second place on the global standings with 440 points, and Spain sat fourth on 395. All those teams around them, down to eighth place on the leaderboard, have already gained their qualification, while Austria, the next unqualified country in ninth place, sits on 205 points and is thus unable to catch up in the final leg, at which the maximum achievable number of points is 100, earned by the winner.
Spain’s focus for the latter part of the season was determinedly on this Nations Cup route: they opted not to send a team to the European Championships, citing their small number of top level horses and riders, who they felt would be better served focusing on Arville later on that month and gaining ground on the Nations Cup standings as a result. They ultimately finished eighth at Arville, gaining 45 points and putting them just 45 behind Italy going into this final leg. Now, though, that lack of depth to their qualified riders has meant that they haven’t been able to field a team for the final leg at Boekelo, and will not send any riders, thus pulling them out of the Paris race and handing that final ticket to Italy.
“This Olympic qualification makes us proud,” says FISE Sports Director Francesco Girardi in a translated statement from the Italian Federation. “It arrives before the last stage of the FEI Nations Cup Circuit, in advance — as had already happened for the Tokyo 2020 Games when the pass was obtained on the occasion of the European Championships in Luhmühlen — and this confirms the excellent work carried out over the course of this sporting season by our athletes, their horses, their team, the owners, sponsors and all the federal staff. It is absolutely not an easy goal to achieve: there are many events all over Europe and this year they were concentrated in the same period, so it was not easy to put together consistently competitive teams for such prestigious events. This is a starting point; in 2024 we will prepare ourselves as best we can to arrive in Paris in good shape. They will be challenging Olympics, organized in France and therefore certainly with an extremely technical cross country course. We are happy for this goal, which we had all set for ourselves together and obviously now we have immediately had a bigger one: in Paris 2024 we are aiming for a prestigious result.”
“I couldn’t be happier, and I would like to immediately congratulate and thank the entire team for this success that we have achieved after a year of great work, together with the management, the Sports Direction team, to the chef d’equipe Giacomo Dalla Chiesa, to the team veterinarian Dr. Marco Eleuteri and the federal offices whose support is fundamental,” says Team Manager and selector Katherine Ferguson Lucheschi. “We have experienced an exciting, challenging season and today we share this beautiful result. They have been seven very intense Nations Cup stages and the eighth one we will take part in in Boekelo will be so too. The pairs did their best in all the events, confirming a period of positive results for the blue team, and I am sure that the riders and riders — whom I already thank for their availability for a possible call-up — will continue to give the maximum in view of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”
Italy has six riders and seven horses named for Boekelo, though which will ride for the team, and which will ride individually, has not yet been confirmed. These athletes are:
- Evelina Bertoli and Quick Joe
- Daniele Bizzarro and Stormhill Riot
- Fabio Fani Ciotti and Suttogo Georg
- Umberto Riva and Falconn Sunheup Z
- Paolo Torlonia and ESI Bethany Bay
- Giovanni Ugolotti and Billy Hennessy and Duke of Champions