It may be still two years until the Paris Olympic Games but with the World Championships now behind us, the focus is already squarely on the pinnacle event.
ESNZ general manager of high performance, Jock Paget, says the dream would have been to have New Zealand represented by teams across eventing, jumping and dressage. However, currently the only team qualified are the eventers, who booked their spot with their bronze medal-winning effort at the World Champs. Jumping has a chance to qualify a team next year while dressage is aiming for an individual spot.
Jock says gaining the eventing qualification at Pratoni was hugely valuable. “I can’t explain how much value it is,” he says. “It means we can focus purely on what we need to do to be best prepared for Paris. Poor Australia and Japan have to plan on getting ready to qualify before than can move to the preparation for the Games. Planning for qualification and the Paris Olympic Games are two very different preparations. It is nice to have the freedom to focus on Paris.”
At the Paris Olympic Games the format will be the same as Tokyo, with just three combinations in a team plus an alternate named for the nation.o
For dressage, 15 nations will qualify teams, comprising one from the host country France and the remainder through FEI Olympic Group qualification events. Six have already qualified through their efforts at the recent FEI World Dressage Championships. Australia, who is in the same group as New Zealand, have already qualified their team spot at the Worlds.
New Zealand is in Group G and hope to qualify an individual through riders being one of the two highest ranked athletes in the group.
“We will also have the challenge of meeting the New Zealand Olympic Committee criteria of top 16 capability,” says Jock. “That isn’t as far away as it used to be though, and the gap is closing at every opportunity.”
He says dressage is growing for New Zealand. “It is an exciting discipline at the moment and one on the move. We would have liked to have had a team, but sending an individual is a big achievement as well. Our focus is about the development of the programme and looking to support our riders to get to the next World Championships and qualify a team for the Los Angeles Olympic Games.”
An Olympic Group G jumping qualifier will likely be held mid 2023 but just where is still to be confirmed. Twenty national federations will contest Paris – one of those will be the host country, 17 will be team quota places allocated through Olympic qualification events, and two will come through the FEI Jumping Nations Cup finals in 2022 and 2023.
“We will be aiming to qualify a team at the dedicated Group G qualifier event,” says Jock,
New Zealand has never had teams across the three disciplines but in Sydney 2000 did have a mixture of an eventing team and individuals in both jumping and dressage, and again at Athens in 2004.
“It would be great to have the three teams there,” says Jock. “Each discipline has a pathway forward and our job is to focus on developing that growth. The ultimate goal is podiums at major championships but there is a lot of work to do to get there.”
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison