Ireland is considering its options after an incident during the team final at the FEI European Jumping Championships 2015 in Aachen.
An arena official crossed the tracks of Cian O’Connor and his horse Good Luck as they were turning to the 11th fence during the team final. Good Luck hit the fence, giving Ireland four faults and ultimately dropping the team to seventh place overall, meaning Ireland misses out on Rio Olympic qualification. The qualifying spots went to Switzerland (3rd), Britain (4th) and Spain (6th), with the latter just a quarter of a penalty ahead of the Irish.
A protest lodged by Irish chef d’equipe Robert Splaine and O’Connor was heard by the Ground Jury, who ruled that as the athlete had continued his round, they saw no reason to stop him by ringing the bell. “Under Article 233.3 of the FEI Jumping Rules, the athlete had the opportunity to stop voluntarily due to unforeseen circumstances beyond his control, however he did not do so,” the FEI said in a statement.
The Ground Jury heard explanations from Robert Splaine and Cian O’Connor, reviewed video footage of the incident, and ruled that the result would stand.
Splaine and O’Connor then appealed that decision to the Appeal Committee. “However, after a further full review of the incident, including hearing statements from all parties, the Appeal Committee ruled that the athlete had been given a full and complete right to be heard and stated that it would not overrule the Ground Jury on a field of play decision. As a result, the Appeal Committee rejected the appeal and upheld the Ground Jury decision,” the FEI said.
Horse Sport Ireland CEO Damian McDonald said all options provided for within the FEI’s rules would be examined, “including a potential appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)”.
Before O’Connor’s round, team openers Bertram Allen with Molly Malone and Greg Broderick with the Irish Sport Horse MHS Going Global each had one fence down, but experienced anchorman Denis Lynch, who followed O’Connor, produced a determined final round that left all the poles standing in a outstanding performance under maximum pressure. However, it wasn’t enough, as a subsequent clear from Spain anchorman Sergio Alvarez Moya saw Spain secure the final Rio place.
The four penalties attributed to O’Connor were the difference between securing the third Rio qualifying spot.
“We are very proud of the Irish team’s performance at the European Championships in Aachen,” McDonald said. With regard to the incident involving O’Connor, he said: “We will be pursuing this through all appeals mechanisms available to us within the rules of the international governing body.”