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    The desert showers gold on the next sport


    Show jumper now frequent flyer
    The desert showers gold on the next sport

    Riding is becoming more and more global. Now Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are investing millions in tournaments. For the riders, this is lucrative and difficult at the same time – especially in the Olympic year. “Madrid or Doha is almost the same,” says veteran Christian Ahlmann.

    The money lures you into the desert. German show jumpers have been competing in tournaments in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for a few weeks now. And there are more and more. “It has become significantly more extensive,” said national coach Otto Becker about the expansion: “And the tournaments have become bigger.” For the coach and the top riders, these are “special challenges,” as the national coach calls it, with a view to the Olympic Games.

    The national team's first stop in the new League of Nations is scheduled for Sunday in Abu Dhabi. The series of Nations Cups has once again been reformed by the World Fei Association and, not coincidentally, is starting for the first time in the capital of the rich Emirates. The tournament's prize money is 1.277 million euros.

    “It’s not always easy to win all the Nations Cups in the Olympic year,” said the national coach. On Sunday, Becker will initially rely on David Will and Christian Ahlmann, who have been traveling in the region for weeks. The quartet also includes Christian Kukuk and Jörne Sprehe, who were recently in Spain to prepare for the season and are now flying in.

    Riders become frequent flyers

    More and more European leaders will soon be competing on the Arabian Peninsula. In Doha alone there are four tournaments at five-star level within six weeks. For comparison: In Germany there will be five tournaments in the highest prize money category in the entire year 2024.

    The Qatari organizer has been organizing tournaments in the modern Al Shaqab equestrian center for a long time, but there have never been so many or so lucrative. Almost all world-class riders will fly in when the Global Champions Tour starts in Doha on the first weekend in March. This year there will be the final stage of the million-dollar series in Saudi Arabia and the final tournament of the World Cup in April.

    “There are a few flights coming,” said the national coach. “Our sport has become significantly more global.” Some riders commute, like Will and Ahlmann recently. They traveled back to Germany for the World Cup tournament in Leipzig and rode again a week later in Sharjah, one of the Emirates.

    “If the horses stay on site, that's okay,” said the national trainer about the commute: “But it's much more complicated for the riders.” Especially for the squad riders who are hoping for a ticket to the Olympic Games, “it means that they have to plan even more carefully.”

    Madrid or Doha, the main thing is show jumping

    Ahlmann has already been to the region twice this year and has now traveled to Abu Dhabi to play for the national team. “It’s a lot of effort, but it’s worth it,” said the rider, whose horses stayed on site. After a difficult year with injuries, the 2003 double European champion has chosen several tournaments in the Middle East for the new season.

    After the Nations Cup on Sunday, the Olympic candidate is traveling back – and will be flying to Qatar with other horses in a few weeks. “The tournaments in Doha are extremely good,” said the frequent flyer. The 49-year-old veteran sees it pragmatically: “Whether I fly to Madrid or to Doha is almost the same.”

    The prize money is an important factor that is increasingly attracting riders to the desert states. Some are also “committed to business,” as the national coach explains. For many people, horse trading in particular is an important way of financing sport. David Will, who like Sophie Hinners and Jörg Naeve even rode in Abu Dhabi on December 24th, is also the coach of the Saudi national team.

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