Olympic Equestrian: Ireland drop out after Sweetnam falls from horse

Liam O'Meara and Mr Coolcaum in action at CoilÓg Equestrian Centre. Credit: www.jumpinaction.net.

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It has been a very tough few hours for Irish Olympic athletes and fans throughout equestrian, cycling and modern pentathlon events this morning

The line between success and failure in elite sport is thin and today Ireland had no luck.

After impressive displays in the jumping individual round, Team Ireland were confident of scoring high to reach the final tomorrow.

Team Ireland would be made up of Darragh Kenny, Bertram Allen and replacement Shane Sweetnam for the qualifiers.

The team would be without their highest scorer so far, Cian O’Connor on Kilkenny after the horse sustained a nose bleed in the individual event.

To read more about the thrilling individual event, see Olympic Equestrian Final: O’Connor misses final jump-off by 1 point.

Of the 19 teams in the qualifiers, only the top 10 would progress to the final tomorrow morning.

Equestrian – Jumping Team Qualifier

Shane Sweetnam riding Alejandro was to be Ireland’s first rider in ninth position. He made a strong start showing good speed with his horse clearing the fences well.

The horse knocked a fence during a triple jump on five but tried to recover. At the sixth fence, everything began to go wrong.

Sweetnam and his horse knocked the sixth fence badly and in doing so, a shoe came off the horse. It is possible for a horse to complete the course without a shoe but Alejandro seemed uncomfortable and was now lacking confidence.

On the next fence, the horse jumped too high and landed back down on top of the poles. This caused his legs to buckle and he fell to his knees, knocking his rider off.

Luckily due to the safety measures in place, neither Sweetnam or Alejandro were injured by the fall but their routine was over.

The 40-year-old Sweetnam was clearly disappointed by what had happen. He knew that it left Ireland’s chances of qualification to the next round in tatters.

The new rules have it that any rider that is eliminated in a routine is awarded four more points than the worst score finishing score of the event.

Kenny and Allen would have needed perfect runs to have a chance of making the finals. After already competing twice in the individual event, the riders decided, in the interest of wellbeing for them and their horses, to retire from the competition.

This puts a damp mood on what has been a very decent Olympics for Ireland’s equestrian team.

Fans and athlete’s alike will now look to the marathons, the men’s modern pentathlon, Stephanie Meadow’s in golf and Kellie Harrington in boxing for our last chances at silverware in Tokyo.

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