• 31 August 2014, 16:53

THE Irish Eventing team has qualified for the Rio Olympics after finishing sixth at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France today (Sunday).

Lying sixth overnight after dressage and cross country, the four-strong team had a promising start in the final show jumping phase this afternoon, with first rider Sarah Ennis and Horseware Stellor Rebound collecting just five faults, and Joseph Murphy with Electric Cruise going clear.

Aoife Clark and Fenya’s Elegance later had four faults, and while last man in Sam Watson and Horseware Bushman collected 21 faults after a refusal, the team score of 319.3 after dressage, cross country and show jumping was enough to keep them in the Olympic qualification zone, which sees the top six teams qualify for Rio.

Lying 12th of 16 teams after two days of dressage, the Irish quartet – all riding Irish Sport Horses – excelled themselves on Saturday’s tough cross country course, and catapulted through the field to claim overnight sixth place. 

The difficult cross country track saw some spectacular refusals and falls, and a total of 28 combinations were either eliminated, withdrawn or retired during the afternoon.

In today’s final show jumping phase at Caen, Ireland had to see off a challenge from seventh-placed Canada to retain their Olympic qualification position, but the North American foursome finished the day 36 penalty points behind the Irish.

Ireland also had two individuals in the championships this week – Camilla Speirs and Portersize Just a Jiff, who finished in 32nd place, and Clare Abbott with Euro Prince, who were one of the combinations eliminated during the cross country phase on Saturday.

Irish Eventing High Performance Manager Nick Turner said after the competition: “I’m absolutely delighted with the team over the last few days. Each of them have encountered at least one challenging situation but all have shown great determination to deliver Olympic qualification for Ireland. I am extremely proud of all of the riders and am grateful to them all as well as their owners and grooms.

“I would also like to say a special thank to my  support crew that have worked tirelessly in the background: Terry Boon (dressage coach), Ian Fearon (Show Jumping Coach), Hugh Suffern (Vet) & Nigel Perrott ( farrier). This was a huge achievement considering the nations  that were placed behind us.

“We all would like to send our heartfelt sympathy to Harry Meade and all of his connections after the sad loss of his horse Wild Lone.”

Germany won the team competition on 177.9 penalties, with Britain claiming the Silver Medal position on 198.8 and the Netherlands taking Bronze with 246.8 penalty points. 

Show Jumping begins in Normandy when the World Equestrian Games resume on Tuesday. Ireland’s team is Bertram Allen, Cameron Hanley, Darragh Kenny and Denis Lynch, with Conor Swail as the travelling reserve