Saudi Arabia won the team jumping title at the Arab Games 2011 in Qatar on Wednesday. Team-members were (L-R) Kamal Bahamdan, HH Prince Faisal Al Shalan, HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saud, and Khaled Al Eid. © Reuters
And the host country turned the tables in the very last equestrian event of the Games when, in the tussle for the Individual title on Friday, Qatar's Ali Al Rumaihi and Ravenna pinned Saudi Arabia's Kamal Bahamdan (Noblesse des Tess) and Prince Faisal Al Shalan (Aphrodite van het Texelhof) into silver and bronze.
A total of eight countries lined out in the Nations Cup which took place on Wednesday, and after the first two rounds of jumping over the course designed by Belgium's Luc Musette, there was a four-way tie on a zero score. All four riders from each team therefore jumped once again, and although Saudi Arabia's HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saud and Senorita picked up eight faults this time out, his team-mates Prince Faisal, Kamal Bahamdan, and Olympic individual bronze medallist Khaled Al Eid (Von Hoeve) - whose record in the Arab Games is quite remarkable - stayed clear and fast to record the quickest combined time of 116.17 seconds.
But this was only just over two seconds better than the 118.55 registered by the Egyptians whose Abdelkader Said (Duc de Mariposa), Nayel Nassar (Raging Bull Vangelis S) and Karim El Zoghby (Jument Dufee) were foot-perfect while Ahmed Tolba (Splendor) collected just four faults.
The team from Qatar was almost four seconds further adrift when taking the bronze, as Mubarak Al Rumaihi (LB Casanova) left a fence on the floor while Sheikh Ali Al Thani (Sieshof's Abraskas), Faleh Al Ajami (Logo 28) and Ali Rumaihi (Ravenna) all kept a clean sheet.
The UAE, meanwhile, had to add the four-fault result from Sheikh Shakhboot Al Nehayan (Valentino Valia) to the clears from both Sheika Latifa Al Maktoum (Peanuts De Beaufour) and Nadia Taryam (Larina) and this kept them out of the medals. As Sheika Latifa said afterwards: "that's the sport, and it is the beauty of it. We tried, but it was too difficult".
Winning Saudi Arabian team-member Khaled Al Eid said his horse, Van Hoeve, did everything he asked him. "The Arab Games are always very important, and the pressure here is heavier than at some 5-Star Grands Prix!".
Egypt's Karim El Zoghby was delighted with his team silver medal. "I am very proud of my team. It was real team work to get the medal and we had a very young team - apart from me!. To have a jump-off with four teams is amazing. At the Arab Games it was always one or maybe two teams (in contention), and now we have four in the jump-off. That is a big improvement. Some time soon we may even have six teams on an equal level. That is great," he said.
And French Olympic rider, Herve Godignon, who coaches the UAE's Sheikh Shakhboot Al Nehayan, added, "Arab countries have progressed so much. They ride like every other country in the world now," he said.
The individual showdown was another classic, with everything hanging in the balance until the last hoof touched the ground on the landing side of the final fence. Ibrahim Bisharat and the 12 year old stallion Lancelot du Paradis were first to go in the four-horse jump-off but hit the second fence to return with four faults in 46.81 seconds.
"It happens!", said the Jordanian rider afterwards, "there's nothing you can do about it. It is certainly not my horse's fault. I was maybe sitting a little behind the movement, and then a bit too strong with my hand, so he made this mistake," he said.
Next up was Prince Faisal Al Shalan from Saudi Arabia who flew around the course in the quickest time of 46.63 seconds with the 11-year-old mare Aphrodite van het Texelhof but also collecting four faults en route, so it was still all to play for as the final two riders took their turn.
Prince Faisel's Saudi counterpart, Kamal Bahamdam, really piled on the pressure when breaking the beam with a fault-free effort from the 10-year-old mare Noblesse des Tess - formerly ridden by Colombia's Rene Lopez - who crossed the line in 47.97 seconds, and now it was all up to Al Rumaihi. And he didn't flinch, galloping home with the 13-year-old Ravenna to claim gold when the clock showed 47.17 seconds.
But he admitted that it was a nerve-tingling ride. "It was not easy, it was the split of a second, and at times it felt like mission impossible!" the new champion said afterwards.
His victory left Qatar at the top of the equestrian medal table for the 2011 Arab Games, with Team and Individual gold along with Individual silver in Dressage, and Team bronze and Individual gold in Jumping.
This was the first time for Qatar to host the event which is staged on a four-year cycle and embraces 24 different sports. Khalifa International Stadium was the main competition venue, but the equestrian activities took place at the Al-Shaqab Arena and at the Mesaieed Endurance Course, with keen rivalry in all three disciplines.
Equestrian sport joined the Arab Games at Rabat, Malta in 1985 and subsequently visited Damascus, Syria in 1992, Beirut, Lebanon in 1997, Amman, Jordan in 1999, Algiers, Algeria in 2004 and Cairo, Egypt in 2007. Jumping has been included on the schedule since 1985, with Endurance joining the programme in 1999 and Dressage in 2007. FEI President, HRH Princess Haya, won individual Jumping bronze at Damascus in 1992.
GOLD - KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA 116.17, Aphrodite van het Texel (Prince Faisal Al Shalan), Senorita (HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saud), Noblesse des Tess (Kamal Bahamdan), Van Hoeve (Khaled Al Eid);
SILVER - EGYPT 118.55, Duc de Mariposa (Abdelkader Said), Splendor (Ahmed Tolba), Raging Bull Vangelis (Nayel Nassar), Jument Dufee (Karim El Zoghby);
BRONZE - QATAR 122.14, Sieshof's Abraskas (Sheika Ali Al Thani), LB Casanova (Mubarak Al Rumaihi), Logo (Faleh Al Ajami), Ravenna (Ali Al Rumaihi).
GOLD - Ravenna 323 (Ali Al Rumaihi) QAT;
SILVER - Noblesse des Tess (Kamal Bahamdan) KSA;
BRONZE - Aphrodite van het Texelhof (Prince Faisal Al Shalan) KSA.