Back: Coach Linda Gray, Chloe Coutts, Jessica Jeffrey, Erin Stirling, Lachlan Gray, Australian ambassador and technical trainer for horseball Francisco CampeaoFront: Amy Gray, Abigail Lee and Molly Hird
Back: Coach Linda Gray, Chloe Coutts, Jessica Jeffrey, Erin Stirling, Lachlan Gray, Australian ambassador and technical trainer for horseball Francisco CampeaoFront: Amy Gray, Abigail Lee and Molly Hird

Unique sport’s top competition ‘unlikely to happen’

AN EMERGING sport is predicted to be the latest victim to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, threatening to cancel the sport’s top competition.

Eight young riders from across the Whitsundays and Mackay were set to fly the flag for Australia at the Horseball World Cup in France in August.

Strathdickie resident and coach of the Australian U/16 and Australian ladies horseball teams, Linda Gray, said preparations for the international event – as well as training for non-national players – had been strong until this week.

Although no official decision had been made by the International Horseball Federation, Ms Gray said the decision to postpone the Olympics meant the world cup was “unlikely to happen.”

“Up until last week, we were training with horses twice a week, swimming and the athletes were training solo as well,” she said.

“But with all the virus announcements we’ve been put on hold now, with talk of moving the World Cup to next year – although there won’t be an official decision on that until May 15.”

Ms Gray said the postponement was “necessary but disappointing”, with athletes making “strong developments” in the last three months.

A Spanish World Cup rider had joined the team as part of an exchange program, helping to assist with training.

“The riders were really shown the level they had to be at and pushed themselves harder to get there,” she said.

“Even if it went ahead in August though, France is in lockdown and the only way the horses are getting exercise at the moment is with the stablehands at equestrian facilities.

“So the impact on fitness wouldn’t just be on our riders, it’s also the fitness of the horses which will take months to bring back up.”

Ms Gray said there may be difficulties if the event was postponed until 2021, but she was looking on the bright side of the situation.

“Some of our riders in the under-16 team turned 16-years-old this year, so next year they will have to move up to open riders,” she said.

“But there’s some brilliant younger riders who aren’t eligible to ride this year due to age and they can step up for 2021.

“We’re still very much pushing ahead for France and continuing our fundraising efforts to get there.

“I’ve already set training and tasks for the riders to complete at home to keep their fitness and skills up.

“We’ll just keep training and look forward to 2021. It’s disappointing, but it’s a crucial move to make.”


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