Realistically, 2023 is the year before the Paris Olympics and is the quiet before the storm; 2022, which has just gone, hosted the FEI World Championships which are considered a lead-up to the next Olympics in two years’ time. The World Championships are always two years before the Olympics. Winning the World Championships is a big, big deal; however, it is really a preliminary international competition where nations trial new ideas and policies and training techniques, and sometimes less experienced riders. All of this in mind for the Olympics in two years’ time. The World Championships are a forerunner for the Olympics.
The official trialling and qualifying period for Paris Olympics 2024 starts now. When I say now, I mean from 1 January 2023. We, as in Australia, should have selection criteria for Para Dressage, Show Jumping, Eventing and Dressage posted on the Equestrian Australia website. At the time of writing, Australia does not have any selection criteria posted for any of the Olympic disciplines.
Historically, we are always terrible in getting our house in order and sometimes the selection criteria does not appear for another year. This does add to confusion and makes it very difficult to adjust the criteria if it represents unrealistic expectations. A selection cycle is two years from World Championships to Olympic Games back to World Championships. For the last three selection cycles, the Australian Dressage selection criteria has required two scores of 69% or more at a CDI3* or above or a CDI-W competition. One of these scores being in the calendar year of the Olympics or World Championships.
Over the years, this has caused Australia so much trouble. At the last World Championships, Australia had only three riders qualify as per the Australian selection criteria which ended on the 4 July 2022. This criteria is still posted on the EA website under “Selection Policies”. Jayden Brown, who was the fourth team member for Australia on WillingaPark Sky Diamond, got his second 69% on 8 July 2022. This was four days after the Australian qualification period – as per the selection criteria – closed. Jayden scored this second 69% at Hartpury CDI3* in the UK on 8 July. The Australian selectors decided to include Jayden in the team (thank goodness!) despite him not meeting the selection criteria.
Selecting a combination that has not fulfilled the selection criteria does expose everyone to potential legal difficulties. As it turned out, Mary Hanna and her horse Calanta, who did meet all the Australian selection criteria and were selected on the Australian team, were unable to compete at the last moment, and had Jayden not been included Australia would not have had a team at the World Championships. Jayden and WillingaPark Sky Diamond went on to perform very well. So clearly, the Australian selection criteria which requires two 69% scores before a combination can be considered for Australian dressage representation needs immediate reconsideration.
So anyway, the selection criteria for all the Olympics disciplines, Para Dressage, Show Jumping, Eventing and able-bodied Dressage for Paris 2024 does need to go up on the EA website sooner rather than later.
What do the Olympic disciplines in Australia plan for 2023?