All five of the world's top-ranked riders head a star-studded field when jumping begins at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 on Wednesday. Harrie Smolders leads a strong Dutch challenge, while the United States' hopes of a first WEG title will be driven by McLain Ward, and powerhouse Germany have the brilliant Marcus Ehning in their ranks.
Sweden, meanwhile, can call upon Henrik von Eckermann and Rio 2016 Olympic Individual Silver medalist Peder Fredricson, with 2008 Olympic champion Eric Lamaze chasing world title success as part of the Canadian team, and 2012 Olympic Individual Gold medal winner Steve Guerdat among Switzerland's entries.
In total, more than 120 riders from over 40 countries will contest the medals, which will be awarded in team and individual competitions and starts with Wednesday's Speed Class, when each rider performs one round against the clock.
Current Olympic gold medalists France, 2017 FEI Nations Cup™ winners in the Dutch, 2010 WEG victors in Germany and reigning European Champions in Team Ireland are among those with major designs on Team Gold.
Smolders, Jur Vrieling and Marc Houtzager will drive the Dutch challenge under Chef d'Equipe Rob Ehrens, while Ireland include two riders, Cian O'Connor and Shane Sweetnam, who helped deliver Gold in Gothenburg just over a year ago. The United States' contingent sees Ward backed up by quality talent such as Laura Kraut and youngster Adrienne Sternlicht.
"We have huge confidence in the team, and our goals are several," U.S. Chef d'Equipe and technical adviser Robert Ridland said. "Our first aim is to be in the top six and qualify for the (2020) Olympics, which is not going to be easy - it never is - and the podium is the ultimate goal. We have spent the summer preparing and testing, and we feel that we are ready. It is not a one-day competition - there is a lot of jumping - but we feel prepared and ready."
In addition to household names of the sport, Tryon's U.S. Trust Arena will welcome a number of new countries to the FEI World Equestrian Games™ family.
Lebanon, Bolivia, Macedonia and Romania all make their WEG debut in any sport, with Thailand, Bahrain, Ecuador and Luxembourg fielding jumping riders for the first time.
The competition reaches a thrilling conclusion on Sunday - also closing the curtain on Tryon 2018 - with closing rounds of the individual event, when spectators can expect to witness sport of the highest quality as medals are decided.
It is likely to be a who's who of the Jumping discipline that pen another chapter in WEG history, providing a thrilling climax to 11 days of spectacular action.
For more information on the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 and to view start lists and results, please visit www.Tryon2018.com.
To purchase tickets or for more information about the WEG, please visit www.Tryon2018.com.
About the Tryon International Equestrian Center
Tryon International Equestrian Center at Tryon Resort, host of the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018, is one of the world's premier equestrian lifestyle destinations, with first-class facilities for all eight FEI disciplines. From carousel to competition, the mission of Tryon Resort is to celebrate the magic of the horse, grow equestrian sport, and increase access to this majestic animal. Tryon Resort is a spring, summer and fall haven for equestrian competitors and enthusiasts, and a year-round destination for connoisseurs of diverse cuisine and shopping, lodging getaways, and family entertainment. Learn more at www.Tryon.com.
About the FEI World Equestrian Games
The FEI World Equestrian Games™, held every four years in the middle of the summer Olympic cycle, is the property of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the world governing body for horse sport organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It is one of the biggest events on the global sporting calendar, combining World Championships in the Olympic disciplines of Jumping, Dressage and Eventing, the Paralympic discipline of Para-Equestrian Dressage, as well as Driving, Endurance, Vaulting and Reining.
The inaugural FEI World Equestrian Games™ were hosted in Stockholm (SWE) in 1990. Since then the Games have been staged in The Hague (NED) in 1994, Rome (ITA) in 1998, Jerez (ESP) in 2002, and Aachen (GER) in 2006. The first Games to be organized outside Europe were the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky (USA) 2010. The Games came back to Europe for the 2014 edition, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy (FRA), which attracted more than 500,000 on-site spectators and a worldwide television audience of 350 million, as well as delivering an economic impact of €368 million to the French economy.
The Tryon 2018 Games offer qualifying slots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The FEI World Equestrian Games™ History Hub can be viewed here.