It’s official. Andrew Nicholson will not be going to his seventh Olympics in Rio. While this won’t come as a huge surprise following the very public fallout between the legendary eventing rider and Equestrian Sports NZ, any vestiges of hope that it could somehow be patched up have now been dashed.
The final nail in the coffin was a radio interview late last week by ESNZ high performance coach, Erik Duvander, in which he told Radio Sport that Andrew was “not selectable”.
NZ Horse & Pony contacted ESNZ’s chief executive, Vicki Glynn, for clarification. What did Erik mean by ‘not selectable’? Vicki told us that Andrew could not be considered for selection, as he has not met a number of administrative tasks required of all riders who were eligible for the Games.
“While Andrew did send in his initial paperwork for the Olympics, he has subsequently chosen not to complete a number of the other administrative requirements required by all riders looking to head to Rio,” she says. “There is a huge amount of information needed, not just about the rider, but also the horse, the owners of the horse and the groom.
“We have sent multiple reminders to both Andrew and his representative; however, the deadlines for these requirements continued to be missed.
“His representative recently advised us that Andrew hasn’t completed the paperwork because he isn’t on the High Performance Squad; however, riders who are not on a squad who hope to be considered for the Olympics still need to complete these.”
The paperwork includes requirements from the International Olympic Committee and the New Zealand Olympic Committee, including an athlete agreement and a ‘conditions of participation’ form.
Being a member of the High Performance Squad is another condition to being eligible for Olympic selection.
“In June last year, Andrew advised us that he did not want further dialogue around being re-introduced into the High Performance Squad. We have been specifically asked not to contact him directly on this matter,” Vicki says. “ESNZ has, however, continued to do Andrew’s entries and registrations for international competitions. It has been business as usual for him as a New Zealand rider competing internationally.
“The door remains open for Andrew to have a dialogue with us around his potential return to the High Performance Squad, but until such time as we are able to have this conversation, he cannot be available for squad selection.”
Vicki says she was “very pleased” to see Andrew back competing successfully at four-star level; he had two horses in the top ten in the CCI4* at Luhmühlen over the weekend, and that she and other ESNZ staff members are relieved to see him fit, healthy and in the saddle again.
We rang Andrew ourselves to get his side of the story. He’d just returned from Germany, and was naturally very happy with his horses’ performances there.
He was less happy, however, with ESNZ.
While he didn’t initially concede that the Olympics was all over for him, he staunchly declared that he had to be on the High Performance squad to get selected and that “the paperwork is secondary to that.”
We explained that Vicki told us it was the other way around; that the Olympic entry paperwork needed to be done whether or not a person was on any squad, and Andrew let rip with what we can only describe as some very colourful language.
We won’t repeat what he said; suffice to say Vicki is definitely not on his Christmas card list. Andrew firmly believes he has to be on the squad before any paperwork is needed. “Why would I need to do paperwork when you have to be on the elite list to be selected?”
When we suggested this impasse would mean no Olympics for him, he seemed resigned to that. “Oh well, I’m quite happy doing my stuff with the team I have got. Why would I want to be with that bunch? I know I am doing a good job. I’ve had enough of all the bullshit. I am very happy in my own team.”
So there it is. Nobody is budging, and neither party will concede. The great pity is that it’s New Zealand eventing (and New Zealand sport in general) which is the real loser in this whole sorry state of affairs, when a rider of Andrew’s calibre, with his experience, with his current form and with his depth of horse power cannot contribute to our medal efforts.
* For more from Andrew and his thoughts on Rio, don’t miss the July issue of NZ Horse & Pony magazine, on sale this week.