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An Orange Mankini Almost Crushed Olympic Eventer Shane Rose’s Paris Hopes

Shane Rose riding CP QUALIFIED at SIEC Eventing February 2014 at the Sydney International Equestrian Centre on 23-02-2014 . Photo: Franz Venhaus/

It was an itsy bitsy, teenie weenie, fluorescent-orange string mankini, and it’s caused quite a stir in the land Down Under.

It was supposed to be all in good fun for three-time Aussie Olympic eventer Shane Rose.

The two-time silver and one-time bronze Team medalist donned the costume for the Bowral Kubota Equestrian Extravaganza Eventers vs. Show Jumper competition at the 2024 Wallaby Hill Extravaganza in New South Wales, near Sydney, Australia, on February 11. The Borat-inspired mankini, in fact, was just one of three costumes the decorated eventer wore during the class, ultimately finishing second behind Jessica Stalling.

But for Rose, a little chaffing was just the start of his troubles.

Shortly after the event, Rose received a call from the country’s governing body, Equestrian Australia, notifying him that he was under investigation for breaching their code of conduct, and would be barred from further competition while the inquiry took place. (For reference, the class was considered a community event, not a professional competition.)

The penalty for Rose—who has his eyes on a fourth Olympic appearance at the Paris Games this summer—could have ranged from a warning to a suspension, potentially crushing his 2024 hopes. Rose quickly posted an apology on his Facebook page (he later deleted and amended it), and the Wallaby Hill Extravaganza removed all images of his mankini from their social media feeds. But Australia at large, the land of beach bods and budgie smugglers, quickly rallied to Rose’s defense.

“Common sense is not so common these days. But I am glad it made an appearance in the case of Shane Rose last night. He is a 3 time Olympic medalist and while this is not a photo to hang on your wall at home, it was just some good hearted fun in a fancy dress competition,” wrote Australian politician and fellow Olympian, sharpshooter Dan Repacholi.

Wallaby Hill Extravaganza sponsor Bowral Kubota, a farm machinery company, even vowed to provide a mankini to all spectators and donate $100 to every competitor that tries to outdo Rose in next year’s costume class. Meanwhile, the slogan, ‘I stand with Shane Rose,’ resounded in a flurry of comments and memes across the Internet, embraced by riders including Australian show jumper Matt Williams, who posted his own skimpy costume class photo and wrote, “Australia should be embarrassed by the way they are treating one of our greatest ambassadors.”

Fortunately, Equestrian Australia has reviewed the matter and agreed to put the investigation to rest. According to Chief Executive Darren Gocher, both Rose’s apology and the nature of the competition contributed to their decision to allow Rose to return training, with an eye toward Paris qualification.

Yet if his multiple national news appearances are any indication, Rose has become something of a G-string-clad folk hero in Oz. The eventer seems to be taking it all in stride, thanking his supporters and writing on his own Facebook that he is pleased with Equestrian Australia’s decision.

“The support and interest in this story has been like nothing I have experienced before,” he said. “Now it is time to focus on the job ahead and try to get Australian Equestrian in the media for a more positive reason, an Olympic Gold Medal.”

Yet perhaps the best person to sum up the week that was ‘mankini gate’ is the unseen cameraman who captures Rose’s getup as the eventer mounts up and rides over to compete, saying simply, “That’s Australian.”

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