Freund takes World Cup 1st at Mechelen
27 December 2004.

Reining World Champion Michael Freund has won the FEI World Cup Driving competition in Mechelen, Belgium. The triple World Cup winner drove a clear course at an unbelievably high speed and won the World Cup competition for the second time this season. Dutch driver IJsbrand Chardon had chosen a longer route in the obstacles and was therefore not able to keep up with Freund, finishing in second place. The third place was taken by the ever-stable Swiss driver Werner Ulrich.

The warming-up competition round on the previous day could not make the Mechelen crowd enthusiastic. The organisers had chosen a Top Score Competition, in which the obstacles carried points. By correctly driving the obstacles, the competitors were credited with points. Dutch driver IJsbrand Chardon easily scored 1440 of the 1500 points and won this first competition, ahead of Hungary?s Zoltan Lazar and Switzerland?s Werner Ulrich. The low speed contributed to the lack of atmosphere and adrenaline in Mechelen's Nekkerhal.

In complete contrast, on the night of the World Cup competition proper, the enthusiastic and passionate crowd in the sold out arena was treated to a true spectacle. But despite the support of their home crowd, wild card drivers Gert Schrijvers and Achille Snoeys were not able to make it to the winning round. It was not the much spoken of water splash that caused problems, but the bridge in the course turned out to be decisive.

The leader horses of Hungary?s Zoltan Lazar even refused to pass the bridge, which cost him extra penalty seconds. The teams of Sweden?s Fredrik Persson and Belgium?s Gert Schrijvers also encountered problems at the bridge.

Michael Freund drove his team impeccably through the course, designed by German course designer Falk B?nisch. ?I drove two really good rounds today,? explained a very happy Freund. ?It was the first time this season that I used my left leader Igor again and my team was back at their old form. I hope Chardon does well in ?s-Hertogenbosch so we will have an interesting competition in Gothenburg!?

Chardon missed the routine in his team and did not drive the shortest routes, which lost him 10 seconds on Freund?s time. ?It was a great course, but Freund was already driving so fast in the first round, I really had to give him my respect,? added Chardon. ?My horses were a little bit spooky in the first round, but in the second round I tried to drive as fast as possible. Unfortunately my team just missed the routine necessary to accelerate.?

Chardon dropped a ball in the winning round, which made Freund win his last World Cup competition of this World Cup season, 19 seconds ahead of Chardon. Freund will compete with a wild card at the next FEI World Cup competition in Leipzig, and is therefore not entitled to points. Chardon will get his last chance in ?s-Hertogenbosch (17-20 March). Both Freund and Chardon are as good as certain of a starting place for the final competition in Gothenburg, for which the top five drivers of the standings after ?s-Hertogenbosch will qualify.

The next FEI World Cup driving event takes place in Leipzig, Germany, on 21 & 23 January 2005.

For all results and current points standings in the 2004-5 FEI World Cup, please CLICK HERE.

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