A historic outing at the Olympics for Singapore equestrienne Caroline Chew ended in heartbreak yesterday as she was eliminated from the dressage individual qualification competition after her horse Tribiani was found to be bleeding from the mouth.
The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) said that she was eliminated in accordance with International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) dressage rules article 422.214.171.124, which states: "If the Judge at C suspects fresh blood anywhere on the horse during the test, he will stop the horse to check for blood.
"If the horse shows fresh blood, it will be eliminated. The elimination is final. If the Judge through examination clarifies that the horse has no fresh blood, the horse may resume and finish its test."
The SNOC said that Francis Verbeek van Rooij (president of ground jury) had halted Chew's ride to check and confirmed traces of blood were seen in the 17-year-old gelding's mouth.
An immediate veterinary check was done and a small cut was discovered on its lips, which is suspected to have been caused by a stumble at the start of the test.
The veterinarian inspected Tribiani and reported there was no further bleeding, said the SNOC.
Chew, a 29-year-old lawyer who is based in Britain, said in a Facebook post: "Joey was a superstar today - he warmed up beautifully and felt brilliant going into the ring. Unfortunately during the test he caught his lip and got the tiniest of cuts, resulting in our elimination.
"I'm obviously totally devastated and could never have imagined our Olympic journey ending this way. However, the most important thing is that Joey is completely fine, happy and healthy.
"Thanks again to everyone for all the well wishes - this has been the most humbling and miraculous of team efforts and I'm grateful for all the support."
Chew, who is also the first Singaporean rider to compete at the Grand Prix level, had earned her ticket to Tokyo only a month ago following a last-minute withdrawal by New Zealand, which presented her with the chance to make Singapore sporting history.
She nailed her spot with her performance at the Dressage Grand Prix in Le Mans, France, two weeks later. Her other achievements include silver medals in the dressage individual and team events at the 2015 SEA Games, as well as a bronze individual and team medal in the 2017 edition.
Team official and coach Matthew Frost said: "This type of incident happens from time to time, and we can only put it down to bad luck on the day. Caroline was trending well before the judge stopped the test. She would have performed a high score if not for this.
"We are nonetheless proud of the performance of Caroline and Tribiani to earn a start in the Tokyo Olympic Games, and both horse and rider were well-ready to face this high-level Olympic class.
"This experience, though unfortunate, will stand them in good stead for future championships."
The team and individual medals for dressage, also known as horse ballet, will be decided tomorrow and on Wednesday.