Irish showjumping authorities have ordered an independent review into the country’s failure to qualify a team for the London 2012 Olympics.
And questions have also been raised in the Irish Senate.
Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) is tendering for a company to carry out a post-mortem examination to establish why the Republic could not qualify a team for the 2012 Olympics – despite having two riders in the world’s top 11 and five in the top 100.
The results will be relayed to HSI in January.
HSI chairman Joe Walsh said: “Everyone was very disappointed that we did not qualify for the Games. The review will provide those closest to the programme with an opportunity to offer their views.”
Riders and the team management will be interviewed individually and their views added anonymously.
Irish showjumper Cian O’Connor, who jumped at the 2004 Athens Olympics, told H&H: “The review will only be helpful if we find ways to improve from it rather than apportion blame.
“We [Irish riders] are very successful individually, but often perform below par as a team.
” [British chef d’equipe] Rob Hoekstra, has done a super job with Team GB in terms of planning and organisation, and created team spirit within a camp where some were far from best mates.
“Irish showjumpers need to work as a team, not as four individuals who meet up on the day of a big competition.”
Questions in Parliament
Ireland crashed out of team contention for the Olympics at the European Championships in Madrid (13-18 September).
One politician demanded HSI be hauled before the Irish Parliament’s upper house, the Seanad (Senate).
Fine Gael senator Tom Sheahan told H&H the showjumping team’s failures indicate a “cancer” in HSI.
“Ireland has always prided itself on being a place of equine excellence. It is a disastrous indictment that we could not qualify for the Olympics,” said Mr Sheahan.
“HSI is a state-funded institution, they need to explain what’s gone wrong.”
Ireland also failed to qualify a team for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. A single showjumper, Denis Lynch, represented Ireland in Hong Kong.
Hope for individuals
The Irish now hope to secure places for two individual riders for London.
Their success will be determined by the FEI world rankings as they stand on 1 March 2012.
Ireland’s Denis Lynch currently ranks 10th and Billy Twomey 11th – though the places do not have to go to the riders whose ranking secured them.
Ireland’s chef d’equipe, Robert Splaine, HSI and the Olympic Council of Ireland will decide the final Olympic selection.
This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (20 October, 2011)