A Dungog cattle farmer is poised to join an equestrian glamour girl on Australia’s team for the London Olympics.
Paul Athanasoff, a nominee for the 2011 Maitland Sportsperson of the Year Award, is in pole position to use this weekend’s final Olympic selection event for dressage and showjumpers in France to secure an Olympic berth alongside fellow showjumper Edwina Tops-Alexander.
Tops-Alexander, the world’s leading female showjumper who is sponsored by Gucci and Jaeger-Lecoultre, has already made Australia’s Olympic team.
Athanasoff, the 2011 Australian showjumping champion, and six other
compatriots will battle for three remaining London showjumping and dressage spots at the selection event in Compiegne.
“It’s make or break time,” Australia’s national performance director for showjumping Stephen Lamb said.
Athanasoff, on a horse called Wirrugulla Nicklaus he raised on the family cattle farm, heads Australia’s jumping points tally and is likely to win Olympic selection at this weekend’s event.
“He’s a farmer from Dungog who could potentially be on the team with the glamour girl,” Lamb said.
“Horses – it’s a very levelling thing.”
In the dressage, Lyndal Oatley enters Compiegne with high hopes on Sandro Boy, given the top score of the Australians
at the last Olympic selection event in Mannheim.
“Being so close to the Olympics, the
pressure is of course high, but this makes for a good final competition,” Oatley said.
“Sandro Boy and I have shown so much passion and commitment to not only each other but also each test we’ve ridden.
“We know what the expectations are and we know what we can achieve.
“With this in mind, although I’ve put the pressure on myself to do the very best I can, I’m realistic but optimistic.”
Oatley is eyeing her first Olympics while her cousin Kristy – also a member of Australia’s dressage shadow squad – is vying for her third Games.
“This is my first Olympic campaign so I’ve learnt many lessons from her,” she said.
“For us to take two of the three Olympic positions would be a dream.”
Heathbrae’s Rozzie Ryan is also in France vying for Australian selection while husband and 2008 Beijing Olympian Heath Ryan took out an international dressage event in Sydney on board Regardez Moi recently.