Nations Turn to 2016 Olympics Qualification Now World Games Over

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German team of Kristina Sprehe, Helen Langehanenberg, Isabell Werth and Fabienne Lütkemeier that won gold at the World Games to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Photo: PSV
German team of Kristina Sprehe, Helen Langehanenberg, Isabell Werth and Fabienne Lütkemeier that won gold at the World Games to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Photo: PSV

Sept. 12, 2014

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

With the World Equestrian Games over, the European dressage powerhouse nations of Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands captured all nine medals at stake in dressage and qualified teams for the 2016 Olympic Games. Most of the rest of the horse world will now be focused on winning a start at Rio de Janeiro.

The only other two countries that can rest easy are Australia that qualified for the Olympics under a special “favored geographic region” provision although finishing 10th at WEG and Brazil, that is entitled to a team start as the Olympic host.

Three more nations get a chance to qualify at the European Championships in Aachen, Germany next summer while a second team from the same geographic area that includes Australia gets a chance to qualify at a specially created event.

No geographic favoritism for the Americas despite an increase in the number of horses and riders in Rio to 60 from 50 at the 2012 London Games.

The United States placed fourth and Canada ninth in Normandy and get one chance to qualify–at next summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto, along with the rest of North and South American at what will be a unique format of mixed Big Tour/Small Tour teams.

All countries that fail to qualify at designated championship or the specially created event can attempt to do it the hard way–one horse and rider at a time to qualify individuals and maybe get enough combinations to form a “composite” squad.

A goal of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) in drawing up qualification procedures for 2016 was to see more “flags” displayed in Rio.

Of the 10 teams that started at the 2012 Olympics, seven were from Europe, including host Great Britain and Poland that was a “composite” team, Australia, Canada and the United States.

The qualifying format for Rio provides for six teams from Europe, host Brazil, two from the Asia/Oceania region and one from the Americas, plus nations that can put together a “composite” squad.

Despite the U.S. being hot favorite to win the single qualifying spot at the Pan Ams with the two highest scoring Grand Prix combinations in the Americas–Steffen Peters on Legolas and Laura Graves on Verdades–and a strong lineup of small tour horses to fill the other two places, nothing is being left to chance.

United States dressage team at the World Games of Steffen Peters, Laura Graves, Tina Konyot and Adrienne Lyle. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
United States dressage team at the World Games of Steffen Peters, Laura Graves, Tina Konyot and Adrienne Lyle. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Qualifying procedures are being drawn up now to be ready for 12 weeks of competitions, including seven CDIs at the Global Dressage Festival in Florida beginning in January. Four Global World Cup events are also likely to be intensely competitive as the Final will be in Las Vegas in April.

The U.S. won team gold and all three individual medals at the 2011 Pan Ams in Guadalajara, Mexico where a record 12 teams and a total of 47 combinations started at small tour.

America placed fourth at the World Games in 2010 to qualify for the 2012 Olympics because Great Britain automatically qualified as Olympic host so their second place in Kentucky did not count. As the U.S. was already in, Canada and Colombia qualified for the two team spots available through the Pan Ams but the South American nation did not fulfill minimum score requirements to go to London.

The cutback for the Americas drew the strongest protest from Canada.

The Americas were being short changed, the Canadian federation complained, by losing one of the two spots normally reserved at the Pan Ams for teams to qualify for the Olympics.

The U.S. adopted what it described as a quieter behind-the-scenes effort, claiming it would be more effective.

Neither approach worked.

For nations in the same geographic group as Australia that get another chance at a “special qualification event” South Africa was the only team in Normandy.

For individual slots–expected to be about 20 of the total of 60 combinations, assuming four horses and riders for each of the 10 teams–six will be by quota:

* Two highest ranked individuals from the European groups at the 2015 European Championships, excluding riders on teams already qualified;

* Two highest ranked individuals from the Americas in the Grand Prix at the 2015 Pan Am Games excluding nations qualified with a team, and

* Two highest ranked individuals from Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia and Oceania in the Grand Prix at the “special qualification event,” excluding nations qualified with a team.

Another seven individual places will be available to competitors placed first in the FEI Olympic Athletes Ranking for nations not achievng a “direct” quota place for teams for all seven of the geographic groups:

1. North Western Europe;
2. South Western Europe;
3. Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia;
4. North America;
5. Central and South America;
6. Africa and Middle East, and
7. South East Asia and Oceania.

If the first placed athlete in the respective group is unable to use the allocated quota slot, it will be re-allocated to the second placed athlete within the group and continue within the group.

The remaining quota of seven individuals will be achieved by taking the athletes in their order on the FEI Olympic Ranking Athletes to reach a total of 60 athletes, but excluding athletes from nations which have qualified a team or athletes that qualified an individual slot for their FEI Olympic Group.