By Shehan Daniel reporting from Tokyo, Japan
Sri Lankan-born Swede Mathilda Karlsson, the country’s last remaining athlete at Tokyo 2020, will take part in the Equestrian Jumping Individual Qualifier on Tuesday (3).
She will make history as the first Equestrian to represent the country, giving light to a niche sport that has participants in the tens rather than hundreds or thousands in Sri Lanka.
Karlsson’s event will begin at 3:30 p.m. Sri Lanka time, and she will compete in a field on 75 riders, both male and female, vying for one of 30 spots in the finals.
She and her horse, Chopin VA, will have to navigate a course of 12-15 knockable obstacles, with penalties incurred for each obstacle knocked down or refused, and for exceeding the allocated time.
In today’s competition, Karlsson and Chopin VA will have 50 seconds to navigate a 450-metre course to qualify for the finals. \
If she does qualify, she will be the only one of the nine athletes representing the country at the Olympic Games to move into the next rounds.
Karlsson was incidentally the first athlete to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in December 2019, when she accumulated the required qualification points to claim one of the two available South East Asia Oceania spots for the Olympics.
Qualification came on the back of an exceptional effort put in by Karlsson and her horse Chopin VA, after the equine contracted lyme disease and had to miss five months of events.
With Karlsson’s qualification points tied to the horse – essentially not carried forward if he rode another horse – she made the hard choice of allowing Chopin VA to recover, leaving her with just one month to collect the 250 points she needed.
But after sealing qualification, an investigation by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) invalidated some of the points that Karlsson scored at competitions in Villeneuve-Loubet, France, effectively dropping her down the ranks and making her ineligible for Tokyo 2020.
After an appeal to the FEI was dismissed, she took her case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) which ruled in her favour and reinstated her place at the Tokyo Olympics.