In the past several weeks, scandal has erupted in the Ukrainian Olympic Show Jumping Team when team competitor and owner of Ukraine’s fleet of world class horses, Oleksandr Onyshchenko, was indicted for embezzlement and fraud against the government of Ukraine, a story we first brought you two weeks ago.
The mogul allegedly fled the country and flung the team’s plans into total chaos, as officials tried to sort out whether or not the horses could or should compete in Rio when they are the assets of a fugitive.
As it turns out, the matter was quietly resolved in what can only be seen as an even more troubling scandal, as the entire list of qualified horses — as well as 32 other horses owned by Onyshchenko — were transferred to new ownership in such a way as to preserve Ukraine’s Olympic ambitions.
A search of the FEI database now shows that between the 27th of June and July 11, the ownership of each horse was transferred to Paul Schockemöhle, a former German show jumper who you might know for his controversial purchase of Grand Prix dressage champion, Moorlands Totilas.
In order to remain eligible to compete for Ukraine, the ownership of the previously unknown short list also includes the horse’s current rider, as the owner of the horse must be of the same nationality as the team. After looking up the ownership of each of the horses on the long list, Jumper Nation has determined that following combinations are representing Ukraine at the Olympics in Rio:
Cassio Rivetti and Fine Fleur de Marais
Ulrich Kirchhoff and Prince De La Mare
Ferenc Szentirmai and Chadino
Rene Tebbel and either Zipper or Cooper 75
It appears the FEI took no objection to this transfer, and has made no statement regarding these events. It also unclear who is now financing the team, as Onyshchenko had been the money source of everything relating to competition, travel, horse acquisition, etc.
The Ukrainian team was already a bit of a bizarre case of nationality to begin with, as all the riders were imported and made Ukrainian citizens by Onyshchenko’s vision, as were the horses. Ukraine is just a front for a purchased team of talent by a hell-bent, eccentric tycoon, and is hardly in the spirit of the Olympic Games.
While each horse and rider combination has surely put in years of blood sweat and tears in their own right to achieve the qualifications necessary to attend the Olympics and may or may not have known about the allegations by their team captain, it’s nonetheless stunning to think of this team of foreign horses and imported riders — likely lured to this debacle with stolen funds — competing or dare we say winning an Olympic medal.
Moreover, it’s a punch in the gut to the team in waiting, the would-be competitors of Ireland like Cian O’Connor and Bertram Allen. Only time will tell the fates of the horses and riders sporting their Ukrainian colors in Rio, and one can only imagine their world will look much different come August 21, when the 2016 Olympic Games will be in the books and the next phase of their live will begin.