Qatar also claims Tokyo ticket
by Louise Parkes
FEI Press Release, additional quotes supplied by Dutch journalist Robert Hüsken, onsite in Rabat
The Egyptian side of Mohamed Taher Zeyada, Nayel Nassar, Abdel Said and Sameh El Dahan won today’s Group F Olympic Jumping qualifier at Rabat in Morocco in the finest style. Completing with just four faults over two tough rounds of Nations Cup competition, they pinned Switzerland into second and Italy into third place. There were six countries from this region – Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – chasing down two available places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. And it was the Qataris who booked the second slot when finishing eighth of the 14 competing nations.
It was history-making stuff for today’s winners, as the last time an Egyptian showjumping team competed at an Olympic Games was 59 years ago, in Rome in 1960.
“It’s incredible!” said third-line rider Abdel Said who collected just a single time penalty in each round with Venise du Reverdy. “When we came here we knew we had a good chance because our riders are strong and compete all over the world. But not only to qualify for Tokyo but to also win this Nations Cup is a huge boost for us! This has been a target for the last two years. We really wanted to qualify and we took a gamble with the team we sent to Barcelona (for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final two weeks ago) but it didn’t work out great. But we brought our “A” team here and this has happened – it’s unbelievable!” he added.
They were already in the hunt at the halfway stage, sharing second place with Switzerland when both carried just one time fault. Brazil’s Bernardo Alves (El Torreo de Muze), Felipe Amaral (Quinn 33), Rodrigo Mesquita Marinho (Edesa’s Basantos) and Pedro Veniss (For Felicila) led the way on a zero scoreline while Canada was lying third with five on the board and the Qataris were already in eighth place carrying 10.
But the Brazilians lost their grip on pole position when racking up 14 faults second time out over the course designed by Irishman Alan Wade. And when Andy Kistler’s Swiss side of Elian Baumann (Campari Z), Anthony Bourquard (Tum Play du Jouas), Marc Rothlisberger (Agatha d’Ecaussines) and Alain Jufer (Cornet MM) had to add four more faults to their tally then the door was open for the Egyptians.
Because Zeyada reduced his first-round 12-fault discount score with Vizalaty to just two time faults at his second attempt, so when Nasser and Lucifer V posted a brilliant double-clear and Said registered only his second single time penalty of the day then that would do it. The Swiss were on a final total of five while Egypt had just four on their scoresheet. El Dahan and his super-mare, Suma’s Zorro, looked set to put the icing on the cake by reducing that to just one fault with another double-clear performance, but not even their pole down could spoil the Egyptian celebrations. It was a huge moment for these four men who were putting their country right back on the Olympic Jumping map.
They were bursting with pride, and rightly so. The hard-working Said, who runs his own business in Antwerp, Belgium, sourcing and producing young horses and coaching riders while also competing, described his 10-year-old mare Venise as “a very raw and rough diamond who is only coming together over the last few months, but she is tough and has all the power in the world!” Maybe she will be the one who will take him to Tokyo. “It’s where we all want to get to, I’ve always dreamed of competing at the Olympic Games!“, he said this evening.
Qatar’s 28-fault scoreline was good enough to earn the second Tokyo ticket. Hamad Nasser Al Qadi (SIEC Lonnie) posted 14 faults, Sheikh Ali Al Thani (Sirocco) collected nine, Rashid Towaim Ali Al Marri (Armstrong van de Kapel) picked up 15 faults and Bassem Mohammed (Gunder) produced their best score with a total of five.
“Congratulations to all who helped us make it to the Olympics for a second time. We are very excited about it!”, Bassem Mohammed said. “We competed in Rio (2016 Olympic Games) and now we go to Tokyo. It’s really important for us as riders, for the Federation and for the Olympic Committee of Qatar so we are really looking forward to it”, he added.
Eng Heshan Hatab, Egyptian Chef d’Equipe: “It’s a great feeling, I was dreaming to be here, we worked hard for that. The country supported us properly and they gave us all kinds of financial support and everything and we have really strong men with the Egyptian spirit so they can do anything!”
Sameh El Dahan: “We’ve been trying to qualify for the Olympic Games for I don’t know how many years, we spoke to each other as a team and tried to bring our best horses in top shape to the show in Rabat and we did it – we won Olympic spot and the Nations Cup so it’s a great day for Egypt! The Olympic spot was expected enough but you never know in showjumping, nothing is guaranteed, you maybe have the best riders and horses but anything can happen. So yes expected but you also have to have the luck of the day. In the Nations Cup we knew we were strong contenders and we would be pushing for a good place but to win it was a bit unexpected so we’re really happy – when you work as a team and everyone is pushing in the same direction it shows.
Zorro a great mare, riding her for eight years, she’s done the most amazing things for me, we’ve won so many Grand Prix all over the world. I know her inside out, she’s a chestnut mare and she fights for me, she brings that stubborness in the ring in a good way to help me jump clear rounds. In the first round today we really needed a clear round and I always say I am lucky to have a horse like her that I am so confident to ride because I know she is always going to do her best.
I’ve done Championships and two World Cup Finals but you’re kind of riding for yourself, but when you take the weight of a whole nation on your shoulders with the other three riders to bring what we’ve been dreaming of for 60 years then the pressure is immense, actually that’s a small word for the pressure we had, it was a long week for us but pressure is about how you handle it and today we showed we could do it and hopefully now we can make a good plan for the Olympic Games.
I’m over the moon, I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little kid, to represent Egypt in an Olympic Games and I’m 35 now, do the job now is to go there and try to get a medal!”