Australia’s High Performance Manager Resigns, Other Officials Involved in Olympic Selection May be Out

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Hayley Beresford on Belissimo NRW leaving the arena in tears after competing on the Australian team at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen. Germany in July, 2012, after she had been left off the Australian Olympic squad. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Brett Mace, in charge of Australia’s Olympic equestrian teams, has resigned as high peformance manager for the national federation after a review by the government sports agency of the Olympic procedures and results for all three disciplines. Among the issues under review was that of Hayley Beresford who was not included on the dressage team despite qualifying scores that were among the top three.
Equestrian Australia, the federation, said it “can cofirm that Brett has resigned from his position as high performance manager” after seven years on the job including the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and the 2006 and 2010 World Equestrian Games.
The selectors whose terms are up will “be reconsidered” while national performance directors for dressage and jumping were interim appointments and “will remain this way” until new assignments are made.
Changes within the Australian federation come on the heels of an investigation by the Australian Sports Commission, the government agency responsible for distributing funds and providing strategic guidance for high performance teams, of the country’s Olympic equestrian results including selction procedures. Australia, which has long been an eventing powerhouse and whose jumping ranks include Edwina Alexander-Tops, among the highest ranked riders in the world, did not win an equestrian medal in any of the three disciplines.

The study was conducted last October at the request of the equestrian federation and has yet to be released.

The commission told dressage-news.com: “The ASC has assisted Equestrian Australia to conduct a review. Any information on the review should be requested from Equestrian Australia.”

The dressage selection panel of three members was headed up by Joanne Fowler while longtime federation official Deborah McNicol was chef d’equipe and directly involved in implementation of the selection procedures that were at two competitions in Europe.

“With regards to selectors,” the federation said in response to questions from dressage-news.com, “all Olympic discipline selectors are appointed for a four year term and as such all selector roles will be reconsidered. The forthcoming term will be for the period 2013-2016. Current selectors are permitted to reapply for a selector position.

“The National Performance Directors for dressage and jumping were interim appointments and they will remain this way until new appointments for the forthcoming four-year period are made.”
Hayley Beresford, based in Germany, competed on Belissimo NRW in both selection trials and placed in the top three ranked Australians during the selection period. However, she was not named to the team of three members.
Lyndal Oatley, also resident in Germany, was selected at the discretion of the selectors as the top finishng combination with Sandro Boy to compete in her first Olympics. Mary Hanna, an Olympic veteran was selected on Sancette while the Germany-based Kristy Oatley, a cousin of Lyndal, was awarded the third slot.

Hayley spoke out against the selection procedures and filed appeals with both the Australian federation and the Court of Arbitration for Sport based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Both cases were dismissed.

The Australian federation, citing “team harmony,” then selected Rozzie Ryan and GV Bullwinkle over Hayley as reserve for the Olympic team.

The Australian federation said at the time: “The ability to positively contribute to the team is essential for an Olympic Games and in the interest of team harmony the Dressage Selectors have chosen to appoint Rozzie. Equestrian Australia has acted in the best interest of not just the Dressage team but all 17 riders who have been selected in the equestrian team.”

Hayley’s case was front page news in Australia’s major metropolitan newspapers and on national television, reflecting widespread popular support for her case.