Team Ireland’s sole dressage competitor, Heike Holstein and her home-bred mare Sambuca (Samarant x Limmerick) finished sixth of 10 competitors in the Grand Prix Group D competition on Sunday (25 July) at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In what was Heike’s fourth Olympic appearance, the combination scored 68.432% from the seven international judges.

Heike and her 12-year-old mare received an eight for their piaffe, and scores of seven and 7.5 were awarded throughout the test. However, their score was not good enough to see them through to the individual freestyle final. The top two riders in each of the six groups progressed to the final, which took place yesterday (Wednesday, 28 July).

Speaking after their performance, Holstein said: “I was really happy with her [Sambuca], she went into the ring and really concentrated.

“We had a few little errors that were my fault, in the first medium trot I had her back a bit too much.

“I was really happy with the passage and the piaffe has improved a lot, she was really relaxed in the walk and the changes were good. I timed the warm-up just right, I practiced it yesterday at the same time and I had more time today so I did less with her before I went in. She wasn’t exhausted but wasn’t too fresh. I was happy with most of it.

“I am really proud of her. When she was a little foal I never thought that we would get this far, it is a long road and lots of things can happen.

“In 2019 I finally thought, this might happen!”

Denmark’s Carina Cassoe Kruth with Heiline’s Danciera scored 76.677% to take first place in Heike’s group and USA’s Adrienne Lyle with Salvino scored 74.876% to take the second qualifying spot.

Yellow ribbon

All Irish equestrian athletes at the Games are wearing yellow ribbons in commemoration of the loss of young Irish equestrian athlete, Tiggy Hancock, who passed away in June. Also decorating Heike’s lapel was a pin designed by Tiggy’s mother specifically for the event.

When asked about the ribbon and pin, Heike proudly mentioned while pointing at them, saying: “Tiggy is at the Olympics in Tokyo and we are very proud to wear this for her.”

Heike leaves Tokyo to travel home today (Thursday).

Eventing preparations

The Irish eventing team get their Olympic campaign under way with the dressage phase tomorrow (Friday). Cross country will take place on Sunday, with the show jumping phase on Monday.

Ireland’s show jumping team are in action on Tuesday 3 August.

Where to watch

RTÉ is the official Olympic broadcaster for Ireland and will show the Games on RTÉ TV and the RTÉ Player. RTÉ2 will show equestrian events, subject to what other Irish athletes are in action. The Irish Field’s Brendan McArdle will head the commentary team for the equestrian coverage for Tokyo. He will be joined by Ciaran Glynn for eventing, and Tom Freyne will be in studio as a guest analyst. You can also find comprehensive coverage on BBC TV, BBC Red Button and on Eurosport TV.