In the midst of the upbeat atmosphere at the 2016 Equine Canada Annual Convention, there was some bad news when EC CEO Eva Havaris announced that Jumping had lost its Own The Podium funding (previously $1,175,000 for the Rio quadrennial). This came as a stunning blow in this Olympic year, and is hard to believe after Canada’s gold medal team performance at the Pan Am Games last summer.
OTP media spokesperson Chris Dornan explained, “Basically, their funding was cut because they had no athletes with medal potential.” That the team won gold against some of the world’s top riders just last year is irrelevant, as OTP does not recognize the Pan Ams as a world-class event, partly because neither did the FEI.
Prior to 2016, the FEI’s world ranking system considered the Pan Am Games a lesser event – because previously it was. With the South American countries posing much more of a threat in the competitive arena now, this is no longer the case. The FEI has upgraded their Pan Am final ranking to AA group status in line with the European Championships and World Cup Final – an encouraging move, but too late for this round of OTP backing.
Equine Canada High Performance manager, Anna Johnson, commented, “OTP review funding allocation requests on consistent podium performances at World Championships (World Equestrian Games) and Olympic/Paralympic Games. Although the Jumping Team achieved a gold-medal placing at the Pan Am Games, resulting in team qualification for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (which was the objective at the Pan Ams), individual results vary and remain inconsistent. OTP recommend Sport Canada and COC High Performance funding of sports on a priority basis until the funds are exhausted. The strong World Championships results by some other sports resulted in Equestrian Jumping being ranked beyond the available High Performance funding available for the year.”
All is not lost, however. “NextGen Funding will start to roll out in the new year; that would be the next level of funding that they’d qualify for,” said Dornan. “The NSOs and OTP do reviews every season, not every quad. If, under whatever circumstances, over the next 100 days there was a change, then they would readdress, but right now there’s no demonstration of medal potential.” Canadian jumpers are knocking at the door; besides the Pan Am gold, team performances in 2015 included a 3rd at the CSIO Ocala; a 2nd at the CSIO Wellington; 4th at the CSIO Xalapa, MEX, and 3rd at the CSIO Spruce Masters in Calgary.
This puts even more pressure on our equestrian teams as Rio looms. “Within cycles, OTP reviews all international results (team and individual) and FEI ranking lists to evaluate trends towards podium results. The OTP then makes recommendations based on these reviews and results, as well as the sport’s high performance strategy. Another opportunity for High Performance funding review will take place following the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said Johnson.
Statistically, Jumping is not the only Canadian sport to be dropped by OTP because of poor performance. Since the London quad, fencing and wheelchair fencing have lost their funding, while others including gymnastics, sailing, taekwondo, water polo, and weightlifting have seen their amounts slashed dramatically. Eventing and Dressage were both dropped by OTP in 2013, leaving Para-Equestrian as the only equestrian sport still on OTP’s good books, scheduled to receive $400,000 in 2016 and 2017.
“The Para-Equestrian Dressage high performance program received an increase in funding due to strong results,” said Johnson. “The newly-established EC High Performance department and OTP are working very closely together to improve strategies and enhance high performance services to all the Olympic disciplines to ensure our athletes are provided with every opportunity to perform at their best on the field of play.”
Currently, only 16 Canadian sports federations receive OTP funding out of 41 summer Olympic sports for a total of $28,558,500 for 2016/2017, while a dozen paralympic sports will share $6,652,000 in funding.
Own The Podium (OTP) is an organization responsible for assessing the performance potential of Canadian high-performance sport (both individual and team), providing the technical analysis required to determine Canadian podium targets for Olympic and Paralympic Games, and making investment recommendations for the allocation of dollars provided by the national funding parties.