Ireland’s equestrian team for the Tokyo Olympics appears to have been finalised, with the news that Heike Holstein will be our sole dressage competitor at the Games this month.
Born in Ireland but with German heritage, Holstein (49) has represented Ireland at three previous Olympics, again as an individual competitor. However, her most recent appearance at the Games was back in 2004 as she then took a 13-year break from competing to raise her family.
In 2019 Holstein was part of the first Irish dressage team to gain Olympic qualification. The postponement of the Games last year disrupted the team’s availability and last month it was confirmed by Horse Sport Ireland that no dressage team would be sent to Japan.
However, Holstein and her home-bred Irish Sport Horse mare Sambuca have now been selected to go on their own. They are due to enter quarantine in Aachen, Germany, on Tuesday.
A press release issued by HSI said the organisation “has taken the decision not to nominate a dressage team for the Tokyo Olympics. This decision was taken as several key members of the Irish team that had qualified for the Games are unfortunately no longer available for selection due to a combination of horse retirement, veterinary and medical reasons.”
This decision was appealed by dressage team riders Dane Rawlins and James Connor. On Tuesday morning news broke that they had won their appeal and that HSI would put their names forward for the Games. However, as we went to press, the matter was still not finalised though time was running out for both Rawlins and Connor to make travel plans.
Fans of equestrian sport will also take an interest in the modern pentathlon which includes show jumping as one of its five disciplines. Representing Ireland in her third Olympics in this sport will be Natalya Coyle, a former member of the Meath Hunt Pony Club.
The 30-year-old started competing in international modern pentathlon aged 16, having taken up horse riding before being introduced to the other disciplines.
Show jumping: Bertram Allen (Pacino Amiro), Darragh Kenny (VDL Cartello), Cian O’Connor (Kilkenny). Reserves: Shane Sweetnam (Karlin Van’t Vennehof), Michael Duffy (Zilton SL Z).
Eventing: Cathal Daniels (Rioghan Rua), Sarah Ennis (Horseware Woodcourt Garrison), Sam Watson (Tullabeg Flamenco). Reserves: Austin O’Connor (Colorado Blue), Joseph Murphy (Cesar V).
Dressage: Heike Holstein (Sambuca)