Cian O'Connor withdrawal caps day of showjumping frustration for Ireland

Tokyo marked Cian O'Connor's third crack at the Games and he came mighty close to another medal on board Kilkenny only for a time penalty in yesterday’s individual final
Cian O'Connor withdrawal caps day of showjumping frustration for Ireland

Ireland’s Cian O’Connor riding Kilkenny in the individual jumping final at Equestrian Park yesterday during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Picture: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Add Cian O’Connor’s name to an Irish Olympic roster and the result is never dull.

His first appearance for Team Ireland, in Athens back in 2004, produced a gold medal performance which was subsequently stripped after his horse, Waterford Crystal, failed a drugs test.

Eight years later and O’Connor claimed a bronze at the London Games with Blue Lloyd.

Tokyo marked his third crack at the Games and he came mighty close to another medal on board Kilkenny only for a time penalty in yesterday’s individual final to cost him the chance to compete in a jump-off for the gold medal.

O’Connor made the point that they had completed two rounds in the Olympics without knocking a single pole. It was a superb achievement and yet their round in the final had caught the eye for more than just the performance.

As it progressed, there was a noticeable discharge of blood from the nose of his mount which the rider later said could have been caused by capillaries burst in stretching over obstacles such as the water jump, or the heat and humidity here in the Japanese capital.

The initial message when O’Connor spoke to the media afterwards was that the on-course vets had checked out the horse, everything was fine, and that both would be ready to go for the Ireland crack at the team event which gets underway here tomorrow.

An hour or so later and that had changed.

“Unfortunately, he had a nose bleed at the end of the competition but the vets checked him over and he seems fine,” O’Connor explained in a social media message posted from the stables. “We’re allowed to continue to compete but for me his future is more important. I’m going to mind him.”

O’Connor committed to helping out on the ground as the rest of the Irish team preps for the event.

Bertram Allen and Darragh Kenny will go again after their efforts in the individual final while O’Connor and Kilkenny will be replaced by Shane Sweetnam and Alejandro.

“I’m going to be on the ground and I’m going to help Bertram, Darragh and Shane. Please God they can get a team medal and we will be back to fight another day.

“I’m just happy he’s in such good shape and he jumped so well throughout the qualifier and the final.

To finish seventh in an Olympic final is not so bad and we’ll be back to fight another day.

O’Connor’s withdrawal from the team event put the tin hat on a bad night for the Irish.

Allen was the second rider up in the individual event on Pacino Amiro but the pair suffered eight faults due to two knocked fences and came in 15th with a score of 84.64. Darragh Kenny was the last of the Irish trio to compete. His time of 85.11, with eight faults, left him in 17th.

Only six competitors went around with clear rounds, which made a drastic change from the 25 who managed it on the same course the day before.

When Allen was asked why this was the case his initial answer was simple: “It’s the Olympics.”

Santiago Varela was the man who designed the course in question and Allen suggested that the man in charge approached the test with a different line of thought second time around.

“It’s the Olympic final, it’s 14 fences, three combinations. Maybe yesterday he had to mind some of the weaker nations, to let everybody have a chance, whereas today there he’s not minding anybody.

“He’s giving it everything he’s got and I think he’s got it pretty right in fairness to him.”

Ireland are still in with a shot at a medal in the team event.

Sweetnam was eight individually in helping Ireland to team gold at the 2017 Europeans and he competed in the 2018 World Equestrian Games where the team finished seventh.

The Dunmanway man is an experienced operator.

“It’s a little bit disappointing that none of us went better today but we’ll only use that to rally us and be better again on Friday,” said Allen.

“I know when I leave here now that’s that round done and buried and behind me now, and it’s all steam ahead for the team event and we feel like we have a shot, so we need to keep fighting.”

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