Dane Rawlins & James Connor Willing to Appeal to International Court of Arbitration for Sport if Necessary to Fight Ireland’s Decision Not to Permit Olympic Dressage Team

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Heike Holstein on Sambuca. File photo. © DigiShots

June 23, 2021

Dane Rawlins and James Connor said they were willing to go to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport to fight Horse Sport Ireland’s decision not to send a dressage team to the Olympics for the first time.

The two riders said although an appeal to Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) would be determined within the next 24 hours the governing body made it clear in correspondence it would not matter because the team had already been withdrawn from the Games scheduled to start in a month.

Heike Holstein, 49 years old, had been nominated on Sambuca, a home-bred 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse, for an individual starting place. Heike competed at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics, as well as 1998 and 2002 World Equestrian Games. Her five European Championships include 2019 when she rode Sambuca on the team that earned a start for Ireland’s team for the first time.

The two riders said in a statement: “The HSI have… stated in correspondence that the appeal is moot as even if it is a success the matter will be returned to the High Performance Director Johann Hinnemann for consideration as Ireland has withdrawn its team quota place and the High-Performance Director cannot alter that matter.

“It is Mr. Rawlins’ and Mr. Connor’s intention to exhaust all avenues to ensure a fair hearing and if necessary appealing any decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but they hope that will not be necessary.

“It is contrary to the Olympic spirit not sending a team while having the Minimum Entry Requirement for the first time for a Dressage Team for the Olympics the HSI are not only killing the dreams of these riders but of a whole generation who will now think if they are not first string they will not be considered.”

James, who will be 60 years old later this week, rode Casino’ Royal, a 16-year-old Oldenburg gelding, while Dane, 65, competed Espoire, a 12-year-old Westfalen gelding, for places on the team of three.

In addition to being an international competitor including at the 2013 European Championships, Dane organized Dressage at Hickstead for 27 years until a year ago. The event was a premier European show near London, including Nations Cup competitions that attracted teams from around the world as well as a showcase for top horse sport.

James competed at the 1998, 2002 and 2014 World Equestrian Games and the 2001 European Championships.

Horse Sport Ireland said Tuesday that Johann Hinnemann made the decision not to nominate a team as two of the top contenders were not available. Vancouver K ridden by Judy Reynolds has retired while Esporim ridden by Anna Merveldt is not fit to compete.

“The failure of two combinations to meet requirements set by Ireland’s high performance director meant,” it said, “the resulting consequence being a team of three athlete/horse combinations cannot be fulfilled.”

Ireland was one of 15 countries to earn a team start at the Games. It did so at the 2019 European Championships.

Uncertainty now surrounds confirmation of all 15 team places. Luxembourg was next in line but confirmed that it does not have three combinations with required minimum scores. Belgium is next with a prospective composite team, then Switzerland.

The 15 nations to have qualified teams are: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Russia and United States.