Equestrian: Irish turn focus to conquering Europe
THE British topped the medal count with a total of 20, including nine golds, as the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) came to a close in Kentucky on Sunday.
The Irish tally was zero, however, and sights have now turned to next year's European Championships as they bid to qualify teams for 2012 Olympic Games.
The 16-day, eight-discipline WEG was a frantic affair and there were plenty of organisational blunders, but the sport won through in the end.
American-based Kilkenny man James Dwyer finished fifth in the Para Dressage Grade 4 Individual and sixth in the Freestyle to record Ireland's best results of the Games.
Para Dressage is graded according to the degree of disability of the rider, and Grade 4 is for the least disabled. However, Dwyer has only one leg. He was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 16 and had much of his knee removed. He didn't ride for 10 years but when his leg was amputated in 1997 he got back in the saddle again and his horsemanship skills are such that he rides at the most competitive level of Para Equestrian sport.
The Irish show jumpers didn't qualify for the second round of the team championship won by Germany, but Billy Twomey was lying eighth going into the penultimate top-30 competition which decided the lineout for the Final Four individual medal-decider. Two fence errors kept him out the running as Belgium's Philippe Le Jeune scooped the title.
The Irish eventers got off to a rough start with some poor dressage scores but battled like lions on crosscountry day, despite losing Patricia Ryan's horse Fernhill Clover Mist to injury. Mark Kyle and Step in Time were the only ones to hold it together in the show jumping ring on the final afternoon, however, when the British took team gold.
The Reining Championship opened the Games but Ireland's sole entry, American-based Cavan man Ollie Galligan, didn't make the cut. Endurance gold went to Spanish super-mom Maria Mercedes Alvarez Ponton, who gave birth to a baby daughter just seven weeks earlier.
Ireland's Judy Reynolds made an early exit from the Dressage Championships, which were completely dominated by the Dutch.
FEI president Princess Haya, up for re-election at the general assembly in Taipei next month, said she would like to see the WEG expand.
But the big question in the aftermath of the two-week equestrian extravaganza, which attracted over 500,000 spectators, is how the financial figures stack up amid widespread rumours of a massive spend. The 2014 Games have already been allocated to Normandy.