Cian O’Connor’s appeal dismissed by Court of Arbitration
Verdict means Ireland will not have a show jumping team at the Olympics in Rio
Cian O’Connor onboard Good Luck: “I have no regrets. I tried everything possible and left no stone unturned in trying to seek fairness.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Ireland will not have a show jumping team at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following yesterday’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to dismiss the appeal brought by rider Cian O’Connor and Horse Sport Ireland.
CAS, which will release its grounds for the decision in the coming weeks, stated yesterday morning on its website: “The arbitration concerned a protest lodged by Horse Sport Ireland and Cian O’Connor following an incident during the team final at the FEI European Jumping Championships held in Aachen, Germany in August 2015, which counted as final qualifying event for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. The incident involved a member of the ground staff during O’Connor’s round.
“The FEI Appeal Committee’s decision of 22 August 2015 confirmed an earlier decision taken by the ground jury at the Aachen championships in which the protest lodged by the Irish team was dismissed and a ruling was given that the results obtained on the course that day would stand.”
In Aachen, a member of the arena party ran across the track as O’Connor was turning his mount Good Luck to the 11th fence in the team final. The horse hit the fence, incurring four faults which saw Ireland complete in seventh place on a converted score of 25.960 with Spain, on 25.580, narrowly securing the final Olympic qualifying slot in sixth.
Following yesterday’s decision by CAS, Damian McDonald, chief executive of HSI, said: “We felt that we had made a strong case and we are very disappointed with the outcome. We will await the full reasoned judgement before making any further comment on the outcome.”
From his base in Florida, where he is preparing for the annual Winter Equestrian Festival in Palm Beach, O’Connor stated on his Facebook page: “I have no regrets. I tried everything possible and left no stone unturned in trying to seek fairness for what I feel was an unsporting decision made by the ground jury in Aachen. It’s time to move on and refocus on the sport rather than getting caught up further in bureaucracy . . .
“Team Ireland are first reserve because of the good performance at WEG (World Equestrian Games) in 2014 so there is always a chance that we will get there yet – so best to keep aiming for it I guess!”
After learning of yesterday’s ruling, General Sabrina Ibáñez, secretary general of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), stated: “I am happy that the CAS has confirmed the decision of the FEI appeal committee. This was a field of play issue that was covered by FEI rules, so the CAS ruling upholding the decision made at the time is an important one for the FEI.”
With all qualified countries likely to take up their places at the Games, Ireland can still be represented by individual competitors, although there are only 15 places available. Qualification for the Olympics is according to FEI world rankings where, currently, Ireland’s highest-rated rider in sixth is Wexford’s Bertram Allen. There are two other Irish riders in the top 50 at present, Denis Lynch (joint 29th) and Conor Swail (31st) while O’Connor is ranked 66th behind Darragh Kenny (59th).
Ireland has a team qualified for the eventing competition at Rio de Janeiro while Judy Reynolds looks certain to secure a qualifying place for the country in dressage following her recent results with Vancouver K.