In-form Shruti Vora hopes to get nod for Paris Olympics - Hindustan Times

In-form Shruti Vora hopes to get nod for Paris Olympics

ByShantanu Srivastava
Jun 25, 2024 01:09 PM IST

Shruti Vora made history earlier this month by becoming the first rider from the country to win a three-star Grand Prix event in dressage

India’s Shruti Vora, who made history earlier this month by becoming the first rider from the country to win a three-star Grand Prix event in dressage, is hoping that the Equestrian Federation of India (EFI) will name her for the 2024 Paris Olympics on the back of her sizzling form.

Shruti Vora. (PTI)
Shruti Vora. (PTI)

Vora staked her claim for a slot in next month’s Games by winning her second Minimum Eligibility Requirement (MER) score at the Brno Grand Prix in Czech Republic on Saturday when, astride her 12-year-old gelding Magnanimous, she finished second with a score of 68.174. This effort came within a fortnight of her stunning win at the Grand Prix in Lipica, Slovenia, with 67.761 points.

The other contender for the sole slot for India at Paris 2024 in the Asian Games is bronze medallist Anush Agarwalla, who also has the required MERs, and hence meets the qualification criterion set by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) for an Olympic berth.

“Looking at recent performances is critical because it is important to judge the horse’s health and fitness closer to the event,” Vora said.

A point of contention appears to be the criteria being followed by EFI for the final pick.

The global body FEI’s selection criterion states: “A minimum 67% must be attributed twice to the Athlete/Horse combination by both a L4 judge and as an average from all judges in the competition, and the score must be achieved in a Grand Prix test at two different CDI3*/CDI4*/CDI5*/CDI-W/CDIO events. Athletes and Horses must obtain the MER at events which take place from 1 January, 2023, until the MER deadline of 24 June, 2024, included.”

But EFI guidelines, made public this February, say that in case of multiple contenders meeting the selection criterion “the athlete with the highest average in Grand Prix out of the best 4 events in the past one year shall be chosen to participate”.

“If FEI wants to look at two scores (MERs) for qualification, why does EFI want to look at the average scores from four events?” Vora asked.

Agarwalla’s latest MER, which came a day before Vora got hers came in Kronberg, Germany, was courtesy a 20th-place finish with 67.022 points. Three of Agarwalla’s MERs came last year.

Vora’s coach Major JS Ahluwalia, the first Indian to win an Asian Games medal in dressage in 1986, felt the guidelines were odd.

“EFI announced their selection criteria only in February this year while Anish got his three MERs last year. Why are they considering his scores retrospectively? Also, FEI rules state that a rider ought to get two MERs to qualify. Why then is EFI insisting on comparing the averages of four best scores over the past year?” he asked.

Based in Borchen, Germany, Agarwalla rides the 17-year-old Sir Carmello Old. Ahluwalia believes that Vora’s horse, Magnanimous, is better suited for the highest level of international competition.

“Anush’s horse is quite old and is not likely to challenge any world class rider at the Olympics. A horse is in its prime between ages 11-13. You can still push it to 15, but every horse declines post 16 years of age,” Ahluwalia said.

On Monday, Vora’s team wrote to the committee to make her case, saying that they were “apprehensive of the process being followed” in selecting India’s representative for the dressage event at the Olympics.

“It will be both heart-breaking- for my client and deeply regrettable, on the part of the EFI to deny the most meritorious candidate an opportunity to represent the Nation at Olympics,” said Maj Nirvikar Singh Advocate, the counsel of Vora. “Her skill and talent is unparalleled. I sincerely hope that the Federation rectifies it's mistake at the earliest.”

Colonel Jaiveer Singh did not respond to queries seeking comment.

FEI’s deadline for sending Certificates of Capability by national federations ends on June 25. EFI’s executive committee -- a 22-member panel reinstated by a divisional bench of the Delhi high court on May 29 -- met on Monday.

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