Category Archives: Olympic Games

FEI President Welcomes Speedy Decision on Rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Dates

The FEI President has welcomed the announcement of the new dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will run from 23 July to 8 August, and for the Paralympic Games from 24 August until 5 September 2021.

“While it was of course demoralising for everyone that the Games had to be postponed from their original dates in 2020, the decision was absolutely right in the current terrible global pandemic, but it is really good to have the new dates agreed so soon,” Ingmar De Vos said.

“The decision was taken in full consultation with all the International Federations, including the FEI, and we all had the opportunity to voice our opinions. Now, once the Covid-19 crisis is over, our athletes across both Games can get their training back on track with confidence, knowing exactly when they and their horses need to be at their peaks.

“We are conscious of the fact that this has been a very complex decision for the IOC to make, with multiple factors to be taken into consideration. The athletes’ health and well-being across both Games not just for equestrian sport has to be the top priority, and we have all the protocols in place to protect our athletes – both human and equine – and help them to optimise their performance in the challenging climate we can expect in Tokyo.

“Of course, there will be an impact on the international Calendar across all sports, and from an FEI perspective this includes four major European Championships, but we are already looking at ways we can minimise that impact. The remit for our discipline-specific task forces that are evaluating the impact of Covid-19 on the 2020 Calendar has now been expanded to cover 2021 and now we have confirmed dates for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We need to explore possible alternatives for a number of major FEI Events, notably the European Championships in Jumping, Dressage, and Para Dressage in Budapest and the European Eventing Championships in Haras du Pin, France. This process will be started immediately.”

The five-discipline European Championships in Budapest (HUN), which also include Driving and Vaulting, are currently due to run from 23-30 August 2021 and the Eventing Championships in Haras du Pin (FRA) from 11-15 August.

“We need to also look at deadlines for obtaining minimum eligibility requirements and extending the deadline for registration of ownership for Olympic horses and will announce those as soon as possible, but we have had confirmation from both the IOC and IPC that National Olympic and Paralympic Committees which have been allocated Olympic or Paralympic quota places will retain them despite the postponement of the Games to next year.”

FEI media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Olga Nikolaou
Media Relations Officer
olga.nikolaou@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 56

FEI to Create Task Forces to Deal with Impact of Covid-19

Lausanne (SUI), 25 March 2020 – The FEI is to create a series of discipline-specific task forces to evaluate the impact on the FEI Calendar of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has resulted in multiple Event cancellations and the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games until 2021.

The FEI Board approved the creation of the task forces during its monthly teleconference 24 March. The task forces, each of which will focus on a single discipline, will remain in place until any further decision by the Board.

The FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez, who has overall responsibility for the FEI Calendar, will chair each task force. The FEI Vice Presidents Mark Samuel (CAN) and Jack Huang (TPE) will be members of each task force together with the European Equestrian Federation President Theo Ploegmakers (NED) and the President of the International Equestrian Organisers Association Peter Bollen (BEL). The FEI Calendar Administrator and a representative from both the FEI IT and FEI Legal departments will sit on each of the task forces.

The individual task forces, which will also include the Chair of the relevant Technical Committee, a representative of the Athletes, and the FEI Sports Director of the specific discipline, will review all FEI Calendar related issues caused by the Covid-19 virus and make recommendations to the FEI on ways to address them.

The FEI President will be kept fully updated by each of the task forces, and will attend meetings when necessary in order to assist in finalising proposals for solutions to be put forward to the FEI Board for approval.

Following the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the FEI has already received assurances from the IOC that it will work in tandem with all the International Federations to find the best solutions for all issues that arise, including the dates for rescheduling and the impact that will have on the international calendar for all sports.

FEI media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Olga Nikolaou
Media Relations Officer
olga.nikolaou@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 56

A Message from the USET Foundation

Gladstone, NJ – As the world navigates through these uncertain times, the USET Foundation continues to focus on its mission and the support of our athletes as they move forward in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Now, more than ever, they need our support and we will continue doing the important work of fundraising to help our U.S. teams achieve their goals and dreams.

Per the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee: “Despite the ever-changing nature of coronavirus, its global impact, and the hypothetical scenarios that have entered the conversation, the USOPC has not been given any information to suggest that the Tokyo 2020 Games will not go ahead as scheduled and as planned. We, like the athletes who are training to compete at their very best in Tokyo, are focused on being prepared to support our Olympic and Paralympic teams in Japan. It remains our great hope that Team USA athletes – having dedicated an incalculable amount of time and effort in hopes of representing the United States in the Olympic and Paralympic Games – will have the opportunity to live out their athletic dreams in Tokyo.”

As our athletes continue to prepare this spring and heading into the summer, their entire support network surrounding them remains engaged. We are resolute in continuing to do our part to support US Equestrian’s high performance sport and hope that you will join the team in “Raising the Bar” for our U.S. athletes.

USET Foundation has taken measures to address the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the team working in Gladstone. Aiming toward our fundraising goals, we remain open and are available by phone and e-mail. We encourage our friends and supporters to stay informed through the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We hope that you will join us in our support of America’s teams, not only in this championship year, but going forward, as we plan for future games and build the pipeline of young athletes moving up in equestrian sport. Our athletes are determined to make their mark on history, and we are committed to supporting them throughout their journeys by providing the necessary resources for their success.

Learn more at www.uset.org.

Contact: Emily Randolph
emily@jumpmediallc.com
www.jumpmediallc.com

Tokyo 2020 Team and Individual Quota Places Confirmed by FEI

Following concerns raised about FEI Jumping Events in France and Syria where Olympic and Longines Ranking points were on offer, the FEI has investigated events at both Villeneuve-Loubet (FRA) and Damascus (SYR).

The investigation into the three events at Villeneuve-Loubet in December 2019 has established that, contrary to the FEI Rules (Article 110.2.3 of the FEI General Regulations), two competitions counting for the Olympic and Longines Rankings were added at each event after the respective Definite Entries deadlines. The updated Schedules for these three events were submitted to the FEI by the French National Federation and were mistakenly approved by the FEI.

As a result, and in accordance with Article 112.3 of the FEI General Regulations, the FEI has retrospectively removed these additional competitions, meaning that athletes who participated will lose their ranking points from these competitions. The Olympic and Longines Rankings have been updated accordingly.

Additionally, the FEI has established that three of the six events at Villeneuve-Loubet in January 2020 also had two classes counting for Longines Rankings points added after the Definite Entries deadline, again contrary to the FEI Rules. As a result, these additional competitions have been removed and athletes that participated will lose their ranking points for these competitions.

The FEI also reviewed the events that took place in Damascus (SYR) between October and December 2019, and while it was clearly established that there was no breach of FEI Rules and Regulations regarding FEI Calendar entries, the event Schedules or the number of events run, the investigation revealed an irregularity with the prize money at three of the events.

The events held in Damascus on 24-27 October 2019, 31 October to 3 November 2019, and 13-17 November 2019 had total prize money that exceeded the limit for a CSI2* and the Schedules for these events were erroneously approved by the FEI. As a result, the FEI has removed one FEI competition at each of these events in order to bring the total prize money within the specified limit, but this has no impact on the Olympic Ranking for Olympic Group F.

The FEI has also reallocated one of the two Jumping team quota slots from the Olympic Jumping Qualifier for Group F in Rabat (MAR) in October 2019, following adverse analytical findings in two members of the Qatari team, Sheikh Ali Al Thani and Bassem Mohammed. Both athletes tested positive for Carboxy-THC, a metabolite of Cannabis, which is a prohibited substance under the FEI’s Anti-Doping Rules for Human Athletes (ADRHA).

The FEI Tribunal issued a partial decision regarding the disqualification of the individual results of the two Qatari athletes on 15 February 2020. As a result, Qatar loses its team quota place for Tokyo and this has been reallocated by the FEI to Morocco.

The FEI has now confirmed the team and individual quota places across the three disciplines of Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with three nations – Luxembourg (Dressage individual), Pakistan (Eventing individual), and Israel (Jumping team) – qualifying for the Olympic Games for the first time. The new formats have opened the door for more nations to compete at the Games, with Jumping going up from 27 in Rio to 35 in Tokyo, Dressage increasing from 25 to 30, and Eventing rising from 24 to 30. In total, the number of flags has risen from 43 in Rio to 48 in Tokyo.

Latvia’s individual quota slot for Jumping would mean a first Games start after a 32-year absence, having last competed in Seoul 1988. The Czech Republic and Hong Kong, which have both qualified for an individual place in Eventing, are planning to return to the Games for the first time since Beijing 2008.

The deadline to achieve the Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MERs) is 1 June, after which the FEI will confirm approval of the FEI Certificates of Capability to the National Federations. The final athlete/horse combinations for the three disciplines will be announced on 6 July 2020.

The Olympic equestrian events get underway the day after the Opening Ceremony in Tokyo on 24 July. Dressage will be the first discipline to hold its competitions (July 25-29), followed by Eventing (31 July to 3 August) and then Jumping (4-8 August). The competitions will take place at the Bajikoen Equestrian Park and the Sea Forest Cross Country venue.

FEI contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
Vanessa.Randin@fei.org
+ 41 78 750 61 73

Fifteen Para-Equestrian Nations Earn Team Slot for Tokyo 2020

Photo: FEI/Liz Gregg.

The identity of the 15 nations who will contest the Para Dressage Team title at this summer’s Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games has been revealed. By qualifying, each country will be able to send up to four athletes to Tokyo.

Joining Great Britain, The Netherlands, and Germany, who secured their places at FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon in 2018, are the USA, Italy, Sweden, Canada, Singapore, Denmark, Belgium, Australia, and Austria. They qualified by being either in the top seven teams in the International Equestrian Federation’s world rankings (apart from those three who qualified at WEG), or the top team in either Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. As host nation, Japan will also field a full team.

Currently Russia has also qualified, but its participation in the Games is yet to be confirmed.

“Team Canada is delighted to have secured a team slot for Canada Tokyo,” Canada’s Coach and Chef d’equipe Clive Milkins said. “It is a recognition of the determination hard work, committed effort and motivation from all our grooms, athletes, and coaches involved from grass roots to international level. The hard works starts now.”

The team competition in Tokyo will be a hotly contested one. In the race for medals, USA who are currently ranked world number one, will mount a strong challenge, while Denmark has significant talent. Belgium will also be in with a shot as will a resurgent Australia and Austria. The Netherlands, currently European and World champions, will be desperate to add Paralympic gold to that pair, while the British will do everything in their power to defend the title, having won at every Paralympic Games since Para Dressage was introduced in Atlanta in 1996.

And in Tokyo, the team competition is given extra tension by changes to the format. The team medal will now be decided over two days by just three riders per country (it used to be four). Not only that, the three competing riders won’t be chosen until the Games themselves, on completion of the individual titles on the first two days of competition.

Outside of the team competitions, a host of other nations have gained slots for up to two of their top athletes, so the Games will see individual competitors coming from South Africa, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Latvia, and Brazil. There’ll also be athletes from Norway, Finland, and Mexico in the mix too. Further individual allocations will also be made as the year progresses according to the rules of the bipartite commission.

The Para Dressage competition will be held at the Tokyo 2020 Equestrian Park from Thursday 27 to Monday 31 August. Individual medals will be decided on the first two days, the team completion takes place on the Saturday and Sunday, and the whole competition rounds off with all five grades’ freestyle titles being decided on Monday.

Click here for more information on the Paralympics qualification.

Names of athletes competing will start to be announced from mid-July, on completion of nations’ individual selection processes.

By Rob Howell

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 4

Best New Year’s Resolution Ever: Support Your Olympians

It’s an Olympic year. That means Olympic hopefuls from around the globe will come to LRK3DE 2020 to vie for a spot on their Olympic team.

If you haven’t bought yours yet, get your tickets now to watch the best of the best dance, splash, and jump their way into the Olympics.

The “Best Weekend All Year” returns to the Kentucky Horse Park April 23-26, 2020.

It’s the highest level of Eventing in the Americas. Make it your new year’s resolution to come cheer on your favorite competitors.

© 2020 Kentucky Three-Day Event
PO Box 12110
Lexington, KY 40580-2110

FEI Publishes Tokyo Horse Monitoring Research Project Findings

Michael Jung (GER) with Fischerwild Wave. (FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi)

The results of a major research study commissioned by the FEI, aimed at identifying best practices and management of horses training and competing in hot and humid environments, have been published.

Conducted at the Ready Steady Tokyo Test Event in August 2019, and led by the FEI’s climate expert Dr David Marlin, the study monitored the combined effects of long travelling times and distances, time zone disruptions, and heat and humidity on competing horses.

Horses were monitored before and during the test event, including how they adapted to the challenging climate in Tokyo. Central to the report is data collected on-course and post-competition, which allowed for detailed analysis of the cross-country test.

The study findings show that horses generally coped extremely well with the conditions and remained in good health for the duration of the test event, held at the same time of year as the Games in 2020, despite the fact that conditions were thermally challenging, with Wet Bulb Globe Thermometer* (WBGT) Index readings frequently in the region of 32-33°C.

The report confirms that on cross country day (13 August), the high WBGT Index, steep initial climb, and sharp turns on the course produced a significant challenge for competing horses. Heart rates during cross country, and blood lactate, heart rate, and rectal temperature after cross country indicated that horses were working at close to maximal capacity.

A new heart rate monitor that also displays the ECG plus infra-red thermal imaging to provide a rapid and accurate estimate of horses’ temperature were key pieces of technology used in data collection for the study.

The report highlights that “all possibilities must be explored to mitigate the effects of the likely climatic conditions, including reduction in distance appropriate for the conditions and bringing the cross country start time forward to avoid the highest WBGT conditions that would normally peak between late morning and mid-afternoon.”

Following discussions between the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), the IOC, and the FEI, consensus has been reached on advancing the cross country start time to either 07.30 or 08.00 on 2 August 2020 as part of the heat countermeasures. A final decision on the move, which is fully supported by the findings in the Marlin report, will be made by the IOC Executive Board.

“We have worked very closely with TOCOG to put in place the best possible heat countermeasures for both our equine and human athletes for Tokyo 2020, and the findings in this important research study will play a crucial role in guiding final decisions on appropriate facilities and support,” FEI Veterinary Director Göran Akerström said. “The report will also be a valuable tool for athletes and National Federations as they prepare their horses in the build-up to and during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Heat countermeasures that are already in place for horses include air conditioned stables at both equestrian venues (Bajikoen and Sea Forest), early morning and evening training and competition sessions under floodlights, constant and close monitoring by a world class veterinary team, and multiple cooling facilities including the provision of shade tents, cooling fans, ice and water, and mobile cooling units.

The FEI has been working on optimising equine performance in challenging climates with Dr Marlin since before the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. Dr Marlin has been working with the FEI for the past three years specifically on Tokyo, reviewing historical climate records, analysing data collected at the main venue at Bajikoen (EQP) and at the cross-country course at Sea Forest (SFC), and leading the test event research project.

The findings from the research project have been sent to TOCOG, the IOC, all National Olympic and Paralympic Committees with athletes competing in equestrian sport, and all National Federations affiliated to the FEI.

The full report is available here.

*The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) index is used to measure heat, humidity, solar radiation, and wind factor.

FEI media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Olga Nikolaou
Media Relations Officer
olga.nikolaou@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 56

South Africa Clinches Final Olympic Team Dressage Slot in Exloo

(L to R) Ingeborg Sanne, Tanya Seymour, Nicole Smith, Laurienne Dittmann, and Gretha Ferreira. (FEI/Leanjo de Koster)

It was a big moment for South African Dressage when qualifying a team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Hippisch Centrum in Exloo, The Netherlands.

The only country to field a side in the Group F (Africa and the Middle East) qualifier incorporated into the CDI 3* Grand Prix at the Dutch fixture, the foursome of Tanya Seymour, Laurienne Dittmann, Gretha Ferreira, and Nicole Smith produced solid performances to make it happen.

This was the final Tokyo slot to be filled, bringing the total number of nations that will line out in Japan next summer to 14. The full list of qualified countries in Dressage is now Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Russia, and the USA. Teams in Tokyo will consist of three riders.

All four South Africans who competed are based in Europe, and the most experienced of all is Seymour who lives in Addrup, near Vechta in The Netherlands. The trail-blazing 35-year-old was a member of her country’s first-ever team at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Caen, France, and was also the very first South African athlete to compete in Olympic Dressage when lining out at the Rio 2016 Games.

Seymour finished individually 18th at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2019 Final in Gothenburg, Sweden last April and all of her major results have been recorded with the 17-year-old Ramoneur who she steered into ninth position in this Grand Prix with a score of 67.065. She clearly adores the Oldenburg stallion with which she has achieved so much, and she’s planning his campaign for the coming months very carefully. He’s the one she would like to take to Tokyo.

“If all stays well and if he’s still happy and sound that would be the plan,” she said. “I’ll play it by ear; he loves his job, he’s still bucking and playing, and he’s in a great place at the moment. What I’d love to do with him now is to qualify for the World Cup Final in Las Vegas next April and then take him to Tokyo before giving him a very well-earned retirement after that!”

Gretha Ferreira and the 14-year-old mare Lertevangs Lavinia followed Seymour into the ring and posted 63.652 for 21st place in the field of 27 starters. The 30-year-old rider who hails from Johannesburg and is trained by top Danish rider Daniel Bachmann Andersen only started this mare at Grand Prix level in March of last year. So it was some achievement to make it to the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon, USA last September where they finished 66th individually.

First of the South Africans to compete was Laurienne Dittmann with the Hannoverian Don Weltino K. The German-based 48-year-old who was awarded the Golden Rider Badge by the German NF in 2018 posted a score of 62.239 for 23rd place. And last to go was the youngest South African representative, 28-year-old Nicole Smith, who looked set to finish inside the top-10 until penalised for a costly mistake in the one-tempi changes with the 12-year-old KWPN mare Chi La Rou which saw them complete in 18th on a mark of 64.913.

The Grand Prix was won by The Netherlands’ Jeanine Nieuwenhuis partnering TC Athene, with Sweden’s Michelle Hagman Hassink placing second and another of the Dutch contingent, Lynne Maas, slotting into third with Eastpoint.

Full results here.

by Louise Parkes

History-Making Egyptians Win Olympic Jumping Qualifier in Rabat

The Egyptian team of Mohamed Taher Zeyada, Nayel Nassar, Abdel Said, and Sameh El Dahan, with Chef d’Equipe Eng Hesham Hatab. (FEI/Jessica Rodriguez)

Qatar also claims Tokyo ticket

The Egyptian side of Mohamed Taher Zeyada, Nayel Nassar, Abdel Said, and Sameh El Dahan won the Group F Olympic Jumping qualifier at Rabat in Morocco in the finest style. Completing with just four faults over two tough rounds of Nations Cup competition, they pinned Switzerland into second and Italy into third place. There were six countries from this region – Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – chasing down two available places at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. And it was the Qataris who booked the second slot when finishing eighth of the 14 competing nations.

It was history-making stuff for the winners, as the last time an Egyptian showjumping team competed at an Olympic Games was 59 years ago, in Rome in 1960.

“It’s incredible!” said third-line rider Abdel Said who collected just a single time penalty in each round with Venise du Reverdy. “When we came here, we knew we had a good chance because our riders are strong and compete all over the world. But not only to qualify for Tokyo but to also win this Nations Cup is a huge boost for us! This has been a target for the last two years. We really wanted to qualify and we took a gamble with the team we sent to Barcelona (for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final two weeks ago), but it didn’t work out great. But we brought our ‘A’ team here and this has happened – it’s unbelievable!” he added.

They were already in the hunt at the halfway stage, sharing second place with Switzerland when both carried just one time fault. Brazil’s Bernardo Alves (El Torreo de Muze), Felipe Amaral (Quinn 33), Rodrigo Mesquita Marinho (Edesa’s Basantos), and Pedro Veniss (For Felicila) led the way on a zero scoreline while Canada was lying third with five on the board and the Qataris were already in eighth place carrying 10.

But the Brazilians lost their grip on pole position when racking up 14 faults second time out over the course designed by Irishman Alan Wade. And when Andy Kistler’s Swiss side of Elian Baumann (Campari Z), Anthony Bourquard (Tum Play du Jouas), Marc Rothlisberger (Agatha d’Ecaussines), and Alain Jufer (Cornet MM) had to add four more faults to their tally then the door was open for the Egyptians.

Zeyada reduced his first-round 12-fault discount score with Vizalaty to just two time faults at his second attempt, so when Nasser and Lucifer V posted a brilliant double-clear and Said registered only his second single time penalty of the day, then that would do it. The Swiss were on a final total of five while Egypt had just four on their scoresheet. El Dahan and his super-mare, Suma’s Zorro, looked set to put the icing on the cake by reducing that to just one fault with another double-clear performance, but not even their pole down could spoil the Egyptian celebrations. It was a huge moment for these four men who were putting their country right back on the Olympic Jumping map.

They were bursting with pride, and rightly so. The hard-working Said, who runs his own business in Antwerp, Belgium, sourcing and producing young horses and coaching riders while also competing, described his 10-year-old mare Venise as “a very raw and rough diamond who is only coming together over the last few months, but she is tough and has all the power in the world!” Maybe she will be the one who will take him to Tokyo. “It’s where we all want to get to. I’ve always dreamed of competing at the Olympic Games!“ he said.

Qatar’s 28-fault scoreline was good enough to earn the second Tokyo ticket. Hamad Nasser Al Qadi (SIEC Lonnie) posted 14 faults, Sheikh Ali Al Thani (Sirocco) collected nine, Rashid Towaim Ali Al Marri (Armstrong van de Kapel) picked up 15 faults, and Bassem Mohammed (Gunder) produced their best score with a total of five.

“Congratulations to all who helped us make it to the Olympics for a second time. We are very excited about it!” Bassem Mohammed said. “We competed in Rio (2016 Olympic Games) and now we go to Tokyo. It’s really important for us as riders, for the Federation, and for the Olympic Committee of Qatar so we are really looking forward to it,” he added.

Result here: https://online.equipe.com/fr/class_sections/464650.

by Louise Parkes

Irish Take 2019 Title and Tokyo Qualifying Spot

(L to R) Paul O’Shea, Peter Moloney, Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa, Darragh Kenny, and Cian O’Connor. (FEI/Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images)

The Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2019 came to thrilling climax, and it was Irish eyes that were smiling when Rodrigo Pessoa’s team of Peter Moloney, Paul O’Shea, Darragh Kenny, and Cian O’Connor clinched victory in fine style. Completing with just a single time fault, they pinned the defending champions from Belgium into runner-up spot while Sweden lined up in third. And to put the icing on the Irish cake, they also collected the Olympic qualifying spot they have been craving for a very long time.

Brilliant course-building by Spain’s Santiago Varela, who will also be presenting the tracks in Tokyo next summer, ensured another nail-biting afternoon during which it was impossible to predict the destiny of the coveted series trophy until the very last moment. But the Irish had already booked their Tokyo tickets before anchorman O’Connor went into the ring.

A single mistake from pathfinder Moloney and Chianti’s Champion at the massive triple combination three from home was followed by a superb clear from O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu. So when Kenny and Balou du Reventon collected just that single time fault then the road to Tokyo was already closed to their rivals from Colombia and Italy.

And then O’Connor turned a great day into an amazing one with a foot-perfect run from PSG Final because that put pressure on the Belgians for the Longines series title. The newly crowned European champions posted clears from Olivier Philippaerts (H&M Extra) and Jerome Guery (Quel Homme de Hus) and were looking good for their second victory in a row. One more clean run from anchorman Gregory Wathelet and MJT Nevados would clinch it because they could drop the unlucky four picked up by Niels Bruynseels and Jenson van’t Meulenhof at the very last fence. But, to gasps of disbelief from the crowd, Wathelet’s stallion uncharacteristically ducked out at the penultimate vertical, so Bruynseels’ four had to be counted and that would only be good enough for second place.

“We had a very clear objective coming here; the riders were super-focused and the horses were in great shape. Today we expected a very tough fight from Italy and Colombia who were our direct opponents (for Tokyo qualification), but as it happened, we were also holding strong against the big countries like Belgium and others. People sometimes don’t realise the pressure the riders are under to bring this qualification home. The weight of their country was on their shoulders; it was a big ask from them and to do it in the style they did it – hats off to them!”– Rodrigo Pessoa (Chef d’Equipe Team Ireland)

O’Connor, a member of the last Olympic team fielded by Ireland in Athens (GRE) in 2004, pointed out that the Longines title was always in their sights this week.  “Our aim was to win this trophy all along; obviously the Olympic qualification was also our goal, but you don’t come here just to qualify – we came here to win, and by doing so we got the bonus of qualification!” he said. And the team honoured one of the members of that 2004 Irish side, Kevin Babington, who finished individually fourth with the great Carling King that year and who experienced a life-changing accident four weeks ago, by wearing armbands bearing his name this week.

Pessoa was delighted with the spirit shown by his riders. “With teams there are good days and bad days… there’s a lot of chemistry, but the most important thing is that on the day it really counts, everyone sticks together and pulls the same way. People can leave their personal issues on the side and really pull for the country and that’s what happened here. I’m really proud of what they did today!”

Kenny said he realised how important his ride was. “I was a bit nervous going in the ring but I’m very lucky. I’ve an incredible horse; he’s absolutely amazing and he tried so hard. On Thursday he jumped an incredible clear and today I was just trying to make sure I left all the jumps up. Unfortunately, Santi [Santiago Varela, course designer] told me that I was the only person to get a time fault! My goal coming here was to try and do a double-clear, to try and get Ireland to Tokyo – that was the most important thing, and I’m glad I could be part of this great team. We were all fighting together; that was the most important thing,” he added.

That one time fault cost him a share of the €100,000 bonus for double-clear rounds that instead was divided between Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts and Germany’s Daniel Deusser.

There was a great sense of satisfaction for Pessoa. “We already had two disciplines qualified (Dressage and Eventing) but it’s been a long time since Ireland, a great equestrian nation, has been at the Olympics Games in showjumping and it was this team’s responsibility to bring it home. That for me was the most stressful thing today, to feel what they felt and how hard it must have been for them to ride in those conditions. They had such a great mental attitude – nothing could have stopped them from achieving what they did. I was called in a few years ago to do a job (achieve Olympic Jumping qualification) so now it’s mission accomplished!” he said.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46