The appeal committee at the FEI European Showjumping Championships in Aachen, Germany, last night rejected the Irish appeal over interference during Cian O’Connor’s round, leaving the Irish team without a spot for Rio 2016.

During yesterday’s final team round (21 August), Cian had jumped clear up to fence 10 and was rounding the mound on a right-hand turn to fence 11 when a member of the arena crew ran across in front of Good Luck. He then had the next jump down.

“The horse was jumping really well, I was thinking I had a good feeling like when he jumped clear yesterday [Thursday, 20 August],” said Cian afterwards.

“I had to shout at him to get out of the way and it put me off my line, the horse sidestepped him a bit — it was as clear as day the guy was in my way.”

Had Cian gone clear, Ireland would have qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. With his four faults on the score card, they finished behind Spain, who took the third qualification spot on offer (Switzerland, third, and Britain, fourth, took the other two).

Afterwards, Irish chef d’equipe Robert Splaine and Cian lodged a protest.

In a statement issued in the small hours this morning (22 August), the FEI said: “The protest was heard by the ground jury, who ruled that as the athlete had continued his round, they saw no reason to stop him by ringing the bell. Under article 233.3 of the FEI jumping rules, the athlete had the opportunity to stop voluntarily due to unforeseen circumstances beyond his control, however he did not do so.

“The ground jury heard explanations from Robert Splaine and Cian O’Connor, reviewed video footage of the incident, and ruled that the result would stand.”

The relevant part of the jumping rules says: “[Article 233.3] If the athlete stops voluntarily to signal to the ground jury that the obstacle to be jumped is wrongly built or if due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the athlete he is prevented from continuing his round under normal circumstances, the clock must be stopped immediately.

“3.1 If the dimensions are correct and the obstacle in question has been properly built or if the alleged unforeseen circumstances are not accepted as such by the ground jury, the athlete will be penalised as for stopping during the round… and the time of his round will be increased by six seconds.

“3.2. If the obstacle or part of the obstacle needs to be rebuilt or if the unforeseen circumstances are accepted as such by the ground jury, the athlete is not penalised. The time of the interruption must be deducted and the clock stopped until the moment when the athlete takes up his track at the point where he stopped. Any delay incurred by the Athlete must be taken into consideration and an appropriate number of seconds deducted from his recorded time.”

After the incident, Cian said: “The FEI say I should have stopped, but who’s going to stop in the middle of a competition?”

After the ground jury decision, Robert and Cian took the problem to the appeals committee. The hearing went on for well over an hour, with a further lengthy wait for the result, which was issued around 2am.

The FEI statement continued: “However, after a further full review of the incident, including hearing statements from all parties, the appeal committee ruled that the athlete had been given a full and complete right to be heard and stated that it would not overrule the ground jury on a field of play decision. As a result, the appeal committee rejected the appeal and upheld the ground jury decision.”

However, this may not be the end of the incident.

Damian McDonald, Horse Sport Ireland chief executive, said after the competition: “We will be examining all of our options provided for within the rules of the FEI including a potential appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).”
Looking up at the room where Cian O'Connor's appeal was being heard at the European Showjumping Championships 2015

Looking up at the room where Cian O’Connor’s appeal was being heard at the European Showjumping Championships 2015 in Aachen

Full report on the European Showjumping Championships in H&H next week, out Thursday, 27 August.