Ireland’s Tokyo Olympics comes to a close with four Irish athletes scoring top 20 finishes

  • 6 August 2021, 15:22

Irish equestrian athletes have completed their Tokyo 2020 Olympic campaign which saw four Irish riders make it through to individual finals, where all four went on to finish inside the top 20.

Cian O’Connor of Ireland riding Kilkenny to a seventh place finish the jumping individual final at the Equestrian Park during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Ireland’s best performance came from London Olympic Bronze Medallist Cian O’Connor, who finished seventh overall in the Show Jumping individual final with The Irish Sport Horse Kilkenny. O’Connor now joins an elite group of Irish sports stars who have finished inside the top 10 at more than one Olympic Games.

All three Irish jumping combinations had qualified for the final with Bertram Allen going on to finish 15th overall with Pacino Amiro (ISH), while Darragh Kenny finished 17th with VDL Cartello.

Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue finished 13th in the Olympic Eventing Final (Photo: FEI/ Libby Law Photography)

Earlier in the week, Cork’s Austin O’Connor had recoded an excellent 13th place finish in the Eventing individual Olympic final with Colorado Blue, while Sally Corscadden’s Irish team which also included Sarah Ennis, Sam Watson and Cathal Daniels, finished eighth overall in the team competition.

Heike Holstein on Sambuca during day 2 of the Dressage Team and Individual Qualifier at the Equestrian Park during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland’s equestrian participation at the Tokyo Olympic Games had begun with Heike Holsten and the Irish-bred Sambuca who produced an impressive display in the individual Dressage Grand Prix.

The Irish Show Jumping team began today’s team qualifier without their most experienced rider, Cian O’Connor, after his horse was ruled out due to a nose bleed following his excellent seventh place finish in the individual final.

Cork’s Shane Sweetnam made his Olympic debut with Alejandro but luck was not on their side as the 12-year-old gelding lost a shoe in the early part of their round when first of the Irish to jump. Under the hugely controversial new Olympic format, where teams were reduced to just three horses and riders and with no discard score on offer, riders were under severe pressure to complete their rounds regardless of faults. Alejandro appeared to lose confidence after losing his shoe and despite Sweetnam’s best efforts, the pair failed to complete the course following a fall.

Thankfully both horse and rider didn’t suffer any serious injuries and speaking afterwards, Sweetnam explained what happened:

“So he started off well, Alejandro. He was jumping great and coming into the triple combination he pulled a shoe and just really got nervous and unsettled and never really came back from it, or didn’t come back from it really. He is a very experienced horse and normally that wouldn’t happen to him or has never happened to him before and then the way the format is, I had to keep going or try to count and hopefully work our way through it and that didn’t happen.”

Sweetnam also gave his thoughts on the new Olympic team format:

“I think the riders have always been against it because in these situations you are forced to have to keep going on when your horse maybe got a bit nervous which shouldn’t be the case. It has always been a Nations Cup style, if you have a drop score you know, horses can go lame between rounds, all this sort of thing. It just gives a little bit of cushion and also horsemanship that you can look after your horses on a team and not force them if they don’t need to do it, or they aren’t in the mood for it at that time.”

With no hope of qualifying a team for the final, Ireland took the decision not to jump their remain two horses and to save them for another day. Ireland were one of three teams who withdrew during the competition, with China and hosts Japan also not completing.

Before attention turns to the Paris Olympics in 2024, Ireland still has major events to look forward to with the European Show Jumping Championships taking place in Germany at the end of this month followed by the Longines FEI Nations Cup final in Barcelona in October where Ireland will be the defending champions.


Michael Murphy is part of the Irish team for the upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo

The Irish Para Equestrian team has also been named to represent Team Ireland at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The four athletes will compete in Para Dressage and all four riders will compete at their first ever Paralympic Games. The four-person team and their horses representing Team Ireland will be Michael Murphy with Cleverboy, Tamsin Addison with Fahrenheit 212, Rosemary Gaffney with Werona and Kate Kerr Horan with Serafina T. The Para Dressage competitions will take place in the Equestrian Park, Tokyo from 26th – 29th August.


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