Give Hazel a fair go to Tokyo 2020. Hazel Shannon and her Off the Track Thoroughbred, Willinga Park Clifford have won the Adelaide 3 Day Event an historic three times. It’s never been done at any other 5* event in the world. For eventers, it’s like winning the Melbourne Cup three times.
But despite making eventing history, the pair was not listed on the Equestrian Australia Gold High Performance Squad and is not being considered for this year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
The oversight has sparked the interest of passionate volunteer, author and eventing advocate Maggie Dawkins, who launched a campaign calling for more transparency in the Olympic selection process and asking selectors for a #FairGoForHazel.
“The people who know me well understand that I am motivated by a sense of fairness” says Maggie. “Hazel Shannon is the only rider in the world to win at 5* level on the same horse, at the same event, three times. They have earned a place on the Australian eventing team and, furthermore, the stated purpose of the Adelaide International as an Olympic qualifier must be upheld.
“The integrity of this International event’s financing model is on the line here. South Australian taxpayers have funded the Adelaide 3 day event for years with the expectation that the winner will gain selection for the Olympics. Hazel and Clifford have won it three times! How can anyone say they haven’t earned the right to represent us at Tokyo?”
Maggie says the campaign will hopefully avoid the necessity of going to the Court of Arbitration for young event rider Hazel Shannon and Clifford. Equestrian Australia’s selection of riders for past Olympics and World Equestrian Games has been shrouded in controversy due to selection decisions that do not relate to performances at official qualifying events. The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) the world governing body for the sport lists the first and most difficult criteria for qualification to ride at Tokyo, a completion at 5* and Hazel has more than met the FEI selection criteria.
Hazel’s third Adelaide victory in 2019, was evidence of that elusive ‘fairy dust’ required for Olympic success, the partnership between rider and horse that sets the sport of eventing apart from other equestrian pursuits. It is clear that Hazel and Clifford have built a trust in each other. Hazel smashed her goal of finishing below 40, like dual German Olympic champion Michael Jung and his horse Sam (La Biosthetique-Sam FBW).
The Adelaide 5* three-day event is the only 5* Olympic qualifier in the Southern Hemisphere and only one of five in the world. South Australian eventing enthusiasts proudly host the Olympic qualifying event, which heavily relies on State Government funding.
“It is unthinkable that selectors continue to overlook this combination” says Maggie. “After two wins at Adelaide in 2016 and 2018. A delegation of event riders were invited to the test event at Tokyo in August 2019, and Hazel was excluded. This a clear indicator that Hazel and Clifford have already been written off, despite consistent performances.
“The #FairGoForHazel is my idea, I am funding it and I am running it,” Maggie Dawkins says.
“Let’s rip back the curtain on the subjective shenanigans that appear to be behind Olympic selection and disclose what is going on to the general public. After all, taxpayers pay for High Performance through the Federal Government and sports rorts are a hot topic.”
“I have contacted businessman Terry Snow, the owner of Willinga Park Clifford and he understands my motives. As the horse’s owner, it is not appropriate for him get too involved as he clearly has skin in the game,” Maggie says.
Terry Snow said of Hazel, “She’s a little Aussie battler from the back-blocks of Far North Queensland, and right from the first time I met her, she said her number one aim in life was to get to the Olympics.”
Hazel and Clifford will follow Olympic Gold medallists Gillian Rolton and Peppermint Grove and Wendy Schaeffer and Sunburst.
Hazel has earnt her place on the team to represent Australia at Tokyo and deserves to go. They are the stuff of dreams, that will inspire the next generation of Pony Club and Interschool kids to reach for the stars as well as fly the flag for retired racehorses.