The British Olympic Association has agreed to allow British dressage and show jumping teams to try and qualify for Athens at next year’s European Championships

Show jumping and dressage have a conditional agreement from the British Olympic Association (BOA) to use next year’s European Championships to try to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics, ending six weeks of speculation after disastrous performances at the World Equestrian Games (WEG).

A place in the top five at WEG would have qualified the show jumpers for Athens under BOA guidelines – they finished a dismal 16th, while the dressage team needed to finish seventh or higher and took 10th place.

We’re very pleased to have the opportunity to use the European Championships at Hickstead next summer as a qualifier for Athens,” said World Class Performance Plan dressage performance manager Ian Williams.

The decision reflects the British Olympic Association’s faith in our horses and riders and their understanding that what happened at the World Equestrian Games was a one-off – one of those things that can happen when you are competing with horses. The BOA is convinced that the team can continue to make progress and improve, and should have the chance of qualifying for the Olympics.”

Derek Ricketts, his show jumping counterpart, is equally relieved: “We would have been very disappointed if the team had not been given another chance to go to the Olympics, and we have rightly been allowed to use Donaueschingen as a qualifier. We now need to look at all aspects of our approach to this competition.”

A BOA spokesman stressed that this was not an about face by the Olympiad’s national body, and while it would have been preferable for the teams to qualify at WEG, this contingency plan has always been in place.

The European Dressage Championshipstake place from 13-17 August at Hickstead, while the show jumping equivalent is at Donaueschingen, Germany, from 20-24 August.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (21 November), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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