Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bahrain: Riders ready for European Open



Gulf-daily-news.com

September 23, 2009

BAHRAIN'S national endurance horse ride team arrived in Assisi, Italy, yesterday ahead of the European Championship Open 2009, which gets underway tomorrow.

The team, being led by Royal Endurance Team captain Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, reached the venue via Amsterdam after spending a night in Rome.

Upon their arrival in Assisi, the team began training to acclimatise themselves to the location prior to the championship. Their horses had already been shipped.

In this weekend's event, which is regarded as one of the world's most challenging championships, the Bahrainis will be looking to conclude their annual camp in Europe on a high note.

Shaikh Nasser spurred the squad to a number of great results in their previous races in Europe this year. The team's first appearance in European competition was in the Compiegne Ride in France where the they successfully took a place on the podium.

That was followed by a first-place finish in the team category of the Thetford Ride in the UK and then they maintained their momentum to claim victory in the 160km Open Championship in Germany.

In this event, Shaikh Nasser will be accompanied by the Bahrain Royal Equestrian and Endurance Federation president Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa and some of Bahrain's most prominent riders.

It will be the second time for the team to compete in Italy, having participated in the World Junior Championship in 2003 in Rome where Shaikh Nasser led a group of Bahrainis to their maiden appearance in such an event.

Shaikh Nasser confirmed that the team had reached a good level of fitness and were now set to compete with the continent's best riders, adding that both the horses and riders had been well-prepared during their summer camp in Europe.

The Bahrain Olympic Committee president said he was confident that the team would again clinch a place on the podium after successfully taking an overall third-place finish in the previous edition of the championship in Portugal two years ago.

Morale

Shaikh Nasser confirmed that the team's recent impressive participation in European races would certainly lift the team's morale prior to the prestigious Italian championship.

However, this weekend's event will also be part of the Bahraini team's World Equestrian Games which is set to take place in Kentucky, the US, from September 25 to October 10 next year.

The natural scenario of Assisi has been chosen to host the European Endurance Championship Open 2009, the most important event of the year for this discipline.

The championship takes place every two years, on a distance of 160 km, and involves - like its name suggests - European nations as well as nations around the world, after the decision of the FEI in 2001 to add 'Open' in the event's title given the growing importance of the discipline.

The last edition took place in Portugal with 88 riders from 20 different countries attending the event.

At tomorrow's opening ceremony, which takes place at Assisi's municipal square instead of in the stadium, each nation will pass by in procession with its own flag in a mediaeval atmosphere and setting.

The highlight of the event will be on Saturday when the best world riders will compete against one another, among them the official national teams of the countries of the Gulf region.