London Olympic Dressage Selections - Hayley Beresford Devastated
|London Olympic Dressage Selections - Hayley Beresford Devastated - 9th Jul 2012|
|''YOU have to love keeping it in the family!'' pronounced Lyndal Oatley when she heard her cousin Kristy was joining her in the Australian Olympic equestrian team to compete in London.|
But in the world of dressage, the love didn't spread far.
Instead, the selection of the two Oatleys - both granddaughters of the billionaire Bob Oatley, a sponsor of grand prix events in the sport in Australia - has exposed bitter tensions at the perceived influence of wealth and patronage in the sport.
Kristy Oatley gained her spot at the expense of Hayley Beresford under a discretionary selection process. Yet, only two weeks ago, Beresford was ranked 111th in the world, well ahead of Oatley's 283, as judged by the Federation Equestre Internationale. Both women represented Australia in Beijing.
Then, last Thursday, Beresford confirmed form was on her side, too, beating Oatley in Aachen, Germany - only hours before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, sitting in Sydney, closed the final legal door to her Olympic dream.
She finished the event in tears.
''I am deeply devastated and at this moment cannot find the words to explain the selection process,'' she said on Facebook.
But other riders are speaking out, claiming the selection process was altered to favour Kristy Oatley, who was added to the shadow Olympic team after it had been finalised despite not having competed for nearly two years. Another change allowed riders to use a second horse in London.
Beresford last night said Lyndal was clearly the best rider and praised the Oatley family.
''The Oatleys are a highly respected and much-loved family who endeavour to support Australian dressage community. The attacks on them are not founded or fair,'' she said.
''The problem lies in the selection policy - discretion has no place in sport.''
The top-ranked Australian dressage rider, Heath Ryan, who did not seek Olympic selection for London to allow his wife Rozzie to participate, said he found the changes ''very disturbing''.
''I am very concerned the changes were made by power and money to favour the wealthiest individuals. You cannot change Olympic [selection] criteria like that,'' he said.
''People are very despondent. There are people out there who have dreams of riding for their country, but if this is the way Equestrian Australia is going to conduct itself, then really it is only [a sport] for the rich.''
A grand prix judge Berni Saunders said the sporting community had been shocked by the decision. ''Everybody is absolutely horrified,'' she said. ''It would be like Cathy Freeman having two years off running and then deciding a few months before the Olympics, 'I'd like to have a go'.''
Unsurprisingly, Beresford said the dispute had ''caused a terrible, terrible atmosphere within the team''.
The chairman of Equestrian Australia, Paul Cargill, tried to put the issue in the past, saying it was now time for the ''selected athletes to get on with their job and do their talking where it counts''.
''Ms Beresford has had the opportunity to put her case before two appellate bodies and she has not succeeded with either,'' he said.
"We dismiss all allegations made, especially those that are unsourced and are not accompanied by anything other than a personal view of what should have been.''
Beresford's appeal claimed ''blatant bias and double standards'' in the selection process.
The selectors used their discretion to place more weight on riders' performances between March to June, which Beresford says favoured Kristy Oatley because her horse, Clive, had been rested and was fresher.
''I believe this is bias in Oatley's favour and I am being disadvantaged for following the rules,'' she told an National Federation Appeals Tribunal appointed by Equestrian Australia last month.
A spokesman for the Australian Olympic Committee, Mike Tancred, said Beresford had no further avenue of appeal.
Courtesy Fairfax Digital, www.theage.com.au & Andrew Stevenson and Louise Hall, Sydney