OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Equestrianism: Storm over opt-out clause

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The Independent Online
THE International Equestrian Federation has shot itself in the foot by failing to make yesterday's qualifying competition for the individual show jumping final compulsory. Sixteen of the top 18 riders either failed to appear or jumped a few fences and retired, leaving spectators jeering for 20 minutes after the contest had fizzled out. IOC members looking for an excuse to ditch equestrian sports can now point to this fiasco.

Qualification for tomorrow's final was to have been decided over Tuesday's team competition plus yesterday's contest. It was then realised that some riders already had sufficient points to qualify without jumping again.

The Venezuelan technical delegate, Noel Vanasoste, was consulted. He went through the rule book and found that the leading riders on points had a let-out with the word 'may' rather than 'must' in connection with participation yesterday. The problem was compounded by the course designer, Nicholas Alvarez de Bohorques, who built such a demanding track that riders were anxious to avoid it.

'This is the worst thing that has ever happened to our sport,' Luis Alvarez Cervera, one of the Spanish riders, said. Though he hated short-changing the public, he was equally reluctant to ask his horse for any unnecessary effort and he therefore withdraw.

Mathematical exercises took precedence yesterday. Malcolm Pyrah, the British team trainer, was consulted by riders of many nationalities as he wrestled with the figures that determined which horses could be left in their stables. It was soon established that John Whitaker did not need to jump but his brother, Michael, had to stand by until it was known that he also had sufficient points. Nick Skelton did compete, only to retire after Dollar Girl had lowered four fences then crashed through the ninth and came down. Tim Grubb, who jumped a good round on Denizen, and the Whitakers, will be Britain's finalists.