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Wednesday 28 December - 20h04 | Sebastien Roullier
Without question, the biggest and most high-profile debate in the world of elite equestrian sports this past year has been the changes planned for the competition format at the Olympic and World Equestrian Games. And earlier this month in Geneva, Switzerland, the controversy over the issue boiled over at the International Jumping Riders Club’s General Assembly, where top show jumpers confronted International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez.
Credit : Eric Lamaze - Facebook
Canada’s Eric Lamaze, who went on to win the Rolex Top Ten Final at the Geneva CHI shortly after the contentious meeting (and who had won the individual bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games in August), has been one of the outspoken critics of the changes, approved at the FEI’s own General Assembly in Tokyo, Japan in November. For a sense of the riders’ arguments, GrandPrix-Replay has Lamaze’s comments below. “This summer in Rio, we had a meeting about the proposed new competition formats for the 2020 Olympics. ‘Torchy’ [Terrance Millar, Canadian chef d’équipe] asked us what we thought about them. There were eight of us around the table, including Ian Millar, one of the legends of our sport. We unanimously favoured the current Olympic Games format, which is in my view fantastic and exciting for the public, as we saw once again in Rio. The fact that only the three best scores are retained [with the fourth (worst) being dropped] is precisely what allows to keep the suspense until the last moment. In Rio, Ludger Beerbaum, the final team member to ride for Germany, had to ride a clear round to win the jump-off against us [the Canadian team — a jump-off which Germany eventually won]. It was one of the most powerful moments of the Games. We also talked about the degradation of equestrian sports in the hierarchy of Olympic disciplines after London, but we don’t know what the situation is after Rio.After the team discussion, it was clear to me that Canada would vote no at the FEI General Assembly in Tokyo. I haven’t seen Torchy since the Olympic Games. But then I learned, while I was visiting Steve Guerdat, that in the end Canada had voted in favour of the proposals…. I called our chef d’équipe to have an explanation, but in any case it was already too late. While I feel like we Canadians are far from being the only ones who were not supported by our national federation, I am obviously very disappointed by this decision. It shows that our opinions don’t have any value and that these meetings don’t serve any purpose.When I see that this reform has been supported by numerous nations that don’t even have a horse or rider registered with the FEI, I just have the feeling that this makes no sense. Who decided that we should compete with three riders? That we should ride the individual final before the team class? I don’t understand how we got to this point. This new format eliminates everything exciting about the Olympic Games. It’s stupid. In addition, show jumping is a dangerous sport. More riders now are going to do everything they can to participate at the Olympics even though they don’t have the level. We are thus going to see things that it would be best not to show on television… I understand that a lot of emerging nations dream of participating in the Games, including in the team event, but there are many steps to take before reaching the required level for that. So there is no reason at the moment to set in motion a process that is not going to work well in 2020. On the contrary: we are going to destroy the dreams of a lot of young riders in great riding nations, because with three competitors and no drop score, it’s obvious that team managers are going to increasingly bet on experience.”
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