Petition Supporting Olympic Qualification Chances for Pan Am Nations Sent to FEI

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Nations Cup teams on the medals podium at the 2013 Wellington CDIO3*. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Nations Cup teams on the medals podium at the 2013 Wellington CDIO3*. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

A pettion seeking to maintain Olympic qualifying opportunites for Pan American nations, on Monday was sent to the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) which estimates another four to six years for the Americas to reach full Grand Prix at regional championships.

The petition with signatures of almost 400 equestrians from 19 nations around the world–from the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Australia and Asia–opposes the FEI proposal to cut qualifying for the Olympics at the 2015 Pan Ams to a single nation from the two for the 2012 Games in London.

The petition was signed by numerous Olympians, riders at all levels, as well as judges and other officials, supporters and show organizers. It was sent to the FEI Dressage Department to be presented to the Dressage Committee. The committee is expected to take up the issue at its meeting in July.

The petition was launched initially by Eugenia Lelo de Larrea in Mexico. A similar version was posted by dressage-news.com based in Wellington, Florida when a growing number of Pan Am nations led by FEI judge and official Maribel Alonso spoke out against the FEI proposal for the region that will see the first Olympics ever to be held in South America when they are staged in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Equine Canada President Mike Gallagher has denounced the proposal as “nothing short of punitive to countries from the Americas.”

The United States has been tepid in its public statements, a position that has perplexed some Pan Am nations and led to speculation in Europe that without support from the U.S. efforts to change the FEI draft could fail.

The petition expressed “dissatisfaction” with the proposed new qualification procedures for 36 nations on two continents despite efforts to raise to Grand Prix from small tour at the Pan Ams that are the largest multi-sport event after the Olympics and held once every four years.

“We are surprised and upset that the proposal seeks on the one hand to increase the number of Dressage riders at the Olympic Games but on the other seeks to reduce the chances for participation for riders of all the Americas,” the petition read.

“We are not seeking to benefit at the expense of another region but to be provided with the same opportunities as other regions to keep the dream of the Olympics alive throughout the entire equestrian community.”

The FEI increased the total number of dressage combinations to 60 at the Olympics in Rio de Janiero in 2016, from the 50 horses and riders in London in 2012 and increased the size of the teams to four combinations instead of three as at the last two Olympics.

At the same time, it proposed increasing to four the number of teams that can qualify at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy next year, up from three at the 2010 WEG while reducing to one nation able to qualify through the Pan Ams.

The effect would be that if no team from the Americas qualifies at WEG, only one could win a place through the Pan Ams that are scheduled for Toronto in 2015. Nations could form so-called compsite teams of three or more qualified individuals from the same country.

Brazil is awarded a team spot as is customary for all host nations at Olympics and typically does not affect regional qualifying criteria.

The FEI Dressage Committee received a report on the Wellington Nations Cup CDIO3* that was held in April for the second year to test a new format for the Pan Ams of mixed Grand Prix and Prix St. Georges horses.

The report said the format was well received by riders and trainers, but might have been too complicated for spectators to understand.

“However, the atmosphere had been very good and positive and it was seen as a good start to upgrade the sport in the Americas,” it said. “The goal was a working format that could be used for the Pan Am Games.”

Meantime, a similar format could be applied at CDIO2* outside Western Europe.

“The time frame to generally advance further towards Grand Prix level in the Americas was estimated as 4-6 years, with full GP likely for the Pan Am Games 2023,” the report said.

A proposed new Medium level competition between Prix St. Georges and Grand Prix was also seen by the Dressage Committee as an optional format for the Pan Ams.