Andrew Nicholson has reportedly asked to be withdrawn from next year’s New Zealand high performance squad after a disagreement with a team vet at the World Equestrian Games (WEG) this summer.
The seven-times Olympian alleges his ride Nereo was left without veterinary assistance on several occasions. He maintains that he had to find someone to track the vet down which led to “robust discussion and an argument”.
Andrew told the New Zealand Herald that a complaint was made by Equestrian Sports New Zealand (ESNZ) high performance officials Sarah Harris and Erik Duvander to the FEI about his behaviour, which was subsequently withdrawn.
Ms Harris has released a statement denying this.
“Any complaints would firstly be dealt with by ESNZ, but no official complaints were laid following WEG,” she said. “The welfare of our horses and riders are of the highest priority to us and our riders. Andrew Nicholson is one of our most celebrated athletes at elite level.”
Ms Harris stated that ESNZ has two formal processes currently underway — a debrief about WEG and its annual review with High Performance Sport New Zealand.
Andrew said he will not reconsider his position until after the review process.
It is currently unclear whether Andrew would still be prepared to compete for his country.
H&H has tried to contact Andrew, but has been unable to reach him to confirm the situation.
The New Zealand team did not complete at this year’s WEG, so there are now two ways the country could qualify a team for the 2016 Olympics.
The first is at next year’s Asia Pacific Championships, which has previously been held as part of the CCI3* at Blenheim and where Japan would be likely to be New Zealand’s main rival (only one team qualifies for Rio from this championship).
The second is by qualifying a “composite” team of athletes through the FEI rider rankings (riders who qualify in this way win an Olympic place for their nation, not necessarily for themselves) — it is likely a nation with New Zealand’s strength would be able to qualify a team through the rakings.
This drama comes during a turbulent time for the structure of ESNZ. After WEG it was revealed that Ms Harris was leaving her post at the end of November and that British-based New Zealand farrier Andrew Nickalls and team vet Ollie Pynn had both also signalled their exits. It is not clear if Mr Pynn was involved in the incident at WEG.
Mr Duvander, who is high performance coach, is moving back to New Zealand and former chief executive Jim Ellis has taken up a different leadership role within Sport New Zealand.