Ireland suffered a hugely disappointing start in the Olympic team showjumping qualifier at the Tokyo Games, with Shane Sweetnam and the 12-year-old gelding Alejandro being eliminated after a fall during their opening round.
Pathfinder Shane was drafted in after Cian O’Connor’s mount Kilkenny suffered a nosebleed in the individual final on Wednesday and elected not to continue jumping in the Olympic team showjumping. The lovely grey Alejandro looked fresh and full of enthusiasm, throwing in a buck after the first fence as they made their competitive debut in the main arena.
However, after hitting a rail in the enormous treble combination on Santiago Varela’s colourful track, the gelding looked to become increasingly spooked by the big occasion with the poles flying until, at the Liverpool oxer at fence nine, the pair crashed to the floor, incurring an elimination.
“I’m okay and the horse seems to be OK,” said Shane shortly afterwards. “He started off okay – he’s an experienced horse who is normally very good.
“But he overreached or he pulled a shoe going in to the triple combination and I don’t know whether that hurt him but it definitely rattled him. And after that, you could see he was very unsettled and he wasn’t himself. He’s a very sensitive horse, so whatever happened going into the combination really flustered him and he forgot what he was doing. I felt like I was in shock myself, but hopefully he’ll be okay and we can bounce back from it.”
With all three scores now counting in this new Olympic format, the consequences were, unfortunately, pretty serious for Ireland’s chances in the Olympic showjumping team competition and Shane confirmed that the remaining two riders, Bertram Allen and Darragh Kenny, wouldn’t compete in an attempt to join the top 10 teams through to Saturday”s Olympic showjumping team final.
“With no chance of them making the top 10, you’re just risking injury to the horses who also already jumped earlier in the week,” said Shane.
“Obviously with this new format everything counts,” he added. “So it’s very hard for the team. 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 – there’s couple of other teams that are falling out of bed as well, and you know, it’s hard to follow it really and see if it can be the future of our sport.”
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