Johnson withdraws from Australian Eventing Team

Olympic silver medallist Sonja Johnson has made the heartbreaking decision to withdraw Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison from Australia’s three-day event team for the FEI World Equestrian Games 2014. 

The announcement comes two days after the West Australian and her 13 year old off-the-track thoroughbred, also known as Ben, touched down in Melbourne where they were to meet other Australian based team members for a flight to Europe next Wednesday. 

A devastated Johnson remains optimistic the decision to withdraw Ben will give him the best chance to represent Australia in the future.

“Ben has been in good spirits since arriving in Melbourne. His injury was detected yesterday and is only a minor one. If we give him time to recover he’ll be fine, but if we push on there’s a chance it could escalate into something more serious.

“He needs more time to recover than what we have available to us, so sadly we must withdraw from the Australian team.”

Australian team vet Dr Nathan Anthony applauded Johnson’s decision to put the horse’s welfare first.

“This is a disappointing time for Sonja as she has worked hard to prepare Ben for the World Equestrian Games but her decision to put the horse’s welfare before her own personal interests is to be commended.

“Each of our team horses will undergo a final fitness test and veterinary examination in the week prior to departing for Europe and it is through this process that Ben’s injury has been identified. It is crucial we ensure our horses are fit and able to compete at the level required,” he said. 

Johnson acknowledged the support she had received from supporters, in particular Ben’s owner Nikki Harwood.

“This has been a tough time, not only for me but for my whole team, in particular Nikki, who has been a great supporter of mine over the years.

“I’ll be supporting the Australian team from back home in WA and wish them all the best in Normandy,” Johnson said.

National Eventing Selectors will meet to decide on a replacement for the pair and an announcement will follow in the coming days.