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Friday 15 December 2017

Careless steward spoils showjumpers' Rio dream

Showjumper Cian O’Connor
Showjumper Cian O’Connor

Louise Parkes

Ireland's hopes of qualifying for Olympic showjumping hang by a thread after a bizarre incident where an arena steward ran out in front of Cian O'Connor's horse.

There was desperate disappointment for Ireland amid unbelievable circumstances at the FEI European Championships in Aachen, Germany.

Ireland needed to finish in the top three of the non-qualified nations at the competition.

But a moment of inattention by one of the arena staff may have denied the country a place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

O'Connor's ride with the stallion, Good Luck, was flawless until he began the turn to fence 11, where he found a man in his path, apparently doing repair work to the ground.

The steward saw the Irishman at the last moment and threw himself into a nearby flower display, but O'Connor's young horse kicked out a pole at the following fence.

O'Connor, a bronze medal winner in London 2012, could be seen pointing and gesturing as he exited the arena.

With his four faults, Ireland finished seventh, behind Spain in sixth.

"I had to shout at him to get out of the way and it put me off my line, the horse sidestepped him a bit - it was as clear as day the guy was in my way," said Cian.

"My chef d'equipe [Robert Splaine] has filed an objection."

The immediate protest failed, but a second appeal is ongoing.

The team - Bertram Allen, Greg Broderick, Cian O'Connor and Denis Lynch - controversially missed out by 0.380 penalties behind sixth-placed Spain, who took the final Rio spot.

Bronze medallists Switzerland and fourth-placed Great Britain also booked a trip to Brazil next summer.

Lynch said afterwards: "We needed more clear rounds, we just weren't good enough in the end."

However the result of the Irish protest is still undecided with a result likely to be known in the coming days.

Irish Independent

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