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Olympics: HK Equestrians Given Wild-Cards Entries
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The equestrian governing body, FEI, confirmed the allocation for the three disciplines which will be held in Hong Kong.

There are only a limited number of places for the Olympics, but Hong Kong has been given a wild-card entry for jumping, dressage and eventing, providing competitors meet the qualification criteria.

Ronald Arculli, chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation, said: "I'm over the moon. It is amazing to get a wild card. This is an opportunity of a lifetime. Hong Kong must now do its bit to ensure we are represented."

Sports Federation and Olympic Committee president Timothy Fok Tsun-ting added: "We have talked a lot about the facilities, but at the end of the day the Olympics are all about participation and having a wild card will do so much to promote the sport and raise general interest in the 2008 events."

Jumping is the most popular discipline in Hong Kong. For the Olympics, the SAR can qualify either a three- or four-strong team or up to two individuals. It is not unusual for a delegation to fail to qualify a team. At Athens 2004, key nations, including Britain, only managed individual entries and it is unlikely Hong Kong can field a full team, so individual places are vital.

The qualification procedure for the 70 jumping places is rigorous. The horses and riders need to compete in designated events from January 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008.

Depending on the event they will need to achieve either a clear round or a score of below four penalties, which means only one obstacle down.

The standard of all the competitions is challenging, with fences starting at a height of 1.40 meters and including a 3.5m water jump and obstacles with a spread of between 1.5m and 2m.

The only Hong Kong athlete who has competed at this standard is 18-year-old Charlotte Morse, who showed she could mix it with the best at the FEI Grand Prix tour in Kuala Lumpur last month.

The dressage competitions will have only 50 places, one of which will be allocated to a qualified Hong Kong competitor. The qualification is based on competing in designated Grand Prix events and achieving a minimum score.

For eventing, Hong Kong also gets one place out of 75 horse-rider pairs. In order to qualify, riders will have to achieve minimum scores in all three sections of the designated competitions - cross-country, jumping and dressage.

(South China Morning Post May 23, 2006)

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