HK riders in strong finish at FEI Nations Cup
Hong Kong's bid to qualify for next year's Olympic Games in London got a shot in the arm when the showjumping team finished 12th, in their first outing this season, at the FEI Nations Cup in Copenhagen.
'It was a creditable result considering we were missing one of our key riders and that another [rider] had a young horse,' said Hong Kong Equestrian Federation secretary Sacha Eckjans, who is also the Hong Kong Jockey Club's manager of equestrian affairs.
The four-star competition was won by Ireland while Hong Kong finished above traditional powerhouses Brazil, France and Norway. Hong Kong are preparing for the FEI Championship, July 9-10, in Aachen, Germany, which also serves as a qualifier for the London Olympics.
'The fact that we left three top teams behind us is a plus,' Eckjans said. 'This was a four-star event, a very competitive one - almost like Formula One - and we were up against some of the best riders in the world. This performance is a huge boost.'
Hong Kong were missing Jacqueline Lai Jing-man, who is making a steady recovery after fracturing her pelvis in a fall in February.
'We had to bring in a reserve rider, Raena Leung, for Jacqueline and she did remarkably well,' Eckjans said. 'Another of our riders, Kenneth [Cheung Man-kit] was riding an eight-year-old horse, which in showjumping terms is relatively young.'
The biggest disappointment was the performance of Patrick Lam, who registered 12 faults. The best round came from Samantha Lam, riding Jockey Club Crunship, whose faultless display lifted Hong Kong.
'We knew it would be a tough competition, but we chose to send our team to one of the toughest competitions before the Olympic qualifiers,' Eckjans said. 'If Jacqueline recovers and rejoins the team in July, we have a pretty good chance of getting a good result.'
Hong Kong will be up against six or seven other countries in Germany - all from Asia or Eastern Europe - and they will be vying for one berth at the Olympics.
'We will have to win that qualifier. None of the competition was around in Denmark last weekend. I don't know if this is a good or bad sign for every nation chooses a different build-up,' Eckjans said. 'We chose to go down this route and we are happy with the outcome. The horses are okay and the riders will have benefited from the tough competition.'
At the 2008 Olympics, Hong Kong had a team in showjumping as they hosted the equestrian events and thus had an easier qualifying route.