Brazil and South Africa are set to forfeit their Olympic team places in dressage, after insufficient numbers of their riders obtained the Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) by December 31. While the FEI has until February to formally reallocate the team places, it looks like they will go to France and Austria on points accrued during the special Tokyo qualifying period.
Qualifications for the Olympics is a two-step process: first, a country must earn a spot at prescribed qualification events; second, horse/rider combinations must earn a MER. In dressage, the MER is earned by scoring a minimum 66% twice by both a 5* star judge and as an average from all judges in the competition, and the score must be achieved in a Grand Prix test at two different CDI3*/CDI4*/CDI5*/CDI-W/CDIO events. The two 5* judges must be of a nationality other than of the Athlete.
South Africa qualified a team at a special class in the Netherlands in October, being the only participant from their regional group. Three of its four riders scored below 65% on that occasion, and since then only two have returned the MERs. Three riders with MERs are needed to take up the Tokyo place. This week South Africa’s third hopeful failed to achieve an average 66% in 3* Grand Prix at her last-chance show in Mechelen.
Brazil qualified after winning team bronze at the Pan-Am Games. According to a report in Eurodressage, Brazil had not realised Olympic qualification was a two-tier process. Like South Africa, Brazil mounted a last-minute campaign in Europe in a bid to achieve the correct scores, packing in one show a week from late October. Only two riders have made it. It seemed that sufficient Brazilians achieved the MERs at 2* home shows, and that a simple 3* reclassification of those events could have solved the problem.
Eurodressage also reported that South African riders found it difficult to obtain invitations to some European shows without undertaking to buy expensive VIP hospitality.
Both countries remain entitled to field an individual rider.
The Canadian dressage team qualified for Tokyo by earning the team gold medal at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.
In eventing, two “new” Far Eastern countries obtained their MERs in a more comfortable time-frame, having originally qualified for Tokyo back in May. This took place at special competition in France one star- level below the standard required for the rest of the world, as part of the FEI’s mission to open the Games to new countries.
China has since obtained the 4* MERs, with some riders qualifying two horses each, though it took Thailand till November, at a late-in-the-calendar event staged at Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy. Only 10 Thai eventing riders are active internationally, so their team remains under huge pressure to keep its three so far eligible combinations fit and sound until August.
The Canadian eventing team just missed qualifying for Tokyo at the Pam Am Games in Lima. However, as the USA has qualified a team, the two individual spots available to Group D will fall to Canada with Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes, and Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges currently topping the Eventing Olympic Ranking List.
The Canadian Show Jumping team did qualify for Tokyo during Lima, but a subsequent positive drug test for Nicole Walker may risk that spot. In the event the team is stripped of its fourth place finish, Equestrian Canada will be granted one rider based on the Jumping Olympic Ranking List (excluding countries already qualified) currently topped by Eric Lamaze with Chacco Kid.