Canada wins equestrian spot for Rio with French disqualification

A seventh place finish plus a horse from France that failed a drug test equals an Olympic spot for Team Canada at Rio 2016.

Allow an explanation.

Canada finished seventh in the eventing competition at the World Equestrian Games in August 2014. The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) allows the top six nations an automatic Olympic berth, leaving Canada agonizingly short of a guaranteed place in Rio.

Then came the drug tests, something the French team’s competitor Maxime Livio – more accurately, his horse Qalao des Mers – did not pass, thus disqualifying France, which had finished fourth, from the competition and bumping Canada up to sixth for an automatic eventing spot for the next Olympics.

Jessica Phoenix riding Pavarotti at 2014 World Equestrian Games in France.

Jessica Phoenix riding Pavarotti at 2014 World Equestrian Games in France.

The news was made official on Thursday by the FEI Tribunal. The horse in question was disqualified for a “Controlled Medication substance on the FEI Prohibited Substances List.” France can still qualify for Rio but only through continental competition, a path Canada’s eventing team will no longer need to take at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

Eventing is a combination of cross-country, dressage and jumping, with points accumulating toward a total score. Canada’s lone Olympic medal in eventing arrived in 1956 in Stockholm, Sweden, which hosted the equestrian portion (due to strict Australian quarantine laws) of the Games that were taking place in Melbourne.

The Canadian eventing team that competed in France at the 2014 World Equestrian Games consisted of Jessica Phoenix (riding Pavarotti), Selena O’Hanlon (Foxwood High), Peter Barry (Kilrodan Abbott) and Hawley Bennett-Awad (Gin & Juice).