THE Irish show jumping team came tantalisingly close to obtaining automatic qualification for the Rio Olympics when finishing seventh at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy this afternoon (Thursday).
Ireland’s quartet of Darragh Kenny, Bertram Allen, Denis Lynch and Cameron Hanley moved up one place from their overnight position, but because Olympic host nation Brazil were ahead in today’s table, Ireland needed at least a sixth place to ensure qualification.
Nevertheless the top ten finish at Normandy was one of Ireland’s strongest performances this year, with just a single fence denying them a qualification place.
The third round of the finals opened with Offaly’s Darragh Kenny and Imothep coming home with just one time fault and Wexford teenager Bertram Allen with Molly Malone dropping a single fence. Tipperary’s Denis on All Star 5 produced a classic clear round, while Mayo rider Cameron Hanley and Antello Z were unfortunate in dislodging two poles and incurring a time fault as the team discard score.
Though missing out on team medals, Denis Lynch (19th), Bertram Allen (20th) and Darragh Kenny (24th) all now qualify for the first round of the Individual Finals on Saturday at Caen.
Irish team manager Robert Splaine said: “We were one of the better teams here today and to finish one place out of the Olympic qualification zone was very disappointing. I’m gutted for the lads, as their effort was tremendous. Our year was planned around the world championships and sacrifices were made so that the best possible effort could be made at these championships. We fielded the best possible team which, but for a little hard luck yesterday, could have been challenging for a medal.
“Some of the performances were world class, as evidenced by our having three riders in the top thirty. The competition is intense at this level but we have riders well capable of competing with the best. We appreciate the generosity of the owners and the efforts of the riders. This level of support augurs well for the future.”
Today’s team Gold Medal went to the Netherlands, with host nation France taking Silver and the USA in Bronze Medal position. Thirty-one nations competed in the team championships.
Ireland’s next opportunity to book a ticket to Rio will come at the European Jumping Championships at Aachen, Germany in 2015.