Tiptoeing Towards Tokyo: Individual Quotas Confirmed for Olympic Eventing

Dutch National Champions Merel Blom and Ceda clinch a spot for their country as the Tokyo individual allocations are confirmed. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

It was starting to feel like rather a long wait since our last update on the trail to Tokyo, wasn’t it? But when it rains, it really does pour, and news of the confirmed team and individual quotas for the equestrian events broke today amid a flurry of controversy for show jumping.

After some consternation over last-minute ranking shows, which were kept hush-hush — open only to entries by invitation, and not announced as counting towards the rankings until after the date of closure — the FEI has decided to remove the shows in question from contention, rejigging the individual allocations. For an in-depth dive into the curious case of the under-the-radar qualifiers, click over to this incredibly thorough article by the queen of investigative equestrian journalism, Pippa Cuckson.

Carlos Lobos Muñoz and Ranco will earn Chile an individual spot at Tokyo. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

When we last checked in on the Tokyo allocations within our own sport, we were still awaiting confirmation of the individual slots granted, a process that began in earnest after the confirmation that all the qualified teams would in fact be present and able to take up their tickets.

At that point, we were only able to provide educated conjecture about how the individual slots would be allocated — but as usual, Eventing Nation ends up being the friend you hate to invite over to binge-watch your favourite television programme.

Our spoiler-filled guide to how the spots would be allocate proved to be right on the money. To read the piece in full, click here – otherwise, hang onto your hats, and we’ll rehash who’s nabbed a golden ticket.

The first 14 individual places are awarded by region. The Olympic rankings are split into seven regional zones, each of which will be eligible for two individual spots. These will be decided by the horse-and-rider combinations who are best ranked within those regions. Those combinations will earn a place for their country – it’s crucial to note that they don’t necessarily earn the spot for themselves. Ultimately, that decision will come down to each national federation.

This is how it breaks down:

A – North Western Europe: Tim Lips and Bayro top the bill for unqualified nations in Region A, so they earn the Netherlands an individual spot. Tim Lips also sits second on this list with Eclips – but an athlete can only earn one place for his nation, so it skips him and goes down to the third best-ranked horse-and-rider combination from an unqualified nation. That’s Merel Blom and Ceda – so both of the Region A individual places will go to the Netherlands. Reserves (in order of priority): Finland, Denmark

B – South Western Europe: Karin Donckers and Fletcha Van’t Verahof top the list of unqualified NOC athletes for this region, which means that Belgium takes an individual slot. (No, we don’t know why Belgium counts as Region B and not Region A either.) The second spot goes to Spain, earned by Francisco Gaviño Gonzalez and Source de la Faye. Reserves (in order of priority): Austria, Belgium

C – Central & Eastern Europe and Central Asia: We’re looking at a Russian clean sweep here – Alexandr Markov and Leader top the bill, followed by Valery Martyshev and Primero. Of course, Russia has been banned from competing in Tokyo due to their ongoing doping scandal – but athletes will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag if they have a clean sheet, and so these two spots will effectively be taken up by the Olympic flag, as we’ve seen in similar situations in the past. Reserves (in order of priority): Kazakhstan, Lithuania

D – North America: The USA takes a team spot, so there’s just one country left in Region D. Canada will take two individual spots, earned by Karl Slezak and Fernhill Wishes and Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges. Reserves (in order of priority): N/A (only Canada features on the rankings list for Group D.)

E – Central and South America: Chile leads the way for this individual slot, with Carlos Lobos Muñoz and Ranco sitting atop the list of athletes from unqualified nations. Puerto Rico takes slot two, with Lauren Billys and Castle Larchfield Purdy sitting second. Reserves (in order of priority): Ecuador, Mexico

F – Africa and the Middle East: Victoria Scott-Legendre and Song du Magay top the bill for Region F, earning South Africa an individual place. The second goes to Pakistan, thanks to Usman Khan and Azad Kashmir. (see notes below) Reserves (in order of priority): Zimbabwe (no other countries feature on the rankings list for Group F.)

G – South-East Asia and Oceania: India will take a spot as the result of solid efforts by Fouaad Mirza and Fernhill Facetime, while Thomas Heffernan Ho and Tayberry take the second for Hong Kong. (see notes below) Reserves (in order of priority): N/A (no other countries feature on the rankings list for Group G.)

After the allocation of these places, the final six are awarded based on the full, unsegregated Olympic ranking list. A nation can field a maximum of two individual athletes, and so we’ll be skipping the Netherlands, Russia, Canada, and of course all the nations sending teams. The final six looks like this:

  • Miloslav Prihoda Jr and Ferreolus Lat earn a place for the Czech Republic
  • Alexander Zelenko and Carlo Grande Jr earn a place for Belarus
  • Aliaksandr Faminou and Martinie earn a second place for Belarus
  • Peter Flarup and Fascination earn a place for Denmark
  • Miroslav Trunda and Shutterflyke earn a second place for the Czech Republic
  • Lea Siegl and Fighting Line earn a place for Austria

Reserves for these final six individual slots are as follows, in order of priority: Austria, Ecuador, Finland, Denmark, Finland, Belgium. Reserves will be used if a country isn’t able to field an individual athlete, a scenario that may not be beyond the realm of possibility for the fledgling eventing nations on this list.

Czech Republic will be making its first Olympic eventing appearance since the 2008 Beijing Games, while both Hong Kong and Pakistan will make their Olympic eventing debut this summer.

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges of Canada. Photo by Jenni Autry.

What’s Next?

Each NOC, or national governing body, has until the 16th of March to confirm their individual allocations. Any unconfirmed allocations after this deadline will be reallocated using a reserve system.

Now, potential candidates for Tokyo will have until the 1st of June to achieve their Olympic qualifications and make themselves eligible for selection. Need a refresher on the Minimum Eligibility Requirements? Here’s how they work:

  • Combinations must achieve an MER at both a CCI4*-S and a CCI4*-L, or they can achieve a standalone MER at CCI5*-L
  • An MER, or qualifying result, must include a dressage score of 55% or better (penalty score 45 or below), a clear cross-country round with 30 or fewer time penalties (if at four-star) or 40 or fewer time penalties if at five-star, and a showjumping round with 16 or fewer jumping penalties
  • The combination can knock one frangible, earning 11 penalties, and still use the result as an MER. A second 11 penalties, a 15, or a 20 will render the result invalid for qualifying purposes
  • The qualifying period for Tokyo MERs spans from the 1st of January, 2019 – 1st of June, 2020

The final list of horse and rider combinations for each discipline will be announced on the 6th of July. No, we won’t judge you if you set a countdown on your phone.