Canada Drops Olympic “Bonus” Selection for Dressage in Favor of Best Results

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Belinda Trussell on Anton at the Pan American Games qualifying Canada for an individual start at the 2016 Olympics. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Belinda Trussell on Anton at the Pan American Games qualifying Canada for an individual start at the 2016 Olympics. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Dec. 17, 2015

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Equine Canada is dropping a controversial Olympic qualifying plan awarding “bonus” points to combinations credited with earning individual places at next summer’s Rio de Janeiro Games and to replace it with a format aimed at giving high performance riders an equal chance.

In an unusual poll of Canadian riders who have declared to seek Olympic qualification, the athletes signed on to change the selection criteria. The change came just a month before the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida where most prospects will compete in CDIs over the winter.

The initial selection procedure provided for a one percentage “bonus” to the final average scores for riders and horses credited with earning Olympic starting places. It was drawn up by a criteria sub-committee of the Canadian federation’s high performance dressage committee.

Canada has only one confirmed individual slot so far, earned by Belinda Trussell on Anton at the Pan American Games in Toronto in July–a year before the Olympics. The United States claimed the team berth assigned directly to the Americas. She was an athlete representative on the criteria sub committee.

The starting places are awarded by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to the national federation and not individuals.

Belinda competed Anton, a gelding that will be 16 years old in 2016, at both the 2010 and 2014 World Games as well as this year’s Pan Ams. The pair is No. 45 on the world rankings, the highest placed Canadian combination.

Canada is almost certain to secure a second individual place through the North American geographic group. That combination would also have received the “bonus” if the selection process had not been overturned.

Canada needs to qualify a minimum of three individual combinations to field a so-called “composite” team in Rio. The only possibility remaining for a third spot is to be in the top six on the open worldwide rankings by the Mar. 6 qualification deadline.

The “bonus” system, according to opponents, would have penalized others seeking to qualify–among them David Marcus, Canadian 2012 Olympic and 2014 World Games team rider; Karen Pavicic and Megan Lane, also on the 2014 World Games team; Chris von Martels who won Pan Am individual bronze on Zilverstar and Brittany Fraser on All In, both Small Tour riders on the silver medal Canadian Pan Am team and planning to compete at Grand Prix in the Florida CDIs.

Chris von Martels on Zilverstar who won Pan American Games individual bronze. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Chris von Martels on Zilverstar who won Pan American Games individual bronze. United States riders won gold and silver. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The possibility was raised that the “bonus” could have led to the selection of combinations to represent Canada in Rio that did not achieve the highest qualifying scores.

Details on developing Canada’s Olympic selection procedures are kept confidential by agreements members of committees and officials are required to sign–not uncommon in national federations.

The selection criteria was not posted on the Equine Canada web site as is usual, however, but made available only to declared riders who requested it. It was labeled “intellectual property” to be kept confidential.

The reversal of the selection criteria comes ahead of an overhaul of the Canadian federation structure.

Eva Havaris, an experienced sports executive who was named Equine Canada chief executive officer last May, plans to streamline decision-making by eliminating several committees and to focus on sports performance to be implemented in 2016.