WITH the Olympic Games in Rio just over three months away, Horse Sport Ireland held a media day at the National Horse Sport Arena at the National Sport Campus in Abbotstown today (Tuesday), with many of the potential Olympic Equestrian athletes in attendance.
Ireland has qualified seven Equestrian places for Rio 2016, including a full team of four Eventing riders, individual Show Jumping and Dressage riders, along with securing one Paralympic place.
Equestrian and Boxing were the only sports in which Ireland won an Olympic medal at London 2012 and with its current group of riders regularly winning at the highest level, Equestrian sport provides a realistic medal hope again at Rio.
Impressive recent results at Nations Cup level for the Irish Eventing team, including a win in last season’s Dutch Nations Cup finale, has given real hope that Ireland can improve on its team fifth place finish at London 2012. A squad of 10 Eventing riders have been in intense training since the beginning of 2015, under the watchful eye of Team Manager Nick Turner.
While Ireland failed to qualify a full Show Jumping team, one individual place has been secured. Bertram Allen, Greg Broderick, Denis Lynch and Cian O’Connor have been identified as being on the shortlist for the spot and all four are part of Team Manager Robert Spaine’s Irish squad for the upcoming Nations Cup of Belgium along with rising star Anthony Condon.
In Dressage, Kildare’s Judy Reynolds recently finished eighth in the World Cup final against the top riders in the world. Ireland has also qualified one Paralympic athlete for Rio. Helen Kearney won two individual medals and a team medal in London. Kearney and her Paralympic teammates got off to a good start in 2016, by finishing third in the first Para Dressage Nations Cup of the season in France recently.
Horse Sport Ireland intends to announce the Irish Equestrian athletes they will recommend to the Olympic Council of Ireland, in the week beginning June 7th.
Horse Sport Ireland also used the occasion to unveil to the Irish media, a new campaign being rolled out by the International Governing Body, The FEI, to promote equestrian sport globally in the lead up to Rio. The campaign is called ‘Two Hearts’ which focuses on the unique bond between horse and rider.