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Hungary’s James Wingrave on the cancellation of the 2021 European Championships: “Everyone from the organizers and sponsors to the owners had rallied to make the event and the team the strongest possible”

Tuesday, 26 May 2020
Interview

Photo © Hervé Bonnaud/ 1clicphoto.com
"Could it be the case that by late summer 2021, international shows and a European Championship could be organised, safely, adhering to Government restrictions, where due to the sheer scale of the event, the Olympics may not?” James Wingrave asks. Photo © Hervé Bonnaud/ 1clicphoto.com.

 

Text © World of Showjumping


 

With the FEI European Championships 2021 cancelled in all Olympic disciplines – including jumping – World of Showjumping spoke to the host nation’s own James Wingrave to find out how a rider from Hungary feels about the decision.

“As I ride for Hungary, I am biased,” Wingrave begins. “It is a great shame that the 2021 European Championships are now cancelled. It would have been our first ever continental championship for seniors in showjumping in Hungary. Equestrian sports and horses are a huge part of Hungarian history, and the government had been enormously supportive in organizing the Europeans. Everyone in Hungary was looking forward to it, and the positive ripple effect it would’ve had on the sport nationally. At least, four-in-hand carriage driving can still celebrate its 50th anniversary – the very first European Championship in that discipline was organized in Budapest back in 1971.”

“A championship should be the pinnacle of our sporting calendar,” Wingrave continues. “And for any sportsman, there is nothing quite like competing in one on home soil. Everyone from the organizers and sponsors to the owners had rallied to make the event and the team the strongest possible. To have that golden opportunity taken away, especially through no fault of our own, is a real blow.”

“Had the Europeans taken place as scheduled, alongside the Olympics, it could have been argued that one, or neither event would have received the full quota of the top performers in the world – a fact which had the potential to affect the prestige of one, if not both events,” Wingrave says. “Championship horses take so much time, care and effort to produce and I believe that those who have them would have been reluctant to over-use them. In saying that, we must respect the fact that equestrians are required by necessity to maintain the most positive of outlooks. The silver lining in running two major championships in the same year of course being that those who may not have been given the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, could have found themselves mounted at the in-gate of another championship arena. A position in which, if only by chance, great horse-and-rider combinations can be born.”

“Now, given the continuing uncertainty of the pandemic, we are forced to examine all the possible outcomes of our situation, and to take the best from them,” Wingrave says. “For the European Championships to bow to the authority of the Olympic Games is perhaps the natural and necessary order of things. However, one question does remain and may come into play as our knowledge and possible treatments of Covid-19 deepens; as the Europeans do not draw attention – and therefore mass gatherings – on such a scale as the Olympics, was it not possible to leave the option for the former open a little longer? New information and measures to deal with the pandemic, and the ever-present possibility of a vaccine, gradually increase the probability over time of running such an event. This becomes very relevant when, due to scale of the event itself, we consider the possible cancellation of the Olympics as well. While championships have been absent throughout wartime, and the sport has still survived, the prolonged lack of them would make a big difference to many horse-and-rider combinations. Those in their prime running the risk of becoming a little too long in the tooth, and so missing their chance to gain entry to the history books as champions. This would be a great shame for the individuals concerned and take away the reason – for the vast majority – why we do the sport. Could it be the case that by late summer 2021, international shows and a European Championship could be organised, safely, adhering to Government restrictions, where due to the sheer scale of the event, the Olympics may not?” 

“I would hope beyond hope that the European Championship, organised for 2021 in Hungary, will be simply rescheduled to the next possible date,” Wingrave continues. “I am unaware of any previous venue allocation for the 2023 European Championships, but it would be devastating for us if we were to lose the championship altogether, especially for a reason outside of our control. Whereas Covid-19 gives us a definition of uncertainty, the solid processes involved in identifying, selecting, and developing hosts for major championships remain. As the country received the nod from the FEI for 2021, it would seem only fair that they be given the chance, sooner or later, to fulfill their promise.” 

 

No reproduction withouth permission, copyright © World of Showjumping



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