08/05/2012 12:28 EDT | Updated 10/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Controversy Surrounds Canada's Equestrian Team As Horse Is Disqualified

LONDON - A decorated triathlete defending a heartbroken teammate. A horse disqualified for a scratch, leaving his rider in tears. A soccer coach accusing his heavily favoured opponents of illegal tactics.

There were no medals but plenty of controversy for Canada on Day 9 of the London Olympics.

Canada's flag-bearer Simon Whitfield kicked everything off early Sunday morning, with critical comments for the staff responsible for teammate Paula Findlay's preparation for the Games.

He was clearly still upset a day after watching Findlay's tearful apology as she finished last in the Olympic women's triathlon.

The two-time Olympic medallist said Findlay's preparation was "completely mismanaged." Findlay was a gold-medal favourite until just over a year ago when the Edmonton native suffered a hip injury.

When she finished 52nd on Saturday, the 23-year-old made a tearful apology. Whitfield risked the wrath of Triathlon Canada by speaking out.

"I'm willing to stand up and say 'What happened was wrong,'" Whitfield said. "I do think the people who have jumped ship on her should be held accountable."

He chastised the management of Findlay's training program around her injury, the nature of which was a mystery until an MRI in late March finally revealed a torn labrum in her hip. At that point, Findlay's options were surgery or babying her hip until the Games.

"An injury is an injury but you can recover from that if your training design is proper," he said.

"When you have a plan that just says 'Let's pretend we're not injured and the moment we're back, we're just back into training' and you do this not once, not twice, not three times, you do this eight times. You pile back into the car and you run it back into a brick wall.

"She's not a wind-up toy that you just send off."

Controversy continued at the equestrian jumping course, where Canadian rider Tiffany Foster's horse was disqualified with what team officials say is a scratch on the animal's leg.

Foster's horse Victor was found to have inflammation stemming from the scratch shortly before the individual and team jumping events began.

The ruling dropped Foster out of the individual event. An appeal filed by the Canadian team was denied.

"We are very unhappy about this. It is a decision that lacks any common sense," said team chef d'equipe Terrance (Torchy) Millar.

"It is just blind application of a rule. It lacks judgement and horsemanship. The horse has one small nick on one coronet band. He could have got it anywhere. The horse is sound."

Foster's absence puts Canada, which won silver in the team equestrian event in Beijing, at a disadvantage. The team is allowed to drop one bad score with four riders, but need to keep every score with three riders.

Canada still finished the day sixth in team qualifying to move onto the next round.

Meanwhile, defending gold medallist Eric Lamaze qualified for the next round in individual competition, but it is clear he does not yet have the same rapport with his new horse that he had with the late Hickstead.

Lamaze, also from Schomberg, was tied for 13th with one penalty point for a time violation. He was left shaking his head after an error atop Derly Chin de Muze dropped him from the leaders.

"She is a great young horse but she has a big stride. And the time fault was my fault," he said.

Ian Millar, from Perth, Ont., followed in 17th with four penalty points, while Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ont., just missed out on qualifying in 47th with nine points.

Millar is participating in a record 10th Olympics.

While the equestrian team is not stranger to the podium, Canada's women's soccer team is threatening for a medal for the first time.

Canada plays the favoured United States at Manchester's legendary Old Trafford stadium in semifinal action Monday. Canada coach John Herdman couldn't resist firing come criticism at his North American rivals, saying the Americans go beyond the rules with their physical play on set pieces.

"One of the big threats we've got to take care of, and what we've paid attention to, is the illegal marking in the box on their corners and free kicks," Herdman said. "Some of the blocking tactics, which are highly illegal, we'll keep an eye on them in the game. We've starting working on that in training without trying to injure our players."

Herdman said he also hopes to "raise awareness" of the issue with game officials.

"Obviously they're trying to free up a key player, but in a very illegal way. ... The U.S., it's what they do well," he said.

Canada remained 11th in the overall medal standings with 10 medals — one gold, three silver and six bronze.

In other Canadian results:

— Derek Drouin of Corunna, Ont., and Michael Mason of Nanoose Bay, B.C., qualified for the final in men's high jump. Drouin was second in his heat with a jump of 2.29 metres, while Mason tied for sixth in his heat with a leap of 2.26 metres.

— Justyn Warner of Markham, Ont., ran the men's 100-metre semifinal in 10.09 seconds and failed to advance.

— Sarah Wells of Toronto advanced to the semifinals of the 400-metre hurdles, finishing fourth in her heat with a time of 56.47.

— Nate Brannen of Cambridge, Ont., fell in his men's 1,500 semifinal and finished 12th. Athletics Canada filed a protest, which was denied.

— Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon of Riviere-du-Loup, Que., and Elise Marcotte of Quebec City were fourth after the synchronized swimming duet technical routine.

— Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., was sixth in the women's three-metre springboard diving event. Emilie Heymans of St-Lambert, Que., the first diver to win medals in four consecutive games, 12th.

— Canada finished preliminary play in women's basketball with a 72-63 loss to Australia. Kim Smith of Mission, B.C., had 17 points for Canada, which already qualified for the quarter-finals.

— Calgary's Monique Sullivan failed to qualify for the quarter-finals in the track cycling women's sprint, losing to Australian cyclist Anna Mears and finishing second in her repechage.

— Zach Bell of North Vancouver, B.C., finished eighth in the men's track cycling ominum.

— Brittany Rogers of Coquitlam, B.C., and Ellie Black of Halifax were seventh and eighth respectively in the women's vault final. Rogers settled for an average score of 14.483 points. Black failed to record a score after injuring her ankle on the landing of her first vault.

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