Irish showjumper Cian O’Connor and Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) are to appear at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, tomorrow (Wednesday 16 December), seeking a showjumping place at Rio 2016.
At the 2015 European Championships, Cian — the London 2012 individual bronze medallist — looked on target for a clear with Good Luck when a member of the arena party dashed across his path and jumped into the flower bed around which Cian was turning round before tackling an oxer.
Cian says the distraction caused Good Luck to fault. Ireland lost out on a Rio place to Spain by just 0.38 faults. On the day, HSI’s protest and appeal were dismissed.
Cian and HSI allege the incident cost Ireland’s showjumping team its Olympic place.
The Ground Jury, presided over by Britain’s Jon Doney, said Cian could have stopped and signalled to the judges, but continued.
HSI’s legal team for the hearing will be led by senior counsel Martin Hayden. He will be supported by barrister David Casserly, who is an expert CAS Counsel, along with Joe Fitzpatrick and Eamon Carey from Smithwick Solicitors.
“To have a showjumping team at the Olympic Games is very important for Ireland,” said HSI chairman Pat Wall.
“Our riders and their owners are doing a huge amount to promote Ireland as a world leader in the sport. They went to the European Championships to pursue their Olympic dream. A freak incident occurred on the day, which hindered our efforts. All we are looking for is fair play. We are convinced that if this incident had not happened, the Irish team would be going to the Olympics.
“Our legal team have prepared diligently. Martin Hayden and Joe Fitzpatrick are also involved in, and have a huge passion for, our sport. They have put in a huge effort to prepare this case.
“In addition, Cian O’Connor has his own legal advisors involved, and the two teams have been working closely to ensure we put forward the strongest possible case.”
Last month Cian said he was “confident” that CAS has the power to rectify the FEI’s failure to implement its own rules.
The Irish eventing team has already qualified for the Olympics, and Mr Wall said that it would be a great boost to the whole sector to have two teams in Rio.
“Judy Reynolds has also been doing brilliantly in dressage, so we have a great chance a securing a place in that discipline also,” said Mr. Wall.
“To have a full showjumping team there, with the prospect of securing medals, would be the icing on the cake.”