Ireland’s showjumping team to learn its Olympic fate next month

Cian O’Connor on Quidam’s Cherie
Cian O’Connor  pictured on Quidam’s Cherie.

Ireland should know next month whether its legal push to get its showjumping team to next year’s Olympics in Brazil is successful.

Horse Sport Ireland and Cian O’Connor took their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, which heard the matter on Wednesday.

“We had a long hearing today,” Horse Sport Ireland chief executive Damian McDonald said.

“We now have to wait for the decision, which we are unlikely to receive before early January. We won’t be making any further comment about the case until then.”

He thanked members of the legal team, saying they did a top class job in preparing and presenting the case for Ireland.

The case arose out of an incident at the European Championships in Aachen, Germany, last August, where national teams were vying to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

Ireland’s team believed it was on course to qualify when a steward ran in front of O’Connor’s horse, Good Luck.

O’Connor and Good Luck pressed on, knocking the fence they were about to jump. The four faults incurred resulted in Ireland missing out on Olympic qualification by less than one fault, with Spain taking the spot.

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.

The FEI subsequently said in a statement: “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 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. The FEI said: “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.”

Horse Sport Ireland chief executive Damian McDonald indicated in the days following Aachen that his organisation might take the case as far as the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is the highest sporting court in the world.

Horse Sport Ireland’s chairman, Pat Wall, said at the time: “They went to the European Championships to pursue their Olympic dream. A freak incident occurred on the day which hindered our efforts. All we are looking for is fair play.

“We are convinced that if this incident had not happened, the Irish show jumping team would be going to the Olympics.”

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