The countdown is really on to the Olympic Games in Tokyo..

The countdown is really on to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. And with the eventing season getting underway, the spotlight is on who will be selected to represent their country. So here’s what you need to know about this year’s most prestigious eventing competition.

The venues
The eventing competition will take place at two venues. The Equestrian Park will be used for the dressage and show jumping, whilst Sea Forest will be used for the cross-country phase.

The first horse inspection will be held on Thursday July 30th. This will be followed by two days of Dressage with 44 combinations on the Friday (morning and late afternoon) and 21 on the Saturday. Cross country will take place early on Sunday August 2nd, with the show jumping being held following the final horse inspection on Monday August 3rd.

Come the summer, Tokyo will be eight hours ahead of the UK. So when you tune in to watch the action, this will be during the afternoon and evening, and even early morning for the dressage and show jumping. Indeed, we won’t know who the individual Olympic Champion will be until about 6am on Tuesday August 4th.

In a change to the previously used format, teams competing at Tokyo 2020 will be made up of just three members. And all three scores will count. And unlike previous team competitions where the failure of any rider to complete a phase resulted in the team being eliminated, this will no longer be the case.

Under the new format, a combination may continue in the competition if they retire, unless they have been eliminated for any of the following reasons: lameness, horse fall, dangerous riding, abuse of horse and disqualification. But penalties will be applied. If a combination competing as part of a team fails to complete an individual phase the following penalties will be applied: 100 for both dressage and show jumping and 200 penalties for the cross country.

There are circumstances in which a combination can be substituted, with 20 penalties applied to any team who chooses to do this. And only one substitution can be made per team. The reserve combination must pass the first horse inspection, and subsequently the final horse inspection if it is to compete in the show jumping. Substitutions are not permitted if a combination has been eliminated for dangerous riding, abuse of horse or it has been disqualified. Substitution is for the purpose of the team competition results and any pair who are substituted or compete as a reserve will not be eligible for the individual competition.

The format was trialled at the Nations Cup finale at Boekelo last autumn. Here we have to look to the lower end of the standings to see the penalty system come into practice. USA, Sweden and Netherlands all had riders who did not complete the cross country. And therefore picked up 200 penalties. But as each of these combinations were deemed fit to continue they did not need to be substituted. France (who finished ninth) and Ireland (who finished 11th) both used a substitute combination after the cross country, so as well as the 200 penalties, both teams also had another 20 penalties added to their final score.

Climate management
Further to the Ready Steady Tokyo Equestrian Test event, held in August last year, and during which an FEI official climate impact study and horse monitoring project took place, the FEI has decided to shorten the Olympic Eventing Cross Country course to approximately eight minutes, allowing for a course of approximately 4,500 metres. The decision to shorten the course, based on advice from the Veterinary and Eventing Committees, has been approved by the FEI Board.

In addition Tokyo2020 have agreed that the start time for the cross country will be brought forward to between 07:30 and 08:00 in order to enable an 11:00 finish, the time identified by our climate studies as the beginning of the potentially highest Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) readings.

The welfare of both human and equine athletes is at the heart of the FEI’s decision-making process and these decisions have been taken to allow competing nations to optimise their performances in the Tokyo summer climate.

Who’s qualified
This is what everybody wants to know! There will be 65 combinations participating in the eventing competition at Tokyo 2020. Of this, there will be 15 teams made up of three riders per country, and an additional 20 individual combinations.

As the host nation, Japan automatically qualified for Tokyo 2020. At the World Equestrian Games in 2018, there were six qualifying places available. These went to Great Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.

With home advantage, Poland secured their berth for and Olympic team at Baborowko, a qualification event for Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. China and Thailand qualified through the competition at Samur – a qualification event for Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Oceania. And at the Pan American Games in Peru USA and Brazil booked their place at Tokyo 2020.

The FEI European Championships at Luhmühlen last summer provided the opportunity for the two best placed teams from Group A and Group B to qualify. Sweden and Italy (finishing third and fifth respectively) booked their Olympic Tickets. A finally, Switzerland – as the best placed team in the 2019 FEI Nations Cup Series who hadn’t already qualified – took the last team place.

When it comes to the 20 individual places, these have been awarded to nations that haven’t qualified for the team competition, with riders from Holland, Belgium, Spain, Canada, Chile, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Pakistan, India and Hong Kong all earning a place. Russian athletes have qualified but as the country is banned from competing, they will participate as neutral athletes. The final six places were awarded based on the full Olympic ranking list, and these have been taken by Belarus, Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria.
The deadline for Athletes and Horses to achieve the FEI minimum eligibility requirements needed in order to be able to compete is 1 June 2020 midnight in the country where the qualification event takes place. National Organising Committees and National Federations must submit FEI Certificates of Capability to FEI, comprising a maximum of three times the number of Athletes and Horses for all three disciplines allowed to enter on the final entries as follows – therefore nine athletes and nine horses, plus three alternate athletes and reserve combinations. National Organising Committees with qualified with individual riders can enter no more than three times the number of qualified individuals on the Certificate of Capability.
National Organising Committees will be required to nominate to Tokyo 2020 the long list of all Athletes who could possibly be entered for the Olympic Games by 10 April 2020. So we can expect long-lists for the countries qualified to be published around this time.

More importantly, the deadline for the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee to receive Final Entries is 6 July 2020. This will be made up of three horse and rider combinations plus the reserve horse and rider combination. And this is when we will know who will be competing for Olympic Glory.

Can France reclaim their title from Rio? Can Great Britain return to the podium? Or can a German rider claim the individual crown for a fourth Olympics in a row? Who knows. But the countdown has begun.

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