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With less than two years to go until Rio 2016, the first countries to qualify for the equestrian competition will be confirmed by early September. One of the longest-running Olympic sports, the first 14 places in Rio are up for grabs at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy (25 August to 7 September).
The first nations to qualify will be in dressage, with 25 teams competing for the coveted places. By the end of Tuesday (26 August), the first three nations in the discipline will know that they are on route for Rio. On Thursday (28 August), the top three out of nineteen Paralympian teams will secure their berths in Rio 2016.
The eventing competition will see six teams classify for Rio on Sunday (31 August), with 16 countries chasing a spot. The five remaining places, for the equestrian jumping teams, will be announced the following Thursday (4 September), with 35 national teams in the contest.
Having won dressage bronze at the London 2012 Games, the Dutch team are also reigning world champions and dreaming of securing early classification for 2016. Rider Adelinde Cornelissen is in no doubt that the Olympic spots at stake in Normandy will bring some added spice to the competition.
"The World Championships are already special in themselves, but what with the qualifying for Rio they are even more important. We will just do the best we can and it would be great if we can secure our place in Rio early,” said the 35 year-old.
The Great Britain team arrives as holder of the Olympic jumping gold from 2012. A silver medalist in the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Michael Whitaker is looking forward to the challenge of adding a third World Championship.
“I’m very happy to be selected and we’re obviously heading out there to try and win something; we’ve taken home titles from the last two championships so to make it three in a row would be fantastic,” said the experienced jumper.
Great Britain also won eventing silver at London 2012. With three Olympic medals to his name, silver in London 2012 and Athens 2004, and bronze in Beijing 2008, William Fox-Pitt is backing the team to win a spot in the Rio 2016 Games.
“It is always an honour to secure a place on the team and this year we collectively look very strong, so I hope we have a good result and get a qualifying result for Rio. These Games are always so special and it’s a privilege to get the chance to represent our country,” said the 45 year-old.
As host country, Brazil’s place in each of the three disciplines is already guaranteed. The jumping team features Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 bronze medalist Álvaro de Miranda ‘Doda’ Neto, who sees the competition as perfect preparation for two years’ time.
"In the last World Championships in 2010 we came fourth, and we want to improve on that. We know that the competition will be fierce because of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Games, so the teams will going at it full strength, but our team is well-prepared and we’ll give it all that we’ve got. The result will be important for our preparations for Rio 2016," said the Brazilian.
Three Paralympic Games places up for grabs
The World Equestrian Games will also see three hotly contested spots for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Individual Paralympic champion at London 2012, Australian team member Joann Formosa is keen to repeat her success, starting in Normandy.
“I’m ready to compete, I’m better prepared than ever, and even though I have surpassed my wildest dreams, I still want more. I’m even greedier now and I want to show the world how good my horse is, that we were no one-hit wonder and that I’ve worked hard all my life to get to this moment,” said Formosa, who will be riding her horse Worldwide for the last time in the coming weeks.
“It will be emotional but I don’t want to risk taking him abroad after the Games because I don’t want to risk anything happening to him. That horse is worth more than anything. He’s my life and this is his last gig, so I want it to go with a bang,” said the Australian.