Olympic Dressage Teams Cut to 1 from 2 at Pan American Games Qualifying

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2007 Pan American Games team medalists: USA (gold), Canada (silver) and Brazil (bronze). © 2007 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
2007 Pan American Games team medalists: USA (gold), Canada (silver) and Brazil (bronze). In addition to Brazil, which other nations from the Americas get to go to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro? © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The chances of teams from the Americas–Canada, the United States and all other Central and South American countries except host Brazil–able to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero has been cut sharply under a proposal by the International Equestrian Federation that reduces to a single nation being selected through the Pan American Games.

If no team from the Americas place among the top three at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014, the only chance remains to finish first at the Pan American Games in 2015 or to qualify enough individuals to make up a so-called “composite” team of a minimumo of three riders and horses.

Brazil, as the host nation, is automatially allocated a team and thus, FEI officials said, the Dressage Committee reduced the number of nations that can qualify through the Pan Ams.

The change is on the agenda for the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland next month that will lead to final decisions on 2016 Olympic qualification.

The proposed qualification system does, however, assure Europe of strong representation.

In addition to the three best ranked teams from the 2014 WEG, the three best ranked teams from North Western, South Western as well as Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia get to go if they have not already won a place at the WEG. If Central and Eastern Europe and Central still do not qualify that slot will still be allocated to Europe.

For Africa/Middle East, Southeast Asia and Oceania (Australia/New Zealand), the one best ranked team from the 2014 WEG qualifies plus another team from approved special qualification events.

The effect of the proposal is that the entire Americas could have only one team in addition to the host nation, Brazil, at the 2016 Olympics despite an enlarged dressage competition.

The cut in opportunities for the Americas to qualify was made along with a proposal increasing dressage at the next Olympics to a total of 60 riders and horses, up from 50 in recent Olympics. The provision to allow teams of four riders for whom the three top scores will count was also restored after the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 London Olympics cut the teams to three combinations with no discard score.

What this means in practice is that if no nation from North, Central or South America qualifies a team at the 2014 WEG their only shot of going to the Olympics is by winning gold at the Pan Ams in Toronto in 2015. A nation could also field a team if three or more individuals from a single country qualify under the Olympic ranking procedure.

In qualifying for the 2012 Olympics, for example, the United States finished fourth at the 2010 World Equestrian Games and thus qualified a team because Great Britain finished among the top three placings but was automatically qualified as the host in London.

Canada placed second at the Pan Ams in Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011, behind the United States with Colombia in third place.

As the U.S. was already qualified through WEG, both Canada and Colombia were allocated starting berths in London. Colombia was not able to get enough combinations to achieve the 64 per cent qualifying scores to make up a team.

Although no comment was available from national federaions in the Americas at this writing, individual riders who did not wish to be identified because they were not authorized to speak for their national federation were shocked by the proposal.

Pan American nations are taking part in Nations Cups in Wellington, Florida to test a unique format of mixed small and big tour combinations in an effort to raise the level at the Pan Ams to Grand Prix from Prix St. Georges.

The CDIO3* Nations Cup will be held next month, following the first year of the first such non-championship event in the Western Hemisphere which was at Prix St. Georges only, that had been the Pan Am Games level.