Typhoon Nuri did not upset the competition schedule, just a number of flights - for people and horses. Two planeloads of athletes and officials received a special welcome in a Qantas hangar on Tuesday morning.
This was an amazing Games for Equestrian, with many surprises. The organisers and officials are to be congratulated for an overall excellent job, made a little easier when money is no object and volunteers aplenty. Hong Kong did not (and could not) get a truly Olympic feel, however, and spectator numbers regularly dwindled with each break in the daily (nightly) program. One now wonders why BOCOG did not make more tickets available to overseas applicants who knew what kind of sport to expect when going to the venue.
It was also good to "catch up" with many people from the FEI and from other National Federations, casually or in planned meetings. Usually one sees these folks only at FEI General Assemblies. Personal meetings always helps to get a better understanding of what is happening in the world and personalises future contact by phone and e-mail. In any case, it is often easier to sort things out face-to-face, especially where there are different interpretations of rules and arrangements and when points of view are misunderstood because of language differentials.
As far as the competition itself is concerned, our riders achieved a great result for Australia. Yes, a little bit of luck here or there would have made a HUGE difference as results were so close but I am sure the same will be said for many other riders and nations. Australia did well:
- A Team Silver medal in Eventing (almost a Gold), a fourth place individually (almost a medal).
- A Team 8th in Dressage and two riders in the Grand Prix Special, with improvements in their individual positions.
- A Team 9th in Jumping (expected to improve as a result of doping cases involving other nations) and three riders in the Individual Final. The USA, Canada and the Netherlands were the only other countries with three riders in the top 25. It was amazing how close we came to scoring medals in both the Team and the Individual classification.
Congratulations again to all riders, owners, Team management and support staff, and, of course, High Performance Panels, Selectors and National Office staff who all worked hard to make these Games a success. The new selection procedures in Jumping and Dressage with head-to-head nomination and other preparation events in Europe were well received by the riders and everyone else involved and are a great start to a new direction. Our thanks to the Federal Government and the Australian Sports Commission for the additional funding that helped us expand this program to make up for the impact of Equine Influenza on our Olympic plans.
Overall, we did better in Hong Kong than in any other Games except possibly Sydney, where we had automatic team entry as the host nation and also held the home advantage. Mind you the crowd in Hong Kong appeared to treat our Team as their favourites, second only to Hong Kong and Chinese competitors. This preference for Aussies was also apparent in our press coverage in Hong Kong. Already well before the Games, we had numerous enquiries from Hong Kong media, which we tried to accommodate as best we could with detailed information and access to athletes.
Going back to the results again, it may interest you to know that
- Laurie Lever (60) is the oldest-ever Australian rider and probably one of the oldest first-timers to compete at an Olympic Games. Ian Millar (CAN) was the oldest ever in Athens with 57 and beat Laurie at his (Ian's) 9th Olympic Games in Hong Kong by one year. Japanese Dressage rider Hiroshi Hoketsu (=35th together with Heath Ryan) was the oldest rider with 67 and returned to the Olympic Games after a break of 44 years. Hiroshi was a member of the Japanese Jumping team in Tokyo 1964.
For Canada, it was the first Team medal (Silver) since 1968 Mexico City, when it won Team Gold, and the first Individual Gold in Equestrian ever and second Individual medal ever (Silver in 1968 Montreal)
For Sweden, it was the first Individual Silver medal ever in Jumping and the first Individual medal in Jumping since 1932.
For Norway, it was the first Olympic medal ever in Jumping (Team Bronze) if they retain it after the doping case hearing.
For Germany, the most successful riding nation in history, this was the first Games since 1936 in which it did NOT get a Team or Individual medal in Jumping (Germany did not participate in 1948).
For Denmark, it was the first Olympic Team medal (Bronze) ever and the first medal since 1984 Los Angeles (Individual Silver there and two other Silver medals in 1952 and 1956).
For the Netherlands and Anky van Grunsven, it was the third Individual Gold in a row (Individual Silver in 1996 Atlanta)
For Germany, it was the eighth Team Gold in a row (not counting Moscow) and one of 12 (plus 2 Team Silver and 1 Team Bronze) in Olympic history. The Individual Silver and Bronze medals made the total Individual medals 7 Gold, 8 Silver and 8 Bronze.
For Germany, it was the third Team and second Individual Gold (3 Silver and 4 Bronze in Individual and 4 Silver and 4 Bronze in Team competition previously) and its first Team Gold since 1988 Seoul and first Individual Gold since 1936 Berlin.
For Australia, it was its first Team Silver (4 Gold and 2 Bronze Team medals previously). Australia also has 2 Gold and 2 Silver Individual medals on its record.
For the USA, it was the sixth Individual Silver (2 Gold and 3 Bronze previously) and the first in four Games without a Team medal. The USA still holds the Olympic Eventing medal record (just before Germany and Great Britain) with 4 Gold, 4 Silver and 4 Bronze Team medals.
For Great Britain, it was the second Team Bronze (3 Gold and 4 Silver previously) and the fourth Individual Bronze (2 Gold and 2 Silver previously). Great Britain only started its Eventing Olympic medal record in 1956 and the first Badminton Horse Trials were held in 1948.
There was an article by Paul Sheahan in The Sydney Morning Herald recently, where he argued that "all-time" medal counts were useless because the truly modern Games only started in 1952 in Helsinki. This was also the year that women were first allowed to compete in Olympic Equestrian events. Before the Second World War, competitive riding was pretty much the domain of cavalry officers (rarely non-commissioned officers until 1936) and the landed gentry. This explains the sharp drop in the medal record for some Eastern European countries (and others) after 1948.
Below is a medal comparison between countries for Team and Individual medals. Yes, one could argue that these should not be combined Eventing(often awarded for "one effort" until 1996) but let's not complicate things too much.
Using total medals and a figure adding a weighting of 3 for Gold and 2 for Silver, the top five medal nations in the three Disciplines are:
Channel 7 Commentary
We have received a lot of complaints about the commentary on Olympic Equestrian broadcasts by former jockey Simon Marshall. Apparently Garry Wilkinson was able to come to the rescue when given the chance but in general the Olympic sport of Equestrian was not served well and would have benefitted greatly if Garry had been in charge, even if the commentary had to be based on video transmissions to Beijing.
The tone of many complaints seems to imply that we (EFA) or the AOC could/should have done something about this appointment. Let me state categorically that approaches to the highest levels at Channel 7 made well before the Games were rebuffed on the basis that Simon Marshal was an "outstanding talent" and that the aim was to make the sport "as commercial as possible". My question would be whether poor preparation and lack of knowledge and understanding of the sport and of the Olympic competition format make the commentary "commercial". I also wonder whether there is not an obligation by the IOC on Olympic broadcasters to use the best expert commentators available bearing in mind "commercial" and "entertainment" aspects. If there is no obligation, should there be?
The BBC had Mike Tucker in Hong Kong providing commentary on the spot that would be both entertaining and educative ("commercial"???). Other countries also had experienced and knowledgeable commentators in their broadcast booths. Why not Channel 7? One might understand that costs were the main factor in placing the commentators in Beijing rather than Hong Kong but giving Mr Marshall the lead role was clearly a mistake. Garry Wilkinson would have done an excellent job as the "lead" and Simon could possibly have added some other colour.
These Games are about to start. The Para-Equestrian competition will also be held in Hong Kong. The Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) will be sending its biggest team ever, including five riders and horses. The riders are: Grace Bowman (Moonta, SA), Georgia Bruce (Kuranda, QLD), Sharon Jarvis (Donnybrook, WA), Nicole Kullen (Rock Forest, NSW) and Jan Pike (Winston Hills, NSW). We wish them great success!
The Australian Paralympic medal record so far is:
- Just missed out on medals in Atlanta 1996 (on horses provided by OC)
- 2 Gold and 2 Silver medals in Sydney 2000 (on horses provided by OC)
- 1 Silver and 1 Bronze in Athens 2004 (on "own" horses)
The ABC will be broadcasting over 100 hours of coverage on ABC1 and ABC2, hopefully including some Para-Equestrian. We don't know whether there will be a specialist commentator ...
You may be aware that the high performance aspects of Para-Equestrian will soon be incorporated into the EFA High Performance Program. A lot of detail still needs to be sorted out between the APC, RDAA, ASC and us. We will keep you informed.
Competition has been continuing in Australia, of course, and September is not different. For dates and other event information, please go to our web or to the web of your respective Branch. I should, however, mention the biggest and highest "star" event, the Bates Sydney International Three-Day Event, to be held at SIEC 11-14 September 2008.
It was sad news this week to hear about the tragic death of veterinarian Ben Cullen in Queensland after being hospitalised for several weeks following an infection with the Hendra virus. Our heartfelt condolences to Ben's wife and family and his colleagues at the veterinary clinic.
There is still a lot unknown about this virus and how it transfers to horses and then to humans. The latest outbreak of the virus emphasises again the need to be vigilant when it comes to animal health and infectious diseases and the importance of following good biosecurity practices. For some background on the virus please visit the Australian Horse Industry Council web.
National Education Manager Nathan Holman reports
EFA Members and Coaches Survey
Thank you to all those EFA members’ and coaches that have entered and completed the EFA on-line survey! EFA Survey - Win a Bates saddle or a Sony Ericsson mobile phone
Your feedback and responses as a member or a coach will assist the EFA in future endeavours in sponsorship, resource and program developments, all of which will provide benefits back to you the members.
Christoph Hess Rider Clinics and Judge / Coach Workshop
The EFA in conjunction with State Dressage Committees will be bringing world-renowned German International Judge and Trainer Christoph Hess to Australia to conduct Rider Clinics and a Workshop for EFA Judges and Coaches in Victoria, NSW, Qld and WA throughout November 2008.
Christoph has worked for the German Equestrian Federation’s training department since 1978 and is presently their Director of Training and Education. He is an FEI “I” Judge for Dressage and Eventing and is actively involved internationally in the education of judges and trainers.
For further details please visit: Christoph Hess clinics.
FEI Dressage and Eventing Stewards Course
The EFA will be running an FEI Dressage and Eventing Stewards Course 10 - 12 December at Werribee, Melbourne. The course is available for all EFA Members wishing to be promoted, for experience to be involved in a stewarding team at an event or to maintain current FEI Dressage and Eventing Steward Status. The course director will be Jacques Van Daele (BEL), FEI Steward General Dressage.
Further information at FEI Dressage Stewards Course or FEI Eventing Stewards Course
In the near future, we will be calling for nominations to a variety of National positions, the terms for which run parallel with the Olympic cycle. These include selectors, coaches, chefs, etc. and some other positions with a two-year cycle at present. Please keep your eye on our website for more information and the appropriate forms.
As far as the national Office is concerned, we are in the process of recruiting a Sport Consultant - Dressage and Show Horse and a Policy and Projects Officer / Assistant to the CEO. This is partly to replace Siobhan Lapthorne, who unfortunately for us and fortunately for Equestrian Sports New Zealand, is moving across the big ditch to start a new career, partly to assist in the Board's succession planning for the CEO, who will retire sooner or later or could get run over by a
Branch bus. We thank Siobhan for the tremendous contribution she has made to the National Office, EFA and the sport and wish her well in her endeavours.
Talking about CEOs, the Australian Sports Commission's Mark Peters has tendered his resignation effective 30 September 2008, after heading the ASC for two Olympic/Paralympic cycles and introducing numerous reforms and initiatives. We thank Mark for the excellent working relationship he developed for us and the support he has given Equestrian and wish him well in his new position. We are, of course, also curious about who will take his place ...
Australian Youth Olympic Festival
With the Olympic Games over and the Paralympic Games soon as well, we can concentrate a little more on this important event taking place in January 2009. Australia will have just one team in each of Jumping and Dressage at the AYOF, compared to three in each four years ago. We will be incorporating some aspects of our preparations into the EFA Youth Development Program that will fleshed out further in the next financial year.
Information about many aspects of the AYOF is available on our website and is constantly updated. What is important to us is to get loan horses for the event. The NSW Government has provided us with some additional funding that will enable us to give horse owners a "fee" of $500 per horse ($750 for two) in addition to a transport subsidy where this is necessary, so we appeal to you to think about offering horses for this competition.
Supporters and Sponsors
I would like to thank our funding agencies, sponsors and supporters for their continued assistance. I need to point out the additional funding that the Federal Government provided through the Australian Sports Commission to help us overcome the impact on Olympic preparations of the Equine Influenza outbreak. Thank you very much again! We would like to think that the funding made a difference to our results.
Many thanks also to the Australian Olympic Committee and its staff and volunteers who helped us get ready for the Games and supported our Team so well throughout the Olympic campaign.
Our commercial sponsors also assisted in many ways with our Olympic effort. We hope our partnerships can be strengthened further in the next Olympiad.
So in summary, we would like to mention
For more news and other information, please visit www.equestrian.org.au or your State Branch web (www.[state].equestrian.org.au).
Make it a good day!
Chief Executive Officer