Riders object to Benson for 2012 Olympics

  • Britain’s Sue Benson is to design the cross-country course for the London 2012 Olympics in Greenwich Park — and her appointment has sparked fierce reaction from riders.

    Australian rider Clayton Fredericks, for the Event Riders Association (ERA) raised concerns with British Equestrian Federation (BEF) chairman Hugh Thomas, before the decision was made.

    “We had some inclination it was going this way. Every rider I’ve spoken to in the past few weeks — hundreds — says the same,” he said. “Considering the calibre of the other candidates, I don’t believe they made the best decision.”

    Mrs Benson, who could not comment to H&H, has not designed a championship or four-star track. She admitted in June that she was on a “steep learning curve” after her course for Bramham this year was openly criticised.

    The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) proposed four designers to the London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOCOG). The others were German Rüdiger Schwarz, who designed at this year’s World Equestrian Games; France’s Pierre Michelet, designer at one World Cup final and two European Championships, and America’s Derek di Grazia.

    “I cannot see how Sue Benson is in the same league as Pierre Michelet,” said Olympic rider Andrew Nicholson. “She just hasn’t got the experience yet.”

    Another rider, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I’m against this, considering the courses that have produced in the past and the quality of the other candidates.”

    Riders are questioning whether Mrs Benson was picked because she is British, but the FEI insists the decision is “based on ability not nationality”.

    A LOCOG spokesman said Mrs Benson was picked for “her experience at the highest level, her excellent ideas and her experience of designing in a public area”.

    The spokesman said the decision had been made with the FEI and the BEF.
    Clayton Fredericks added: “It is disappointing that, in a decision of this nature, ERA has been ignored. I warned Hugh how riders would react. If you look at who has made consistently good courses, the choice is obvious.”

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