THE Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI) this evening (Wednesday) announced the Team Ireland
official selections for the Show Jumping, Eventing and Dressage athletes and horses who will compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.
The majority of the Equestrian events take place in the original arena that hosted the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Equestrian Park, with the Eventing Cross-Country taking place on the Sea Forest Cross-Country Course. Starting on the Saturday, July 24th with Dressage, the equestrian schedule runs through to Saturday, August 7th, with the finals of the Jumping.
Speaking ahead of the Olympic Games Team Ireland Chef de Mission for Tokyo 2020, Tricia Heberle, highlighted the standard of the team, "This equestrian team can really do something in Tokyo. Right across the three disciplines there are proven performers, including of course, Cian (O'Connor), our Olympic Bronze Medallist. We also have world medallists and regular podium finishers across the board, with the Eventing Team consisting of some of the 2019 World Medallists. We are also delighted to have the experience of Heike (Holstein) on the team, who is embarking on her fourth Olympics. We are really looking forward to following the team in Tokyo.”
The team of Show Jumping riders includes London Olympic Bronze Medallist Cian O’Connor, Ireland’s top-ranked rider Darragh Kenny, and European Championship team gold medal winner Bertram Allen. Shane Sweetnam, who is also a European Championship gold medal winner, has been selected to travel to the Games as P Alternate rider and can be called upon to jump if required at different stages of the competition.
The group of horses selected for the Show Jumping team includes two Irish Sport Horses, with Cian O’Connor riding the nine-year-old gelding Kilkenny (ISH) and Bertram Allen riding the nine-year-old gelding Pacino Amiro (ISH). Darragh Kenny will ride the 14-year-old stallion VDL Cartello, while Shane Sweetnam rides the 11-year-old mare Karlin Van’t Vennehof.
London Olympics Bronze Medal winner Cian O’Connor said: “Obviously, I am really over the moon to be selected for the Tokyo Olympics. I have a really special Irish horse in Kilkenny and together with my team-mates Bertram Allen, Darragh Kenny and Shane Sweetnam, we are really looking forward to the trip to Tokyo and I really think we have a great chance. All our horses and riders are in great form and at the moment at the shows we are competing at, there is a great buzz and hype around Tokyo coming up, We are heading there quietly confident and looking forward to catching up with the rest of Team Ireland.”
Horse Sport Ireland Show Jumping High Performance Director Michael Blake said, “This is a truly historic moment for Irish Show Jumping and we are incredibly proud to represent our country at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. We are very lucky to have such a tremendous pool of talent to choose from and it was always going to be a tough decision to make the final selection. A huge amount of sweat, work and tears goes into Olympic preparation and our athletes have been terrific.
"Bertram, Cian, Darragh and Shane have a huge task ahead of them and I have no doubt that they will rise to the occasion. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the equestrian community at large, the OFI, Sport Ireland and Horse Sport Ireland in particular for their continuing support.
Ireland's Show jumping team selections are:
Bertram Allen with Pacino Amiro (ISH) – 2012 gelding by Pacino (BWP) out of Carnone Dancing Queen (ISH) by NC Amiro (AES). Breeder: Simon Scott, Co. Donegal. Owner: Aiden McGrory.
Darragh Kenny with VDL Cartello (HOLST) – 2007 stallion by Cartani 4 (HOLST) out of B-Estelle (HOLST) by Lord (HOLST). Breeder: Witt Pferdezucht. Owner Lorcan Gallagher & Heathman Farm LLC
Cian O’Connor with Kilkenny (ISH) – 2012 gelding by Cardento (HOLST) out of MHS Pembrook Lady (ISH) by Guidam (SF) Breeder Sinead Brennan, Co Kilkenny. Owner Susan Magnier.
P Alternate/Reserve – Shane Sweetnam with Karlin Van’t Vennehof (BWP) – 2010 Mare by Fantomas De Muze (BWP) out of Fantomas De Muze (BWP) by Quasimodo Vd Molendreef D’08 (BWP). Breeder: Jos Voeten. Owner: Seabrook LLC & Shane Sweetnam
The Show Jumping competition takes place in the Equestrian Park and runs from August 3rd – 7th. Ireland’s Show Jumping riders will compete for medals in the individual competition first, followed by a second set of medals in the team competition.
The Irish Eventing team selected for the Games includes three members of the team that secured Olympic qualification when winning the team silver medal at the 2018 World Championships – becoming the first Irish team in any sport to qualify for Tokyo.
The team includes Ireland’s top-ranked Eventing rider Cathal Daniels, Sam Watson who has competed at three World Championships and Sarah Ennis who finished fifth individually at the 2018 World Championships. Austin O’Connor, who represented Ireland at two previous Olympic Games, at Sydney in 2000 and Beijing in 2008, has also been selected as P Alternate rider.
The Irish Eventing team includes no less than three Irish Sport Horses. Cathal Daniels rides Rioghan Rua (ISH) , Sam Watson partners Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH), Sarah Ennis will ride Horseware Woodcourt Garrison (ISH) and Austin O’Connor is selected with Colorado Blue.
Sam Watson added: “Personally, it’s a huge honour to get the opportunity to represent Ireland at an Olympic Games. I have three World Championships and five Europeans under my belt, but this will be a first Games. It will be something that my own support team and family will cherish, but it’s business as usual for me right now.
"On a broader note, I think Tokyo 2020 is a massive moment for us all. It’s a symbol of our ability to survive and, ultimately, to thrive. Global governing bodies, national sporting bodies and individual coaches, managers and support staff have really put their hearts and soles into making this possible. It’s been the same for athletes too, and it’s seriously tough on the ones that won’t make it there after all their effort, but as someone who now has the chance, I’ll be putting everything into these next few weeks to get a result for the country.”
Horse Sport Ireland Eventing High Performance Director Sally Corscadden said: “It is a huge honour and privilege to be representing Team Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics. The squad, coaches and support staff have worked incredibly hard to prepare for the challenges of travelling and competing horses on the other side of the world. It is an enormous logistical operation and we couldn’t do it without the great staff in HSI and the fantastic support of the OFI and Sport Ireland.
"With the new format it was never going to be an easy selection and I would like to thank all the squad members for their input and engagement over the past two and a half years. They have really made Eventing in Ireland very competitive and raised the bar. This will be the toughest competition in so many ways, but we are lucky to have such experienced and professional athletes to call upon.
"You can be sure that we will be going there to do our best and wish to make Eventing Ireland and all our supporters proud of our performances on the world stage.”
Ireland's Eventing team selections are:
Cathal Daniels with Rioghan Rua (ISH) – 2007 mare by Jack Of Diamonds (SWE) out of Highland Destiny (ISH)[TIH] by Flagmount King (ID). Breeder/Owner: Margaret Kinsella (Galway).
Sarah Ennis with Horseware Woodcourt Garrison (ISH) [was Woodcourt Garrison] – 2009 gelding by Garrison Royal (ISH) out of Davitt Star (ISH) by Furisto (HANN). Breeder: Patrick J Kearns (Laois). Owner: Breda Kennedy
Sam Watson with Tullabeg Flamenco (ISH) – 2009 gelding by Tullabeg Fusion [ISH] out of Tullabeg Heidi (unk) by Ardenteggle Sir (IPSA). Breeder: Nicholas Cousins (Wexford). Owner: Vahe Bogossian
P Alternate Athlete/Horse – Austin O’Connor with Colorado Blue (SHBGB) – 2009 grey gelding by Jaguar Mail out of Rock Me Baby by Rock Kind. Breeder: Mellon Stud, Owner Austin O’Connor and The Salty Syndicate.
The Eventing competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games runs from July 29th to August 2nd.
Heike flying the flag for Irish Dressage
Ireland will be represented at the Tokyo Olympic Games by one individual Dressage rider, Heike Holstein, who has previously represented Ireland at three Olympic Games as an individual - Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens in 2004).
Heike will ride her own Irish-bred mare Sambuca and the combination were previously part of the Irish team at the 2019 European Championships in Rotterdam (NED).
Speaking ahead of the Games Heike said: “I am delighted to be representing Irish Dressage as an individual at the Tokyo Olympics. The last year and a half has been a roller-coaster and hard on us all and the Olympics is an event that unites the world in solidarity and sportsmanship.
"I bred Sambuca and during her younger years until now, I always wished and aimed to ride her at the Olympic Games. I could not partake on this adventure without the support of the Team, Dressage Ireland, HSI , the OFI and my sponsors. It takes an army and I hope we do Ireland proud.”
Horse Sport Ireland Dressage High Performance Director Johann Hinnemann said: “I’m delighted to nominate Heike Holstein. She is a proven performer with a top class Irish-bred mare. It is very special for a horse person to have that opportunity with a self-bred and trained horse. My congratulations to the whole 'Holstein' family for producing this. I have no doubt that Heike and Sambuca will proudly fly the flag for Irish Dressage and exhibit a fantastic performance. Heike and Sambuca have worked very hard for this chance and for sure will do everyone proud in Tokyo.”
Irish Dressage individual selection is:
Heike Holstein with Sambuca – 2009 mare by Samarant (HANN) out of Astoria (ISH) by Limmerick (HOLST). Bred by Heike Holstein, Co. Kildare. Owner: Jake & William Bell
The Dressage competition at the Tokyo Olympics runs from July 23rd to 28th.
The OFI press statement said: "Team Ireland now consists of 95 officially selected athletes, with over 110 athletes spots confirmed, making this the largest team to represent Ireland yet. There are three remaining team announcements which will take place in the coming days. The Olympic Games in Tokyo will run from the 23rd July to 8th August 2021."
Source: Olympic Federation of Ireland press release