South African eventer Alexander Peternell will be the sole representative of South Africa at the Olympic Games in London.
Peternell and Paul Hart were the only two South African eventers qualified for the 2012 Olympics, and Hart was chosen in May by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee to represent the country. At the time, Peternell had declared to the South African National Eventing Committee that his horse AP Uprising was “unfit the compete at the Olympics,” so Hart’s name was put forward to the selectors, according to Eventing South Africa.
Peternell, who is based in England and is the first South African rider to complete the Burghley and Badminton CCI****s (Great Britain), was encouraged to seek qualification on a new horse, Asih, in the event of a mishap to Hart or his horse, Heartbreak Hill. Peternell qualified Asih, a 17-year-old Bavarian Warmblood (Daimler B—Aqui, Rio Negro), in June within the timeframe of the Fédération Equestre Internationale, but past the April 30 deadline set by the SASCOC, so Hart remained the nominee.
Peternell, who is listed higher on the FEI rankings, appealed the decision to the Council for Arbitration in Sport.
On July 21, the CAS upheld the appeal and ruled that Peternell should have been selected because he met all eligibility requirements for selection. The South African Equestrian Federation, who put forward Hart’s name to represent the country, refused the CAS’s decision and stated that no South African rider would be put forward to the SASCOC.
Peternell went back to the CAS and on July 25, the CAS ruled in his favor, and he won the legal right to represent South Africa. The CAS overturned the SAEF and SASCOC decision to not select a South African rider and ordered that Peternell be given the individual slot at the Olympics.
In a statement, Peternell said, “I am thrilled to be fulfilling a life-long ambition; to have secured the opportunity to compete at the Olympics. It is with great pride that I shall do so; but my selection is tinged with sadness, given that it required an intense legal challenge to deliver it. It has become increasingly frustrating but now at last I can, albeit with only hours to spare, compete for my country.”
In a statement on Eventing South Africa’s website, Tubby Reddy, CEO of SASCOC said, “The Court of Arbitration for Sport has unfortunately ruled in favor of Mr. Alex Peternell and has instructed both the South African Equestrian Federation (SAEF) and ourselves, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), to include this athlete into our team. This is the second attempt by Mr. Peternell to take SASCOC and the SAEF to CAS. As we all know, this athlete has been based in the United Kingdom for the last 11 years consecutively and we have now been instructed to include him in the Equestrian discipline of Eventing. It is indeed a very sad day for us as a country to be instructed to select an athlete into Team South Africa against our will, but being a disciplined member of the Olympic Movement we have no option but to adhere fully to this decision.
To Paul Hart, all I can say is that as SASCOC we tried assiduously and to the best of our ability to support you in your quest for Olympic representation and in fact challenged the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) twice in this process, indicating that it is our belief that your selection was in fact a fair process. Unfortunately with this ruling of CAS we cannot deviate in any way whatsoever as this ruling gives a clear indication that the selection of Mr. Peternell has been made by CAS, and we are now implementing their decision.
It is with regret that one of our loyal countrymen, Paul Hart, has to bear the brunt of this sad situation. It is abundantly clear from the comments posted on the official SASCOC website, from largely the South African public, that the South African public has stood and continues to stand behind Paul Hart as the preferred athlete for selection. This decision is unfortunate as it forces upon the South African public an athlete that they do not necessarily recognize and one that they do not necessarily support. While this whole affair is regrettable, for the sake of the Olympic Games it is important to move forward and focus our energies on the job on hand and concentrate on our team’s preparation.”