New three-rider format causes ‘carnage’ in Olympic showjumping, say riders

  • The new three-to-a-team format has been described as “carnage” by riders in the Olympic showjumping team competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

    Ireland, Israel and Japan were all ruled out owing to, in the first two cases, a horse fall eliminating that combination, and in Japan’s case, the second and third riders withdrawing.

    Under the old format, where four horses and riders jumped, teams could have dropped the elimination, or worst score, and continued.

    “I think the three-horse rule is actually a very bad rule, no riders are in favour of it,” said Harry Charles after his round on Romeo 88 today (6 August).

    “It’s totally unfair on the rider who actually makes a mistake. We all knew coming here that there was going to be a bit of carnage with this rule and you’ve seen it today.”

    Shane Sweetnam, whose ride Alejandro fell at fence nine to rule Ireland out of contention, agreed.

    “Obviously with this new format everything counts, so it’s very hard for the team,” he said. “We are out now, and that’s the negativity of having just a three-man team, that there’s no drop score. These things happen as you’ve seen – a couple of other teams are falling out of bed as well. It’s hard to follow it really and see if it can be the future of our sport.”

    H&H reported extensively on the controversy around the new format, which FEI president Ingmar de Vos said was “really important for the future of our sport if we are to increase universality in accordance with the recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020”.

    Rodrigo Pessoa said although the format caused no issues for his team; Brazil made it through to the final in eighth place, he does not agree with it.

    “You saw things that happen, when the whole country is eliminated,” he said. “It played in our favour, but I don’t think it’s the right thing.”

    Rodrigo added that he and Carlito’s Way will not jump in the final; the new format means combinations can be swapped in, which he said is a positive.

    “But there are things that have to be changed for the next Olympics, definitely,” he said.

    McLain Ward, whose five-fault round on Contagious helped the US team qualify for the final, described the Olympic team showjumping format as “a little complicated and challenging”.

    “I’m very thankful we have a course-designer like Santiago [Varela] who really has been, in my opinion, brilliant,” he said.

    “There’s no drop score, no room for error. There’s no room for a mild mishap. I’m not a fan of three-people teams; we’ve already seen this evening some really unfortunate problems.

    “There are too many variables in a sport with a horse, an animal, and a rider to make it great sport in this format; my opinion.

    “I think that’s something to discuss another day. We’ve got to focus on the task at hand tomorrow and then try to be in the mix.”

    • What do you think about the new Olympic format? Send your thoughts to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger

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