Australia announced its Olympic eventing team yesterday, with one surprising omission. With a host of talent to choose from, the Equestrian Federation of Australia have plumped for youngster Rebel Morrow, leaving Matt Ryan without a ticket to Athens.
The three-times Olympic gold-medallist has had something of an up-and-down season, with his international performances beset by problems, in particular with Bonza Puzzle, who finished a credible 26th at Badminton in spite of the appalling conditions, but a stop across country put pay to Olympic qualification.
“I am really disappointed of course although it isn’t a shock exactly,” said Matt. “The reason for the omission is that Badminton just didn’t go to plan, because of the conditions, and we finished with a heap of time faults and a stop across country.
“But the selectors who were at Badminton implied that because of the tough conditions – after all not a single combination finished within the cross country time – that those results could be taken with a pinch of salt.”
Matt’s Bramham hopes were dashed when he had to withdraw the 12-year-old gelding due to a corn in the horse’s foot. The Australian fought through the tangle of the Olympic qualifying system to net a last minute qualification for Bonza Puzzle, his preferred ride, in Poland last weekend.
But his performance was outshone by that of 27-year-old Rebel Morrow, who won the Olympic-format event in Sydney last week, the final selection trial, securing her place on the shortlist with Oaklea Groover.
“Obviously Rebel [Morrow]’s performance in Sydney impressed the selectors, and she did come fifth at Adelaide. The chairman of selectors told me that they had looked at all the riders’ four star performances, and the results all look better than mine this season,” said Matt.
“It’s very frustrating, and now we’ll just have to wait and see where I am on the reserve list, and from there I will decide on what’s next for [Bonza] Puzzle,” he added.
Both Rebel and youngster Olivia Bunn (GV Top of the Line) will be making their Olympic debuts, although Olivia was a reserve in 2000.
The rest of the five-strong team consists of three of the Sydney Gold medallists. Andrew Hoy, virtually a veteran at 45-years-old, heads the team on Mr Pracatan, who has had a foot-perfect season. Hoy seeks a record fourth consecutive Gold medal.
Stuart Tinney takes Jeepster, the only horse from Sydney 2000 to be heading to Athens. The partnership was the anchor of the Australian team four years ago, finishing in the top spot of the team event. The fifth combination is Phillip Dutton with Nova Top. Phillip is based in the USA and has been a regular member of the Australian team since the 1994 WEG in Saumur.
New Zealand eventers selected
The New Zealand Equestrian Federation also announced its Olympic eventing shortlist earlier this week. The team is characterised by Olympic experience, with Andrew Nicholson and Blyth Tait heading the shortlist. Nicholson is set to take either Fenicio, on whom he was second at Chatsworth in May, or Lord Killinghurst, who battled through the mud to finish second at Badminton.
Blyth Tait was another leading eventer to suffer the trauma of Olympic qualification. He managed to qualify Ready Teddy in flamboyant style at the last minute in Punchestown, where he finished first in the CCI*** and first in the Olympic-format section on Eze, his second Olympic short-listed horse.
Dan Jocelyn was selected for the Sydney team, but an injury to Silence put pay to the 33-year-old’s dreams in 2000. The combination will be hoping to make up for that unfortunate twist of fate in Athens. Heelan Tompkins, is the youngest member of the team at 26-years-old, and has won the New Zealand three-day-event title three times. She takes Glengarrick.
Matthew Grayling is the only member of the New Zealand team to be based in his native country, although he has headed to England with Revo for the final run-up to the games.
Australian Olympic eventing team:
Reserve horses and riders:
New Zealand Olympic eventing team