The three leading contenders for the Longines Global Champions Tour crown have spoken exclusively of tomorrow’s amazing title showdown and their excitement about the new Global Champions League launching in 2016.
World No1 Scott Brash, multiple Grand Prix winner Luciana Diniz and Olympic silver medallist and European Champion Rolf-Göran Bengtsson gathered together ahead of the knife edge €1.4 million Tour final in AL SHAQAB, Doha, on Saturday evening.
The three top riders, who have collectively won seven of the 15 Grand Prix this year, gave their insight into tomorrow’s epic sporting climax to the sensational 2015 season and their excitement about the new GCL Team Competition starting next year.
Double Tour Champion and ranking leader Scott Brash (GBR) confirmed he will be competing on his Olympic gold medal horse Hello Sanctos and said: “I think it’s very tight; down to the wire again, as it always seems to be in Doha! I think we’re looking forward to great sport on Saturday night here and we’re all happy to be here. I’m very lucky that Sanctos likes jumping in Doha, it seems to be a lucky ring for us. It’s nice to be coming in as Tour leader, but [Luciana and Rolf] are hot on my heels so we’re going to have to try and produce another great performance in Doha.”
His closest rival Luciana Diniz (POR) also spoke about the intense battle for the championship crown: “I’m very happy to be here. Last year I helped [Scott] by being second, so maybe this year he will help me to win – that would be the greatest present he could give me! We will all ride for [the win], but also it depends on the day, the performance of the day, how the horses are feeling, how we are feeling and who has the most luck. For sure all of us will do our best.”
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, who narrowly missed out on winning the title last year, said: “We had a real battle last year and it was a great class. It was super, super close – it couldn’t be more close! Casall ASK has been tremendous this season again, all the time in the second round – he’s very good. [Casall’s consistency] shows his quality; I’ve been trying and have equalled the points, but not having the wins enough to get the nose in front. To be here again in this position that’s strong – I feel very happy about my horse, and to be here.”
Riders also spoke about the Global Champions League, the new team-based competition that will herald a new era in show jumping, launching in 2016. The new format will trigger fascinating new tactical battles and energise the sport by creating new rivalries and alliances. Already riders are looking ahead to the transformational new format which will inject fresh excitement for fans and TV audiences worldwide.
Olympic gold medalilst and Tour title holder Scott Brash said of the new team competition: “It’s very very good and very interesting; I think it is the next step for our sport and if we can follow football and Formula 1 it is going to be very healthy for our sport. I am very happy to be involved in our sport at this time.” In another interview about the new team competition Scott added: “Next year it will be very, very exciting. It brings our sport to another level. I think it will make a difference to fans because it become even more popular. Hopefully our sport can one day be along with the likes of tennis and Formula 1 and this is really exciting.”
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson commented: “I think it is good for our sport to involve more people. I am looking forward to it, it can be a great thing.” In another interview Rolf also spoke of the impact of the new team-based League and the attraction for fans. He said: “When we have popular riders in good teams it is good for the fans also. I think this League could help to grow fans around the teams, it is interesting to follow and also the set up of the team with two top riders and also other riders that can come in, maybe younger riders.”
Luciana Diniz also spoke of the positive effect on the sport: “For me as an individual rider I never have a team, so having a team together with me will be a very nice feeling and a very good thing for the sport.”
Teams will consist of a squad of five riders – a maximum of two riders from the Top 30 and one under 25 years of age – two of whom will be selected to compete in each team competition. The overall Global Champions League ranking will be based on each team’s points earned at every League event through the 2016 season. The new format will see Olympic and World Champions in action every Friday at 15 sensational LGCT destinations around the world.
Other top riders also spoke enthusiastically about riding in the new teams and the positive impact on show jumping with the introduction of Global Champions League.
US rider Lauren Hough, currently 10th in the overall Tour ranking, said: “[LGCT] gets better every year; we’re ten years into it and there’s some exciting things to come next year. It’s going to be very exciting for the sport and a lot of promise ahead. There’s always another element to it when you’re riding not just for yourself and I think it’s going to be really exciting.”
Ben Maher: “It’s a new dimension to the sport. I think it’s a fantastic idea, will possibly revolutionise the sport – bring in more money, bigger audiences and hopefully great things for riders and horses. It’s slightly different than competing for your country, you’ll be competing for a team which is a new development in our sport. It always spurs you on and gives added excitement to everyday when we come out and ride, and if you’re riding for each other it’s definitely going to be fun for the riders.”
Harrie Smolders: “It’s never normally possible to get in a team with different nationalities so I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s going to be really interesting for our sport to see how it will develop but I think it can take our sport to a higher level worldwide.”
During their interview overlooking the sparkling waters of the Gulf, Scott, Luciana and Rolf also paid tribute to their fans and the messages of support ahead of tomorrow’s final.
Scott commented: “My fans are fantastic, the letters and emails that we receive are just… It’s really encouraging and really nice to hear all these kind words from people and it’s great to hear that people are following our sport.”
Rolf agreed, emphasising that the horses get just as much attention as the riders: “Casall gets many fan mails! It’s very nice to have the support behind you and it’s nice sharing the words when you go into a final like this.”
Global Champions Tour Press Realease