Laura Kraut clinched victory for Team USA at the fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 2 series in Sopot, Poland today. But the 51-year-old double-Olympian had to ride for her life in the edge-of-the-seat third-round jump-off to beat Dutch teenager Sanne Thijssen (18) whose breathtaking performances with Con Quidam RB had the spectators riveted to their seats.
This was vintage Nations Cup competition, Olaf Petersen Jr’s testing track producing plenty of surprises including an unexpected early exit for experienced sides from Great Britain, Ireland, Norway and Russia along with the Polish hosts at the end of the first round. The Americans were well out in front with just a single time fault at the halfway stage, but the Dutch fought back from fifth place to chase them right down to the wire.
Kraut knew what she had to do when following Thijssen against the clock. “Sanne is a great rider, always very fast. Robert Ridland (USA Chef d’Equipe) told me you’ve got a fence to work with, so just try to out-race her so that you will beat her even if you have a fence down,” she said.
Just two faults separated Hungary, Portugal, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Belgium as round two began, and the addition of just two more to their 11-fault total would leave the Dutch on level pegging with the Americans in the closing stages when Aniek Poels (Athene) and Doron Kuipers (Charley) collected single time faults and Thijssen’s spring-heeled stallion jumped spectacularly clear.
Team USA added 12 second time out, Lauren Hough (40) and Waterford fell victim to the penultimate triple combination and Paris Sellon (25) also faulted there and at the water with Cassandra. But 20-year-old Chloe Reid’s rounds with her sensational 10-year-old stallion Codarco were another highlight of a day when young riders simply sparkled, and when this pair followed their first-round clear with just a single mistake then Kraut’s second clear halted the American decline and confirmed a showdown with the Dutch.
Thijssen’s little wonder-horse posted the jump-off target at four faults in 38.03 seconds – “he’s special, there are not many horses like him, he’s so careful he wants to jump the course himself and forgets that I’m sitting on him!”, she said. But Kraut cranked up the speed after hitting the second fence to post the winning time of 36.29.