Polish Olympic Team Race is On, Sysojeva Sweeps the Board at 2024 CDI Kalen-Towarzystwo

Thu, 02/22/2024 - 07:58
2024 CDI Kalen-Towarzystwo
Maria Colliander, Sandra Sysojeva on Maxima Bella, Monika Becker and Andrzej Sałacki at the 2024 CDI Kalen :: Photos © Maria Leszczyńska

-- Text by Agata Grosicka, edited by Eurodressage - Photos © Maria Leszczyńska

The Olympic qualifying season for the Polish team has just started with a first CDI organized on the premises of Becker Equestrian Sport Center in Kaleń – Towarzystwo. Located in central Poland near the capital Warsaw,  the CDI Kalen took place on 16 - 18 February 2024.

Polish Olympic Team Race Is On

Poland secured its Olympic team slot last year at the Group C qualifier in Pilisjaszfalu (HUN) for the third time in history and first time since London 2012.

The situation amongst Polish team candidates is very dynamic though: Mateusz Cichoń lost his GP horse Herzregent 2 just three days before the show, and both Zaneta Skowronska's Romantic P and Beata Stremler’s FairPlay were sold. Two combinations that contributed to the Polish team victory in Hungary – Magdalena Jura (Ron) as well as Marta Sobierajska (Ultrablue de Massa) have not started competing yet this season.

Sandra Sysojeva Sweeps the Board

The highlight of the show was undoubtedly Lithuanian Sandra Sysojeva sweeping the board in the small and big tour.

She debuted her 8-year old black Oldenburg mare Maxima Bella (by Millenium x Competent) and won Friday's Grand Prix with 70,044 % and Sunday's freestyle with 74,530%. 

Sysojeva on Maxima Bella
“For me it has been very exciting and emotional because it is a special thing when you have a horse from a foal," Sysojeva commented. "I got her at the age of two and a half she was really wild and difficult like a typical mare - the pedigree speaks for itself. It was a long time to wait. When she was three and four years old, she looked like a breeding mare and then somehow with correct exercises and special training for her for her back and the muscles she looks like a stallion now. She is my horse from zero. Now it’s very easy to buy a horse and ride it for two weeks and then to go to the show. Here it’s like the whole history comes with it so it is quite emotional."

Sysojeva rode the mare at the 2021 World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany, where her flashy gaits and hot temperament were not so appreciated by the judges at the time (25th in the 5-year old consolation class).

"She was born to go Grand Prix," Sandra explained. "With her it’s always been easier to ride Grand Prix than lower classes. She’s always offering piaffe and passage and willing to work despite all these mare things. She is a real mare – she’s for example very picky and hard to please when it comes to food."

Lithuania Headed to the Olympics

When asked what her competition plan is with the 8-year old, she replied, "there is no big plan when we go next. It all depends on her. I don’t want to override her. She is hot and I still want to keep her willing to work. We’ll probably go to Wroclaw or maybe Motesice.  It is and Olympic season and my first competition and I have to have good results and then if I stay on this level, you never know. The mare is eight now and hopefully the whole future is ahead of us.” 

Lithuanian dressage is gaining more and more international recognition these days as Justina Vanagaite and the Belgian warmblood gelding Nabab secured a historical spot for Lithuania for the upcoming Paris Olympics. With a second eye-catching Lithuanian combination on the international stage, the Lithuanian equestrian federation has a promising future but Sysojeva’s horse Maxima Bella is declared for Poland so she cant be considered for the Olympics for Lithuania. 

Milczarek is Back

Also for the Polish riders Olympic fever is raging. 

The runner-up in the Friday's Grand Prix test test was Danish Danish Anna Zibrandtsen and the 10-year old Swedish warmblood stallion Lumiere (by Floricello x Gigolo) scoring 69, 956%. The third place went to Polish Aleksandra Szulc and her 13-year old Polish bred Breakdance (by Fred x Carbano) who scored 67,125%.

Anna Zibrandtsen on Lumiere
While Szulc and her grey gelding again proved their value for the team, the rest of Polish GP riders still have some work to do to secure their spot in the team. The stakes are high and two-time Olympian Katarzyna Milczarek is fully aware of it. She’s back competing her Portuguese sport horse Guapo (by Xarme) after one and a half year break due to a doping suspension and finished fourth in the Grand Prix test with 65,848%. 

“I am very happy to be back," said Katarzyna. “We still need to work out a lot with Guapo. He has had a long break and lost his muscles. We haven’t managed to rebuild them yet. The fact that I couldn’t compete for a year and a half also had some impact on him. He gets very excited at the competition environment. He couldn’t stand still. And there are three halts in the Grand Prix which cost us some points. We made mistakes and we can't make any because he’s not a big mover, so he has to make up points in his technical highlights: piaffe, passage or clear changes. I was expecting that my first competition would not be the perfect one, but we need to start somewhere. The season is just beginning. I am really pleased with the atmosphere here. The organizers did a very good job. Now we have to take it slowly taking good care of the horse and our next CDI is Wrocław. Maybe Motesice in Slovakia and then CDI Gościszów mid-April and finally CDI Sopot. We’re having quite a few international competitions in Poland this season."

Olympic Fever

Poland needs to up their game if they want to have three combinations that achieve the Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MER) of two times 67% at selected Events which take place from 1 January 2023 until (and including) 24 June 2024.

Katarzyna Milczarek on Guapo
"It is the Olympic season and I do hope to score the qualifying 67 %," Milczarek continued. "We qualified as a team last year and our team building is now in progress. Mateusz has unfortunately lost his horse, Alexandra Szulc is doing well confirming her strong position here.  Beata Stremler sold her GP horse, but with her Furstin Bea mare she will hopefully debut in GP this year. The third and (reserve) fourth spot in the team are still open. I made mistakes through the test but I know what to work on. We have a few competitions coming up and the real support from the current board of our national federation with their positive approach toward dressage which definitely helps.”

Polish National Team Coach Andrzej Sałacki is looking forward to the team canidates' performances this season:

“It is the first start in the middle of winter training season," said Salacki. "Aleksandra Szulc did pretty well getting another 67% score. Katarzyna Milczarek is back competing. Susanne Krohn did also a pretty good job and progress is there. Filip Kowalski has joined the senior team and is planning to continue competing in Motesice. Karola Mazurek did a very even and good test with the horse not so experienced in GP level. We’ll see more riders at CDI Wrocław next month. Slowly yet surely we’re getting ready for Olympic season.” 

While team building is still in progress, team spirit is already here. The passing of Mateusz Cichoń’s  Herzregent did not go unnoticed. The participants of the show prepared a special banner with the note “Mateusz. Hold up," trying to console their teammate.  

Some Feedback

Austrian 5* judge Thomas Lang commented on the competition and the inaugural CDI held at this venue.

Aleksandra Szulc on Breakdance
“First of all I was surprised with the quality of facility here," he said." It’s very nice and has everything that is necessary to organize a CDI. It’s very early in the year so we could see than not all horses were at their top level. It’s normal and it’s better to take some time and not to be on top in the mid-February because then the horses are empty at the end of July. Especially in GP we have seen some horses of very good quality so what is now really necessary is to improve the riding; the fine riding that supports the horse without pressing him too much. In some cases horses were better today (Sunday) than on Friday but it happens often especially when it’s so early in the year. it is quite difficult even for the riders who have not competed for a few months."

Polish judge Marlena Gruca-Rucinska rung in.

“it is very good that some Grand Prix riders came here because now they know where exactly they are," said Rucinska. "And what’s the most important to do now and to plan a little bit later. You can’t do a competition training at home. You must go out and compete.  I’m really happy with Aleksandra Szulc and her grey Breakdance because she’s done really well working out some mistakes. The whole picture looks good and going into right direction. There is still some place to improve. I have never seen Ilona Janas' new GP horse Dark Knight (by Danciano x Sandro Hit - previously shown in the USA by Nicole Levy) which competed here in the National GP. The horse is still green, but I can see the potential. Some moments, like the piaffe, were really nice."

Rucinska added, "at the end of February our Olympic committee is expecting to receive the long list for the Polish team. For the FEI the deadline is the end of June. We can’t forget about Beata Stremler and her Furstin Bea. They have never competed at GP level, yet won the Louisdor Prize last December so she’s our hope too.”

Mateusz Cichon, Stay Strong
Show organizer Monika Becker added, “I am really happy with the positive feedback from the riders. They put a smile on my face. I took up this challenge after having a discussion with Sandra Sysojeva and Dominka Kraśko last summer during one of the national competitions. The level was high and they asked me  quite uncertainly if I could go international. I said” No problem. Just tell me when”. It is a huge challenge to organize CDI and we made a great team with Dominika who helped me a lot. My family was also engaged in it together with our stable team. It is not one-man show it is the whole team that has worked hard to make it come true. I am very grateful to these people and pleased with the final result. I got a very positive feedback from the riders who asked me about the next show. They said they would surely come back. I even had a proposal for organizing the cycle of CDI’s. We’ll see. The judges and audience also were very pleased which is the best proof that we did a great job. We set high standards and we met them. Our CDI was also the Olympic qualifier for the Polish team and I’m very happy that we managed to help them fight for their team spot. I keep my fingers crossed for all of them.”

Related Links
Scores: 2024 CDI Kalen-Towarzystwo
Katarzyna Milczarek and Agusti Elias Suspended after Positive Doping Tests
Mateusz Cichon's Herzregent Passed Away