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A Valiant Effort for South Africa at Perl-Borg 2015

Japan clinches it by the smallest fraction

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In a nail-biting finish that saw half the South African contingency hang onto every movement of the final Japanese rider, with the other half unable to bring themselves to watch even a second of the test, the final Japanese rider performed a beautifully executed and polished test under immense pressure to secure Japan the final team slot by the narrowest of margins at the Olympic Games next year, ahead of South Africa.

The Rio 2016 dream is not lost though, as Tanya Seymour, on her horse Ramoneur, scored the highest marks (68.88%) out of the Group F and Group G riders, securing South Africa one of the two individual spots on offer at this show. There is also still the chance of clinching an additional individual spot for South Africa at the Olympics based on overall rankings.

Denise Hallion warm up aint no flies on us
Denise Hallion’s final preparations before her test

The class was the special qualification event open to competitors from FEI Olympic Groups F and G and to the FEI Olympic Group C countries Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The class itself was well represented with 34 starters, of which 21 of the competitors from 11 nations, competed for Olympic qualifying spots, and two teams competed for the final team spot: South Africa vs Japan.

The full list of teams now qualified for Dressage at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and USA.

In an interview with the FEI press, South African Chef d’Equipe, Jenny Neill, said, “it was so tight with the marks, but I’m very pleased with our performance, our team has come so far and I am excited by how well they did today and very happy that we have qualified one individual for Rio. Hopefully we might also get another individual qualified as well. But while I’m very excited I’m also very disappointed – in the end however, it is what it is!” she added.

Nicole Smith composed as she tackles the daunting task of being last team rider!
Nicole Smith composed as she tackles the daunting task of being last team rider!

She said she wasn’t surprised that Tanya Seymour had produced such a strong result to finish fourth, “Tanya can do a 69 or 70 (percent score) and Nicole (Smith) also. Our riders are all based across Europe but Tanya was born in South Africa, then her parents moved to Australia before coming to Germany. She and the other riders all come back frequently to South Africa to support our sport with clinics and training” she explained.

And in true sporting fashion, Jenny Neill concluded “we wish the Japanese all the best, they have lovely horses and good riders”.

SA National Dressage Coach, Natalie Hobday commented:, “Our riders produced their very best under extreme pressure. It was always going to be a tough battle and all of our team riders were focused on the goal. It is never easy to be faced with such a close result, but in spite of no longer having the team possibility, there is still possibility for two of our individual riders to get to Rio, and the momentum and commitment remains on all fronts.”

Catherine Berning warming up with good support from the sidelines
Catherine Berning warming up with good support from the sidelines

Final results for our South African riders:

4th place: Tanya Seymour 68.88%

7th place: Nicole Smith 68.42%

26th place: Denise Hallion 63.22%

27th place: Catherine Berning 63.18%

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