Sunday 17th of October 2021
Showjumping

Suspense mounts ahead of LGCT Final

The final countdown to the Longines Global Champions Tour Championship kicked off today as top riders contemplated the weekend’s forthcoming showdown at AL SHAQAB in Qatar. As pressure grows ahead of the exciting season final, a pre-event press conference took place at the stunning AL SHAQAB venue, a member of the Qatar Foundation, to officially open this weekend’s top sporting action.

© LGCT / Stefano Grasso

© LGCT / Stefano Grasso

Two riders will challenge for the overall LGCT Champion of Champions crown – Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (SWE) and Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) with both revealing their title hopes and pressures as the build up continues. Rolf is five points ahead of Edwina, and the pair have been in this position before, with Edwina finishing on top in previous years. If she wins again, the top Australian rider will become the first rider in history to win the title three times, and for Rolf it will be the first time he has ever taken the title.

Speaking about the event ahead, Edwina said:

“I feel good, my horse is in fantastic shape – she was at the Olympics and came third in a show a few weeks ago. It’s exciting, I think Rolf is in a slightly easier position as basically I have to be on the podium, so I have a lot of pressure but that’s what makes our sport so exciting. I have to try to do my best and stay very focused.”

Earlier this week, LGCT Ranking leader Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (SWE) spoke about the forthcoming Grand Prix:

“The final in Doha will be special and it would be a dream to take the title. I’ve been in this position twice before so I’m hoping it’ll be third time lucky! Edwina is an amazing rider so I know it’ll be tough. But Casall is better than ever and I know together we’ll pull out all the stops at AL SHAQAB.”

Talking about the ever increasing level of competition at the LGCT events, Edwina said:

“We have the top 30 riders in the world competing, everybody is going faster and finding quicker turns all the time and that is what makes our event so exciting. As a rider you have to be pushing yourself continually.”

Top ranked rider Qatari rider Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT) made a phenomenal debut at the Olympics this year, finishing 6th individually and currently sits in the top 20 riders on the LGCT Rankings. He will compete in front of his home crowd at AL SHAQAB with his top horse, First Devision, giving local fans the chance to witness their heroes in action for the first time since the Olympic Games. Talking about what it meant to be back riding in Qatar, Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani said:

“We are honoured to have this event in Qatar, this is the final, it’s in my country – we will do our best to perform well. It is an international event and will be broadcast around the world.”

Speaking about his Olympic achievement, Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani also spoke of the honour of riding for his country and carrying the National Flag at the Games this year.

“I was proud and it pushed me to perform well because of that feeling I was carrying the Qatari flag.”

With Rolf-Goran Bengtsson confirmed to bring his formidable stallion Casall ASK, and Edwina Tops-Alexander riding her top Olympic mare, Lintea Tequila, it will be a battle of the highest class to see who finishes on top this season. Talking about her mare, Edwina said:

“She won here last year in Doha, and she’s had an amazing year. I have a fantastic groom and management.”

The high profile final of the championship takes place at AL SHAQAB in Qatar which puts the magnificent venue centre stage for equestrian sport. Omar Al Mannai, Commercial Manager of AL SHAQAB spoke of the importance of hosting the prestigious final event of the international calendar at AL SHAQAB, and how it benefits Qatari riders of all ages and helps the country develop the sport. The event also gives Qataris a unique opportunity to experience a world class equestrian event as the country builds on its involvement in the sport. He said:

“Qatari riders benefit to the maximum from events such as these here in AL SHAQAB. We are trying to promote the level of organisation and the level of the riders and we would like to be the lighthouse of equestrianism in the Arab world, and in The Gulf, and we wish success to all the participants in the event.”

Longines Global Champions Tour President and Founder Jan Tops, spoke of the significance of returning to Qatar, and AL SHAQAB hosting the final event for the third year running. Speaking in the press conference, he said:

“It is very special to host the final here at AL SHAQAB. The facilities here are first class, it’s a beautiful arena, great stables for the horses and facilities for the grooms. To have here two riders who can win the title, and it will not be decided until the last round – it’s not often in sport you can have a final like this, but we’ll keep the suspense to the last moment for the fans around the world.”

Touching on the success of the Qatari show jumpers and the growth of the sport in the country, Jan said:

“This was an important year for the Qatari team, with the Olympics as well as the Tour. The riders have done very well and have been consistently at the front. For us, being here in one of the most special facilities in the world is important. We can look forward to a great final.”

Thursday will see the first ever final of the Global Champions League, where one team will make history by winning the title for the first time. 12 teams will be in action to open the three days of top level equestrian sport in Qatar. LGCT Sporting Director Marco Danese also spoke of the exciting action audiences can expect throughout the whole weekend. Addressing the media, he said:

“Fans will have the opportunity to see the best riders in the world, which is not something you see every day. We are the same level as the Olympics, with the same riders and horses, and the quality of the sport is exactly the same. It is even more exciting as we have two finals, the final of the Global Champions League on Thursday, and the LGCT final on Saturday, so there will be twice the suspense for the final result of the year. We have many people following the competition on TV and via our website, so there is huge expectation for the final here.”

The weekend will start at 17:00 on Thursday 3rd November with the first ever Global Champions League final, which will see the teams battle it out for the high stakes championship. Home team Doha Fursan Qatar will be in action, and took the chance to meet with the local media on site earlier today during the press conference. Friday will see two top level competitions, before Saturday’s Grand Prix kicks off at 17:15 local time. The full competitions will be streamed live via GCT TV and GCL TV, as well as broadcast around the world.

For the full LGCT Doha rider list, please click here. For more information, a show schedule and ticket options, please click here.

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