All of a sudden it feels like the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are just around the corner. Here we are less than a year out and all the planning and preparation is starting to be put into action.
Hopes are high New Zealand will be represented by combinations in eventing, dressage and showjumping, as well as para-dressage at the Paralympics. There is plenty happening now that will govern just what sports we qualify for Tokyo and whether that is as individuals or teams. Of course, the eventers have already qualified a team on the back of their efforts at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon.
The CCI3* Tokyo 2020 test event is scheduled for August 12-14, and while New Zealand won’t have any riders competing, there is a Kiwi contingent heading there to observe including eventing high performance manager Graeme Thom, high performance operations manager Warrick Allan, New Zealand’s best placed individual at the Rio Olympic Games, Clarke Johnstone, vet Christiana Ober and high performance director Simon Bennett.
High Performance Sport New Zealand have been very clear in their directive that there is to be no stone can be left unturned in campaign preparation and planning as equestrian heads to the Games. The group is comprised of the best planning team ESNZ High Performance can send and it will look at all logistical elements of the games including heat management strategies, the competition environment, layout of facilities and any other influencing factors to ensure the best of planning is in place over the coming year.
There has already been a lot of discussion around the heat with some countries looking to replicate conditions likely to match the weather as part of their build-ups. American athletes will be using US military bases in Japan during their preparations while organisers are said to be preparing for what could be the hottest Olympic Games ever.
New Zealand will look to qualify a showjumping team at Valkenswaard in The Netherlands the same weekend as the eventing test event. There are six nations vying for spots at the event and New Zealand must finish in the top two. This is our only chance to qualify a team for Tokyo and failing that we will look to qualify an individual through the FEI rider rankings.
The four-strong New Zealand team for Valkenswaard will be named next week.
Dressage’s single individual spot as well as para-dressage will also both come via the FEI rankings.
This week ESNZ submitted New Zealand’s equestrian long list for the Games – essentially, any rider who has any sort of aspiration to make the team has to be on this list.
It’s not the first time Tokyo has played host to the Olympics with the memorable 1964 Games the second time New Zealand was represented. In 1964, it was showjumpers Bruce Hansen aboard Tide, Graeme Hansen on the mighty Saba Sam, Adrian White with Eldorado and reserve Charlie Matthews on Syndicate who flew the flag high with their 10th place in the teams. Adrian holds the honour as New Zealand equestrian’s first-ever Olympic representative when he made the trek to Rome in 1960 to compete aboard Telebrae.
We’ll be keeping you up to date with all the latest news on our top riders, their horses, those behind the scenes and everything you need to know over the coming 12 months as we count down to Tokyo.
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison