Devastated Olympic hopeful Jillian Terceira says she is 'shocked and disappointed' by the 'absurd' decision to pick rival Patrick Nisbett ahead of her as Bermuda's equestrian representative for the 2008 games.

Terceira told the Bermuda Sun that she feels she has been 'robbed' of her lifelong dream to compete at the pinnacle of her sport.

And in a stinging letter to the Bermuda Equestrian Federation, she points out that her horse Chaka III has consistently out-jumped Nisbett's Antille 8 and accuses the federation of allowing 'politics' to influence their decision.

She said: "I've been working towards this for 20 years and I just feel really deflated that it has come to this.

"I was expecting to be going. It's been a lifetime of work and it feels like I have been robbed because Chaka and I are clearly the best horse and rider combination at this time. It's absurd."

Both Nisbett, on Antille 8, and Terceira, originally on Navantus, had qualified for the equestrian section of the games, to be held in Hong Kong. But International Olympic Committee regulations stipulate that unless a country is competing in the team event it can only send one rider.

Bermuda officials opted for a play-off, with the two horses competing against each other in three events in Europe. But an injury to Navantus and the failure of either horse to qualify for the final two designated events, meant only the first play-off event took place with Nisbett taking a slender lead. This prompted the BEF to award the Olympic spot to Nisbett by default.

But Terceira subsequently managed to qualify a second horse - Chaka III - which did qualify and compete successfully in the final play-off event.

Terceira contends that result should have been enough to give her victory over Nisbett and Antille. She said that even if the injury to Navantus meant the play-off was null and void, then her second horse Chaka III should have been selected anyway, because it has had better results over the past two years.

Terceira also claims she e-mailed the BEF on three separate occasions to ask if Chaka III could be considered in the selection process, even though it had not, at that point, qualified for the games. She says her questions and concerns were ignored.

"They might say I qualified at a late date but I still qualified. I wasn't pushing to qualify Chaka III until Navantus got injured because I couldn't take two horses."

Chaka not considered

BEF president Mike Cherry said the spot had been decided by the original jump-off criteria - with Nisbett and Antille declared the winner by default because of the injury to Navantus.

"What I'm sure Jilly doesn't understand is that Chaka at that time was not qualified and therefore not in contention for an Olympic spot. Chaka did not qualify until June 30th, which was the final day. There was no jump off between Antille and Chaka." He said the BEF helped arrange a final day of competition so that Antille and Chaka could compete, but it was not for Bermuda's Olympic slot.

"We did it for two reasons. One was to give Chaka a final chance to qualify and to also give Antille a run out at the final height to show at full fitness. Both of those were objectives were achieved but it was not a head-to-head competition."

Cherry said basically when Navantus went down with an injury and couldn't compete any more, Antille was the winner by default.

Cherry flatly denied the decision was politically or racially motivated as implied in Terceira's letter which concludes - 'it's time to take politics out of sport and allow the best horse/rider combination to compete in Hong Kong. "If you read between the lines, that is what I assume is her implication, but believe me the equestrian federation has bent over backwards to ensure that each of these athletes have had equal chance. "It's very easy these days when something doesn't go quite right to call racism. We are extremely disappointed at this implication - nothing is further from the truth."