FROM here on all eyes were firmly focused on the Olympic Games in Tokyo, where for the first time, the teams consisted of just three competing riders and one travelling reserve.
Sally Corscadden’s initial squad was named as Cathal Daniels (Rioghan Rua), Sarah Ennis (Horseware Woodcote Garrison), Sam Watson (Tullabeg Flamenco) with Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue) as the alternative.
At the 11th hour however, and after the initial veterinary inspection, Daniels and his gallant European bronze medal-winning partner Rioghan Rua (ISH) were demoted to the reserve position following irregular blood reports. This was desperately disappointing both for Daniels and Rioghan Rua’s owner/breeder Margaret Kinsella, who had travelled to Tokyo to see her perform, as well as the team as a whole.
At the time, Corscadden commented: “Obviously this is really tough for Cathal and Margaret, particularly happening so close to the start of the competition. We did everything we could and gave the mare every chance to be ready but unfortunately, we were forced to make a decision and of course horse welfare is paramount.” She added: “We are very lucky to have someone of Austin’s calibre to step in. He is in great form, and we still have a very competitive team.”
Following two days of dressage, Team Ireland lay disappointingly in 13th spot out of the 15 teams, but did make encouraging headway following the cross-country.
As previously announced and staged to make the competition more horse-friendly in the heat, Derek de Grazia’s track was shorter than the usual four-star. It was however a clever track, and while the Irish trio met with mixed fortunes, their combined efforts saw them rise five places on the table.
The star of the show was Austin O’Connor, whose blistering cross-country round with the Salty Syndicate’s Colorado Blue produced one of just seven clear rounds within the time.
The flying grey, bred by Kate Jarvey, was foot-perfect everywhere, and continued to impress in the show jumping. At the close of play, O’Connor slotted into 13th place individually, helping team Ireland to complete in eighth spot overall.
Gold for Britain
As anticipated, hot favourites Great Britain comfortably took the gold medal, chased by Australia and France.
The individual gold medal went to the popular German rider Julia Krajewsjki (Amanda de B’Neville), who also had the distinction of being the first woman to claim the Olympic title.