The eight riders surpassing the 66% barrier at Willinga Park, and in theory achieving their MER, were:
- Mary Hanna and Syriana – 72.239%
- Jayden Brown and WillingaPark Sky Diamond – 69.674%
- John Thompson and Chemistry – 69.478%
- Jayden Brown and Senator Nymphenburg – 67.652%
- Michelle Baker and Bradgate Park Puccini – 67.261%
- Sally Rizzuto and Diamond Star – 67.065%
- Lindsey Ware and Aristede – 66.870%
- Matthew Dowsley and Santiago – 66.130%
This time the JSP did watch in real time and again disagreed with the judging results. MERs were given to three combinations only: Mary Hanna and Syriana, John Thompson and Chemistry and Jayden Brown and Senator Nymphenburg. So these are the three combinations that were originally given the MERs at Boneo Park just four weeks earlier. It is interesting to note that the second placegetter in the CDI3* Grand Prix at Willinga Park was Jayden Brown riding WillingaPark Sky Diamond on 69.674%. They were placed above John Thompson and Chemistry and Jayden Brown again on Senator Nymphenburg, both of which were awarded an MER. To our total surprise, second placed Jayden Brown and WillingaPark Sky Diamond were not given an MER!
As an onlooker, I feel that the JSP has told the five Australian judges that they have not only marked the Australian combinations too high but have also not correctly placed the competitors. I don’t quite know how to say this tactfully, but the way I see it the JSP has told the Australian judges that they do not know what they are talking about. Certainly, there has to be a human element in this which is muddying the process. However, it is critical to note that Mary Seefried – who on one hand was a member of the JSP at Boneo Park and was now a judge at Willinga Park – actually marked not eight competitors over 66% – but nine!
YES, IT’S COMPLICATED
Obviously this is a very complicated situation, because no one would have been more conscious that their scores were going to be scrutinised by the JSP than Mary Seefried. Clearly judging and backing your immediate assessment of a performed movement in real time is very different to consulting an associate and being able to deliberate on an overall impression, which I think is probably the main difference experienced by the JSP members. As a result, the outcome is tragically different. I do not think that the FEI will overrule the JSP a second time. Quite a tragedy for the five riders who scored over 66% and then were denied an MER. Quite a tragedy for the Australian judges who had the education and courage to mark as their eyes saw without hesitation. The results spoke for themselves.
Judging is subjective and always we need to endeavour to improve in this area so that the riders become more and more aware of what it is that will decide good scores and where they are in the big picture as far as the rest of the world is concerned. I think there is a place for the JSP, but clearly not in passing a considered opinion, especially as a group rather than individually taking responsibility. I think the JSP should be able to change scores, such as if four judges mark the nine two-time changes in the Grand Prix for a 4 and one judge marks it for a 7, then the score needs to be scrutinised. Perhaps the judge giving the 7 missed a late change and so the 4 is correct. The 7 should be changed by the JSP to a 4. A flying change does happen in 0.4 of a second, so every now and then everyone misses accurately assessing a flying change. This should be shown on the screen similar to in cricket with a catch behind or a leg-before-wicket decision, which can determine that a batter is out or not. A late flying change on a video screen, especially in slow motion, can be established beyond doubt for everyone to see and so the score adjustment is accepted by everyone.
There are lots of instances in the Grand Prix test where video footage can determine beyond doubt. However, video footage would seem to me to be very flawed when determining an overall impression. The JSP was an interesting experiment, albeit painful for the riders being used as guinea pigs. The next big CDI Grand Prix competition is Dressage & Jumping with the Stars in Melbourne (from 24-26 March) which is closely followed by the Sydney CDI (27-30 April). With the Australian international borders now open, we will have international judges flown in and the JSP will not be again used. Thank goodness for that! EQ