For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, Ireland will have a dressage team at Tokyo 2020 after the ‘Girls In Green’ secured Olympic qualification after a stunning performance at the Longines FEI European Championships which took place in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The Irish team of Anna Merveldt, Judy Reynolds, Heike Holstein and Kate Dwyer, finished on a final score of 213.540, to finish second of the eight teams who had been chasing one of the three tickets to Tokyo that were on offer at the final Olympic qualifier for European teams.
The competition began last Monday with Kate Dwyer first in for the Irish team with Snowdon Faberge scoring 66.180%, while the second Irish rider, Heike Holstein with the Irish-bred Sambuca, scored 69.472. The remaining riders started competition at 7am on Tuesday, with Ireland’s third rider Anna Merveldt scoring 67.717 with the ten-year-old gelding Esporim.
As Judy Reynolds entered the arena as last to go, Ireland were lying just outside the qualifying places in fourth of the eight teams looking for a ticket to Tokyo. A breathtaking performance saw Judy and the Joe and Kathleen Reynolds-owned Vancouver K smash their own Irish Grand Prix record to score 76.351%. The combined scores saw Ireland secure the second of the three Olympic places on offer along with Denmark and Portugal.
Record-breaker Judy Reynolds said: “I can’t believe we have actually done it. We talked about it two years ago and it was like ‘Hey let’s try and get a team to Tokyo’ and I was thinking in the back of my head that, this is not going to be all that feasible, because at the time we didn’t really have the back up horses to do it. But it all came together, this year especially. Heike’s mare improved so much and Anna got the horse and improved it so much, from doing no Grand Prix to this.
“I was surprised myself that we have got to this level but I can’t believe it.
“I had an absolutely amazing ride. JP [Vancouver K] was just fantastic today, he was really with me, he let me ride him and just did everything I could have asked of him, he was just super.”
Horse Sport Ireland chairman and Judy’s father, Joe Reynolds, commented: “I am so proud of all our riders for what they have achieved on this historic day for Irish dressage and for Horse Sport Ireland. This was a real team effort from everyone involved in the team and backroom staff.
“This didn’t happen by accident, there was huge planning and effort to make this happen down to the finest details.
“For many years dressage was probably overshadowed in Ireland by the other disciplines but today is a new chapter and we now look forward to planning for the Olympic Games.”
Ronan Murphy, CEO of Horse Sport Ireland, added: “This performance from our Irish ‘Girls In Green’ was simply outstanding.
“This is a historic day for Irish equestrian sport and I congratulate Kate, Anna, Heike and Judy.
“A special word of thanks to our Dressage Chef d’Equipe Milan Djordjevic and to team trainer Johann Hinnemann. Ireland now has qualified a full team in eventing and dressage for Tokyo.”
The European Championship team gold medal went to Germany. The home team from The Netherlands took silver while the bronze medal went to Sweden.