Greek riders returned to their familiar position of dominance at the FEI Balkan Dressage Championships for Children, Juniors and Seniors 2014 which took place at Novi Sad in Serbia last weekend.
Traditionally the ones to beat, they had to share the top step of the podium with Bulgarian and Turkish athletes when the spoils were distributed more evenly at the 2013 Championships in Yagodovo, Bulgaria last summer. However normal order was restored this time around, with a hat-trick of team gold, all three medals in the Senior Individual Championship, gold and silver in the Children’s Individual category and Individual silver in the Junior Championship all going to Greek competitors.
The 2014 Championships attracted entries from Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania and Serbia, and the host nation had plenty to celebrate when Bojana Stojanov claimed Junior Individual gold. It was the first time in 31 years for Balkan Championships in any FEI discipline to take place on Serbian soil.
It was also the first time for an FEI President to visit Serbia. While attending the event, Princess Haya said she was really honoured to be amongst “lovely people in a beautiful country!”
The FEI Balkan Dressage Championships, which were first staged in Istanbul, Turkey back in 1968, have developed into an essential component for the development of equestrian sport in the region, with different countries specialising in varying disciplines but working well together on a regional basis.
Novi Sad, the second-largest city in Serbia, lies on the banks of the River Danube and is known regionally as Serbian Athens due to its strong cultural links and values.
The Ground Jury for this year’s fixture consisted of Slovenia’s Maja Stukelj, Germany’s Ulrike Nivelle, Italy’s Barbara Ardu, Bulgaria’s Maria Zvonimirova Todorovska-Omari and Elisabeth Koffmahn from Austria, while Foreign Technical Delegate was Belgium’s Jacques van Daele.
The Greeks topped the Children’s Team Championship by a considerable margin when racking up a score of 198.033. Melina Zografou-Alexiou and Nocsley really boosted their country’s chances with an individual score of 69.034, the best on the day, and when Markella Metaxa and Golden Eagle scored 65.275 and Eleni Retsou and Grace posted 63.724 then the 61.759 awarded to Evdokia-Lida Agnesti and Nonchaloir was the discard.
Daria Maria Paliciuc (Zaina), Darius Comanescu (Magnolia) and Iustin Nacu (Sharif) claimed silver for Romania on a total of 170.069 while Serbia, also only fielding three riders, took the bronze on a score of 160.999. Serbia’s Anja Markovic produced the second-best score of the Team Championship when posting 65.586 with Mango, while team-mates Nikoleta Zidisic (Celine) and Anastasija Pavkovic (Haya) scored 52.034 and 43.379 respectively.
And Anja Markovic was back on the podium when taking bronze in the Individual Children’s Championship. Melina Zografou-Alexiou and Noxley were defending champions and proved untouchable for the gold again when posting a strong mark of 70.179, while her Greek counterpart, Markella Metaxa, took silver with a score of 66.570.
The Greeks also had a significant victory in the Junior Team Championship when posting a combined score of 190.351 ahead of the silver medallists from Bulgaria with 174.081 and the bronze medallists from Serbia who finished close behind with 173.108.
Highest score of the day was achieved by Isabella-Nina Ravini and Djona’s Figaro who led the Greek assault with a mark of 66.459 while Konstantina Katsiti rode Chiron to a mark of 62.162 and Kyveli Tzortzaki and Highnessy Newland rounded up the Greek total when putting 61.730 on the board.
Bulgaria was the only four-member team in this competition, and Katerina Tsvetanova and Preslav – members of the silver-medal-winning Junior team in 2013 – produced their best result with 62.568. Martin Dimitrov and Whanyano scored 56.486, Krassina Krusteva and Diogen who were also on last year’s silver medal winning side scored 55.027 and Iva Todorova and Gigantik earned a mark of 53.459.
Bojana Stojanov posted Serbia’s top score in the Team event with a mark of 63.351 while team-mates Sara Poparic (Quincon Z) and Julija Ribnikar (Lord of the Dance) posted 58.865 and 50.892 respectively to leave the host nation in bronze medal position.
But in the Junior Freestyle to Music which would decide the Individual medals it was Serbia’s Stojanov who impressed the judges most for a winning score of 67.550. The Greeks had to settle for silver here when Isabella-Nina Ravini was awarded 66.825 and Bulgaria’s Tsvetanova claimed the third step of the podium for her mark of 65.925.
The gold-medal-winning Greek Senior team included three of the four riders who also clinched the FEI Balkan Dressage Team title in 2013. Eleni Myrat (Solon Hit) and Angela Sklavounos (Quanderas) were riding the same horses as they did last year, but Katerina Los partnered Sir Eon this time around and these three were joined by Evangelia Koupenou and Huligan to complete the Greek line-up.
Myrat produced the top score of the Team competition when posting 69.526, and with 65.474 from Los, 63.395 from Koupenou and 62.947 from Sklavounos their total of 197.395 left them more than 14 marks ahead of Bulgaria in silver medal spot.
Stepanie Gatcheva led the way for Bulgaria when posting 63.158 with Breyv Izabel and that was backed up by 61.105 from Raiko Ganukov and Ambrozia and 59.105 from Velelina Sokolova (Neptune).
The bronze medallists from Serbia were more than 20 marks further in arrears with their team total of 161.105 consisting of 58.447 from Aleksandar Dansin (Quinta), 54.763 from Simonida Simic (Legolas) and 47.895 from Nora Pocek (Dzeronimo).
Sklavounos and Quanderas were the defending individual champions, but their score of 66.700 was only good enough for bronze this time around as Greek team-mate Katerina Los scored 68.725 for silver and 37-year-old Myrat, individual silver medallist in 2013, reigned supreme with the consistent Solon Hit when posting 69.950 for Individual gold.
Trond Asmyr, FEI Director of Dressage and Para-Equestrian Dressage attended the FEI Balkan Dressage Championships for the first time and said he was “impressed with the number of nations participating in all three age categories. A regional championship is an excellent opportunity for athletes from different nations to come together and learn and get inspiration from each other,” he said.
FEI Balkan Dressage Championships 2014:
Senior Team Championship: GOLD - Greece 197.395: Solon Hit (Eleni Myrat) 68.526, Sir Eon (Katerina Los) 65.474, Huligan (Evangelia Koupenou) 63.395, Quanderas (Angela Sklavounos) 62.947; SILVER - Bulgaria 183.368: Breyv Izabel (Stephanie Gatcheva) 63.158, Ambrozia (Raiko Ganukov) 61.105, Neptune (Veselina Sokolova) 59.105; BRONZE - Serbia 161.105: Quinta (Aleksandar Dansin) 58.447, Legolas (Simonida Simic) 54.763, Dzeronimo (Nora Pocek) 47.895.
Senior Individual Championship: GOLD - Solon Hit (Eleni Myrat) GRE 69.950; SILVER - Sir Eon (Katerina Los) GRE 68.725; BRONZE - Quanderas (Angela Sklavounos) GRE 66.700.
Junior Team Championship: GOLD - Greece 190.351: Djona’s Figaro (Isabella-Nina Ravini) 66.459, Chiron (Konstantina Katsiti) 62.162, Highnessy Newland (Kyveli Tzortzaki) 61.730; SILVER - Bulgaria 174.081: Preslav (Katerina Tsvetanova) 62.568, Whanyano (Martin Dimitrov) 56.486, Diogen (Krassina Krusteva) 55.027, Gigantik (Iva Todorova) 53.459; BRONZE - Serbia 173.108: Hamlet VD Stuyver (Bojana Stojanov) 63.351, Quincon Z (Sara Poparic) 58.865, Lord of the Dance (Julija Ribnikar) 50.892.
Junior Individual Championship: GOLD - Hamlet VD Stuyver (Bojana Stojanov) SRB 67.550 SILVER - Djona’s Figaro (Isabella-Nina Ravini) GRE 66.825; BRONZE - Preslav (Katerina Tsvetanova) BUL 65.925.
Children’s Team Championship: GOLD - Greece 198.033: Nocsley (Melina Zografou- Alexiou) 69.034, Golden Eagle (Markella Metaxa) 65.275, Grace (Eleni Retsou) 63.724, Nonchaloir (Evdokia-Lida Anesti) 61.749; SILVER - Romania 170.069: Zaina (Daria Maria Paliciuc) 61.034, Magnolia (Darius Comanescu) 55.414, Sharif (Iustin Nacu) 53.621; BRONZE - Serbia 160.999: Mango (Anja Markovic) 65.586, Celine (Nikoleta Zidisic) 52.034, Haya (Anastasija Pavkovic) 43.379.
Children’s Individual Championship: GOLD - Nocsley (Melina Zografou-Alexiou) 70.179 GRE; SILVER - Golden Eagle (Markella Metaxa) 66.750 GRE; BRONZE - Mango (Anja Markovic) SRB 62.607.