Lexington, KY - The Governor of Kentucky, Ernie Fletcher, made a special trip to the Rolex Kentucky three-day event today to announce that the 2010 FEI Games, to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park, will make international equine history. For the first time ever, para-equestrian events will be part of the FEI Games (currently known as the World Equestrian Games, or WEG).
“For the first time in the history of the FEI Games, not only will the games be held outside Europe, but all eight disciplines will take place in one venue,” said Governor Fletcher in a press conference. “Our commitment to the games and the magnificent facilities at the Kentucky Horse Park will allow the para-equestrian portion of the games to be held simultaneously with other disciplines for the first time ever.”
USEF Chairman David O’Connor as well as para-equestrian athletes Keith Newerla and Lynn Seidemann were also present at the conference. O’Connor commented, “We’re celebrating champions this week in Kentucky. If you think about what it takes for an able-bodied person to compete at this level, then think about the extra dedication it takes for a para-equestrian to do this.”
Previously riders in para-equestrian events were only able to celebrate their achievements at the Paralympics. O’Connor points out, “It’s great that the FEI puts them on the world stage where they can compete on a world basis and truly be the eighth discipline of the FEI.”
Seidemann, who is a World Championship gold medalist among other achievements, as well as a Paralympic tennis player, says, “This is a huge, groundbreaking path for everybody and will truly open doors for many people. When I get on a horse I am no longer disabled. This is providing an opportunity for kid who comes along, for every rider from the grassroots to the top level – it’s in their reach.”
Newerla emphasizes that he thinks adding para-equestrian to the FEI Games will give disabled children something to work for. Also, he says, having the sport fully integrated is a very important step. “Maybe other sports will also integrate disabled sports into the mainstream,” he points out.
He says, “It wasn’t too long ago that I was a kid, and paralympians were my role models. To have full inclusion in an event like this is amazing – it’s a reflection of our program and the support that we receive from the IOC and the USEF. I’ve been to a lot of places around the world and I can’t think of a better place than Kentucky – it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s horse country.”
For more information on para-equestrian, click on www.ipec-athletes.de.
PHOTO CREDIT: Keith Newerla, Lynn Seidermann and Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher ©Amber Heintzberger
Amber Heinzberger for PMG