26 out of the top 32 riders in the world will be competing at the nail-biting final in AL SHAQAB as the Longines Global Champions Tour arrives in Doha, Qatar for the 15th leg of the 2015 Tour. From the 12th – 14th November, the best showjumpers in our sport will compete for the final time with LGCT this year, after what’s been an incredible season of top sport and competition.
The final dramatic Grand Prix of the season will take place on Saturday afternoon at 17:15 local time. World Number 1 and Ranking leader Scott Brash (GBR) is in the top spot and has potential to make history by taking his third consecutive title – a record that is yet to be broken within the Longines Global Champions Tour. Hot on his heels is Luciana Diniz (POR), just two points away from Scott’s current total, and two-time Olympic Silver medallist Rolf-Göran Bengtsson (SWE); both of whom will be hoping to clinch the crown from the British rider’s grasp in what’s set to be one of the most exciting sporting finals showjumping has seen.
Speaking earlier today at a pre-event press conference in AL SHAQAB, Longines Global Champions Tour President and Founder Jan Tops commented on the exceptional sporting drama that will play out this weekend: “It’s very special for us to be here, and it will be a very special occasion. We have three riders here who can win the final event, and it’s every sporting event’s dream to have such attention to the last circuit. Last year it was the final rider who decided the season outcome, and we will have the same again this year which is quite exceptional.”
Speaking further about how showjumping has evolved and grown year on year, at the final 10th anniversary event, Jan said: “I’m very proud of how LGCT has grown and it is important for our sport. We broadcast our events on TV worldwide, and year on year the audience is increasing. Our sport is global, and we connect the world together, with our horses.”
Throughout the ranking board, the best riders in showjumping including Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Lauren Hough (USA), Daniel Deusser (GER), Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS), Kevin Staut (FRA), Maikel van der Vleuten (NED), Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Ben Maher (GBR) will be competing at the magnificent state of the art AL SHAQAB stadium and looking to claim their share in over €1.4 million in prize funds. With the 2015 season about to reach it’s thrilling climax and the history books poised to add another star show jumping name to the Tour’s Hall Of Fame, the Longines clock is ticking down to the final which will take place in just four day’s time.
Speaking earlier today at the press conference, Group Executive Director Administration of Qatar Foundation and AL SHAQAB Executive Director, Fahad Al Qahtani said: “We will have the best ranked riders in the world here at AL SHAQAB and this will allow the next generation to be inspired and have athletes to look up to. It impacts everyone; riders, trainers, grooms. After every Longines Global Champions Tour event at AL SHAQAB we see the interest and enquiries grow, and more and more numbers of horse riders have enrolled in our Academy. The presence of the Longines Global Champions Tour has added value to our vision. Every time we host the Tour, the demand increases, and this helps the development of community and awareness of equestrianism.”
“We are happy to see so many people involved and we would like to say thank you to Jan Tops and his team who work so hard.”
The highest ranked Qatari riders will be in action during the Grand Prix this weekend, in preparation for next year’s Olympic games where they have recently qualified. Highest ranked rider Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani (QAT) currently sits 6th on the LGCT Ranking board after his best season so far, with compatriot Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) securing a silver and bronze medal while on the Tour this year.
Speaking of the growing success of the Qatari riders, Jan Tops added: “Five years ago to achieve a podium would have been a dream. The way the team are working means that they will continue to progress and will be on the podium again soon.”
There will be free entry for the public on Thursday and Friday, as well as to all school children and university students, enabling more people to witness top-level equestrian sport and to encourage riding, part of the country’s heritage, among the youth in Qatar.
Omar Al Mannai, Commercial Manager of Al Shaqab, said: “It is an honour for our Qatari riders to compete on the Longines Global Champions Tour. We will also have a local competition which will give national Qatari horse riders the chance to get to know the top international riders, and learn many things. We wish all the best to the riders competing here.”
LGCT Sport Director Marco Danese said: “It is fantastic to see equestrian sport in Qatar growing year on year. There are 9 Qatari riders competing at this level now, and it continues to grow – the level of competition is excellent. All of the facilities at AL SHAQAB are world class, not just the arena, but the technical facilities and the stables.”