Category Archives: Olympic Games

Germans Establish Authority ahead of Dressage Team Medals Finale

Charlotte Dujardin and Gio. (FEI/Christophe Taniere)

Team Germany continued to build up a head of steam when moving to the top of the Dressage Grand Prix leaderboard at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Two great rides, from Dorothee Schneider with Showtime and the living legend that is Isabell Werth with Bella Rose, secured pole position at the end of the competition which decided the eight best nations that will go through to Tuesday’s medal-decider, the Grand Prix Special in which all teams start from scratch.

Joining the defending champions will be Great Britain, who finished second, followed by Denmark, USA, Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, and Spain.

Meanwhile, the 18 individuals that have made the cut to Wednesday’s Individual medal decider are also confirmed. The two best from each of the six qualifying groups – Charlotte Fry and Charlotte Dujardin (GBR), Therese Nilshagen and Juliette Ramel (SWE), Cathrine Dufour and Carina Cassoe Kruth (DEN), Edward Gal (NED), Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, Dorothee Schneider and Isabell Werth (GER), Sabine Schut-Kery and Adrienne Lyle (USA) – are through. Also qualified are the six next-best individuals, Nanna Skodborg Merrald (DEN), Beatriz Ferrer-Salat (ESP), Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED), Carl Hester (GBR), Rodrigo Torees (POR), and Steffen Peters (USA).

Top two spots

Denmark’s Cassoe Kruth and America’s Lyle claimed the top two spots in Group D when the action resumed, and then Germany’s Schneider headed up Group E after a lovely test. Schneider said her horse was “a little bit tense but it’s normal for him on first day.” She’s had a late return to top competition for a range of reasons.

“Showtime competed at the European Championships in 2019 and then he was at home, because I wanted to keep him safe for the Olympic Games in 2020, and then there were no Games! I wanted to start early in 2021 but then I had an accident in April. But he’s an experienced horse and once he gets out to compete three or four times, he’s fine,” she said of the gelding who carried her to team gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and who she has ridden since he was a three-year-old.

A fall when a horse she was competing dropped dead during a prizegiving ceremony left her with a broken collarbone, “but it’s all good now!” she said. “It took a little time to come back and it wasn’t so easy mentally, but we are back now and I’m happy again,” she explained.

Solidity

Compatriot Werth headed up the final group of 10 horse-and-athlete combinations and, last to go, underpinned the solidity of the German challenge. With her beloved Bella Rose who scored 82.500 she pinned Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and the charming little chestnut gelding Gio into second place in that group. However, both of these ladies look to have a lot more in store for the coming days. And Dujardin, whose reign of supremacy with the great Valegro changed a lot about the sport of Dressage in recent years, is clearly super-excited about her latest rising star. You could feel that rivalry between her and the evergreen queen, Werth, filling the air once again.

Talking about Gio, Dujardin said, “I was so happy; he’s a very green inexperienced horse, so it was a bit of the unknown what to expect. Hagen (Germany in April this year) is the biggest show he’s done and he delivered there. I couldn’t ask for any more today; he went in there and he tried his heart out. He’s just unbelievable; he keeps giving. I felt emotional on the last centreline because when you have a ride like that, win or lose, that’s what it’s all about for me.

“He’s like a little powerhouse: he’s small but definitely mighty;for where he is at his training, I know he can give even more and I’m so happy with him,” she said.

Rivalry

Werth clearly enjoys the renewed rivalry with her British counterpart because it feeds her competitive edge. “It’s always very important that you have strong field of competitors because then you push each other to top performances and that’s the spirit of competition,” she pointed out.

She described the 17-year-old Bella Rose as “my dream horse and when she’s in top shape she is the best – her way of moving, her character, her charisma, her piaffe/passage down the centreline – of course Weihe (her other mare Weihegold) is super and the younger ones too, but with Bella you have the feeling there is always something more possible!”

Talking about these “Games like no other” in Tokyo, the multiple Olympic champion said the lack of an audience could be influential. “Mostly you will see it in the medal decisions, especially in the Freestyle. There will be music but no crowd to carry the horses and riders – it makes a big difference – but on the other hand we are so happy that we can be here, can compete that we have an Olympic Games. We are in a discipline that is really depending on Games, because then we are more in the focus of the media and the world and it gives the younger riders at home the motivation and support, so it’s a big package we have, and we are very thankful to be here.”

Facts and Figures:

If Isabell Werth wins double-gold she will become the most decorated female German Olympic athlete of all times.

The IOC and FEI have given special permission to Irish athletes across all equestrian disciplines at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to wear a yellow ribbon in memory of young rising star, Tiggy Hancock, who tragically suffered a fatal fall last month. Dressage rider Heike Holstein was the first to compete with hers. She said, “We are very proud to wear it, and grateful to the IOC and FEI for allowing us to do it.”

The judges awarded the maximum score of 10 on 14 occasions during the second half of the Grand Prix, which is the Team and Individual qualifying competition, and 13 of them were earned by Isabelle Werth’s Bella Rose (GER) – 7 for piaffe, 5 for passage/piaffe transitions, and one for halt. A single 10 was awarded to Charlotte Dujardin’s Gio (GBR) for two-tempi changes.

Quotes:

Christian Schumach (AUT) who scored 70.900 with Te Quiero SF: “I’m super happy with my horse and super happy with my riding. Overall, there was one mistake in the twos and that was clearly my mistake. I was enjoying the surroundings and the Olympic experience too much so it wasn’t his fault; he did a super job! he’s really young (10 years old) and this was only his seventh Grand Prix.”

Heike Holstein (IRL): “It’s special when you breed a foal that you know from when it is running around in your fields as a baby, breaking it, competing it, and taking it all the way to the Olympic Games!”

Steffen Peters (USA), talking about his ride on Suppenkasper: “He’s a hot horse so to do a relaxed clean test was a very good start. This was not the test to go crazy in; we’ll do that in the Special! It’s been four years of a complete love affair with him; he’s such a big, kind teddy bear. He’s 18.2 hands tall but there’s not a mean bone in his body; he always tries and I’m one of the fortunate riders who gets to ride him!”

He complimented the judges on the scores they gave his team-mate Sabine Schut-Kery, whose pathfinding ride got the US off to a great start.

“Sabine is a cool, calm competitor with a helluva horse. Not too many people know her that well, but I appreciate that some of the judges who had never seen her before gave her a very good score.”

Results

by Louise Parkes

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46+

Sensational Start to Race for Olympic Dressage Titles

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. (FEI/Shannon Brinkman)

It may have been a long time coming, but the opening day of Equestrian Dressage at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games more than lived up to expectations. Emotions ran high and so did the scores as superb individual performances saw The Netherlands take the early lead in the battle for the Team title, while Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl set a personal-best when posting the biggest mark of the evening with TSF Dalera.

Groups

With the competition divided into six groups in total, and three of those groups taking their turn, it was Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry and Everdale who set the early target score when posting 77.096 to top Group A. But only two athletes earned marks over 80%, and Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour was the first of these when putting 81.056 on the board with Bohemian to take complete command of Group B.

“It was important for me to give him a really great feeling in the ring today,” Dufour said. “I didn’t want to push too much because I wanted him to be comfortable in there. And even though there’s no audience there’s a vibe in the arena and they can feel it!”

Much of her previous success has been achieved with the diminutive Cassidy, who carried her through Junior and Young Rider level to triple-bronze at the Senior European Championships in Gothenburg (SWE) in 2017 and bronze again in the Grand Prix Special at the Europeans in Rotterdam (NED) in 2019. She admitted she felt a bit guilty about leaving the 18-year-old gelding at home and bringing the 11-year-old Bohemian to Tokyo instead.

“Cassidy has been my partner in crime for 11 years, so I felt a little bit like I was cheating on him!” But she feels Bohemian is “one of the best horses in the world! He doesn’t have any weaknesses.”

Firm basis

Meanwhile, Edward Gal’s score of 78.649 left him second in Group B and gave The Netherlands a firm basis on which to build their team challenge. His black stallion, Total US, is only nine years old, and a son of the great Totilas who, with Gal onboard, set the world of Dressage on fire a decade ago.

“You feel so much comparison, the same feeling when you give your leg, the same reaction. Totilas was more confident at his age – he (Total US) is a bit shy but I’ve done some more competitions with him now and I feel him getting more confident,” said the Dutchman who was sporting an eye-catching new tailcoat.

Previously Dressage riders were only permitted to dress in modest colours, but following a change to those rules the Dutch Dressage team have joined their Jumping counterparts in wearing the brightest of bright orange jackets so they stand out in every sense.

Show-stopper

A show-stopper in the final group of riders was America’s Sabine Schut-Kery who steered the 15-year-old stallion Sanceo to a superb mark of 78.416. The German-born rider who lives in California’s Napa Valley produced a test filled with lightness and energy. This is a lady with a fascinating background, as she began her equestrian career performing in exhibitions across Europe with Friesian and Andalusian horses.

She’s had Sanceo since he was three years old, “and it’s so special to have him now at the pinnacle of the Olympics representing my country!” she said. “In my past I’ve done a lot of entertainment with horses. The passion for Dressage was always there so we taught them to lie down, bow, or sit or rear on command. But with that we were always very passionate about correct Dressage and training the horse correctly and making it look beautiful,” said the lady who has performed with her exhibition horses at top venues including Aachen and Stuttgart in Germany.

Second-last into the arena, Hans-Peter Minderhoud bolstered the Dutch position with a score of 76.817 with Dream Boy, giving his country the lead going into the second half of the Grand Prix ahead of Denmark in second and Great Britain in third. But some shuffling of positions can well be expected by the end of the second day.

Thrilling test

And that was made clear by the thrilling test produced by von Bredow-Werndl for the biggest score of the evening, despite a big spook from Dalera before entering the ring following a rain shower.

“She wasn’t scared; she was just excited by the atmosphere. She didn’t expect it because it was so silent every day here!” said the German star after posting a massive 84.379.

Talking about how testing it was for the riders as well as the horses in the conditions at Baji Koen Equestrian Park, she added, “To be honest I’m very fit, but at the centreline where I started the pirouettes I thought ‘Gosh, it’s so exhausting!’ It was so hot in there and the humidity is extreme after the rain. It was tough,” she said.

Quotes:

Brazil’s Joao Victor Marcari Oliva, who is based in Portugal, first rider into the arena with Escorial: “I knew this horse for a long time because he is a famous Lusitano breeding stallion, but I never thought I would be riding him. It’s a pleasure to open the Olympics. How do I cope with the heat here? Portugal is warm; I am Brazilian so it’s fine; it’s like home!”

Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry: “At the end he got a shock that there were people watching; he was so concentrating on my ride! He knew it was a big occasion; he was so concentrated all day; he knew it was coming; he is so intelligent. I’ve been riding him since he was 7 and he’s now 12. I’ve done Young Riders with him and U25 Grand Prix and he’s moved up to Senior Grand Prix in 2019, so we’ve really grown up together and built a really good partnership. He’s fun to ride and I love every day riding him.”

Results here.

by Louise Parkes

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46+

Jumping Looks Set to Be a Testing Thriller

Nick Skelton (GBR) celebrates his gold medal win at the Rio 2016 Games with Big Star.  FEI/Eric Knoll.

Tokyo 2020 is one of the most talked-about Olympic Games of all time, and as it arrives on our doorsteps a year late and filled with challenges, for the stars of international Jumping, the questions are clear.

How will the three-rider no-drop-score format play out in the battle for the Team medals? And is there anyone to get in the way of the pair who claimed individual silver at the World Equestrian Games in 2018 and the individual European title a year later – Martin Fuchs and his super-horse Clooney – when it comes to glorious individual gold?

With so few team competition opportunities in the lead-up to these Games, it’s difficult to make any predictions. However, if the Division 1 Nations Cups that took place last month are anything to go by, then the on-form countries are Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, and The Netherlands.

A total of 75 athletes will be chasing down their individual dreams when the action begins at Baji Koen on 3 August, and athletes from 19 countries will be giving it everything they’ve got when the team contest gets underway on 6 August. It will be a fascinating four days of Olympic equestrian sport.

Defending champions

Team France are the defending champions having clinched gold for only the second time in Olympic history at the Rio 2016 Games, and Penelope Leprevost is the only member of that victorious team to line out again at Tokyo 2020 where she will be joined by Mathieu Billot and Nicolas Delmotte. Silver went to the USA five years ago, while Germany won out in a thrilling jump-off against Canada for the bronze.

Comeback king Nick Skelton won Britain’s first Olympic Individual title in Rio with Big Star, a phenomenal and emotional achievement for the 58-year-old athlete who had broken his neck in a fall 16 years earlier. Silver went to Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and the brilliant All In, and this pair – who won the individual European title in 2017 – will be joined by Malin Baryard-Johnson and her feisty mare Indiana and Henrik von Eckermann with King Edward in Tokyo.

The British have two of the team that secured Olympic gold for their country for the first time in 60 years in London in 2012, and both Scott Brash (Hello Jefferson) and Ben Maher (Explosion W) also look well set to challenge strongly for the individual medals.

But the Team and Individual line-ups are crammed full of winners, the Americans buoyed up by their victory at the FEI World Equestrian Games™, Belgium bolstered by their success at the 2019 European Championships and the Irish full of determination after clinching both Olympic qualification and the series title at the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final later that year.

Record

Germany holds the record for the greatest number of Olympic gold medals, with five Individual and eight team titles since Jumping joined the Olympic programme in 1900. And with world number one Daniel Deusser (Killer Queen), Christian Kukuk (Mumbai), and Andre Thieme (DSP Chakaria) showing fantastic form, they are going to be mighty competitive once again.

Meanwhile, with world number two Fuchs, world number three Steve Guerdat, who claimed the individual title in London nine years ago, and FEI World Cup Final 2007 winner Beat Mandli in their mix, the Swiss also look fairly unstoppable.

But the hosts from Japan can’t be overlooked. They finished sixth in Olympic-level company at the last of the four legs of the FEI Nations Cup series in Rotterdam just two weeks ago and under the stewardship of German legend Paul Schockemohle, and mounted on some fabulous horses, Daisuke Fukushima (Chanyon), Koki Saito (Chilensky), and Eiken Sato (Saphyr des Lacs) will be giving it more than their all on home soil when the Games begin.

They’ve only ever taken one Olympic medal, when Takeichi Nishi came out on top with Uranus in Los Angeles in 1932. That was an interesting Games because, staged in the throes of a world-wide depression, only three teams showed up – Mexico, the USA, who were considered big favourites, and a Swedish side made up of their Eventing squad. And not one of them finished.

There were three riders on each team and American chances were dashed when Lt John Wofford was eliminated. So when Sweden’s Lt Arne Francke suffered the same fate along with all of the Mexicans, no team medals were awarded. But Japanese Baron, Takeichi Nishi, produced a brilliant ride with his French-bred horse to take the Individual honours.

There will be three riders per team this time around as well, so just like back in 1932 when mistakes proved more than costly, there will be no room for error in the team competition, and Individual glory will go to only the best of the best.

How it will play out…

There will be two Individual Competitions and two Team Competitions, taking place on different days.

The first Individual competition takes place on Tuesday 3 August and is a qualifier for the Individual Final the following day. It will be Table A not against the clock and without a jump-off. Athletes will place according to their penalties and in case of a tie they will be separated by the time of their round. If still tied, they will be placed equal.

The Individual Final is open to the 30 best-placed athletes from the first Individual competition and will be Table A, one round against the clock, with a jump-off for the medal placings if there is a tie on penalties. All athletes start on a zero score in the Individual Final and starting order will be in reverse order of merit following the first Individual competition.

The first Team competition is open to 19 teams of three athletes and all teams will start on a zero score. It will take place on 6 August and is a qualifier for the Team Final on 7 August. It will be Table A not against the clock and without a jump-off in the event of equality of penalties for first place. Disqualification of one athlete will result in the disqualification of their entire team.

Team scores will be decided by adding the penalties incurred by all three team members. Athletes who withdraw, are eliminated, or retire from the competition will not be given a score and their team will be placed according to the combined scores of the remaining two team-members. Three-member teams will be placed ahead of teams of two.

The best 10 teams, including those tied for 10th place, will qualify for the Team Final which will be Table A not against the clock over one round with a jump-off in the event of equality of penalties for the medal placings. Starting order will be in reverse order of merit from the first Team competition.

After the first two athletes from each team have competed there will be a compulsory 20-minute break. An intermediate classification of the teams will decide the starting order of each team’s third athlete.

One substitution of an athlete/horse combination is permitted per team. Substitutes are not permitted to compete in a jump-off.

THE FULL LIST here.

FEI Olympic Hub HERE.

by Louise Parkes

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Jung Aims to Make More History with a Hat-Trick of Gold

Germany’s Michael Jung rides his 2019 European Championship horse fischerChipmunk FRH in Luhmuhlen, (GER) and is aiming to make history with a hat-trick gold in Tokyo (JPN). FEI/ Oliver Hardt/Getty Images.

After Germany’s Michael Jung won the second of his two consecutive Individual Olympic Equestrian Eventing titles at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, he was asked what he had next in his sights. “Tokyo 2020 of course, and the Europeans and maybe the world title along the way!” he replied.

He wasn’t joking of course, because the 38-year-old who made Eventing history by becoming the first to hold the European, Olympic, and World Championship titles at the same time is one of the most formidable athletes in all of equestrian sport.

He didn’t make it to the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in 2018 when his horse had an injury, but at the FEI European Championships the following year, he took team gold and was just pipped at the post for the individual title by team-mate Ingrid Klimke.

This is a man who sets the bar really high for everyone else, and if he can do the individual hat-trick in Tokyo, then he will set a new Olympic record. Charles Pahud de Mortanges from The Netherlands came out on top in Amsterdam in 1928 and again at the following Olympics in Los Angeles in 1932, and New Zealand’s Mark Todd won in Los Angeles in 1984 and again in Seoul in 1988. Both riders partnered the same horse on each occasion, the Dutchman riding Marcroix and the Kiwi riding the legendary Charisma.

Jung was also riding the same horse, the mighty Sam, when coming out on top at London 2012 and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. This time around he will partner his 2019 European Championship horse Chipmunk, and the world waits to see what more magic he can bring.

Team silver

He’ll be joined on the German team by two of the three athletes who helped clinch team silver in Rio, Sandra Auffarth (Viamant du Matz) and Julia Krajewski (Armande de B’Neville). However, it is the French who line out as defending team champions, with Thomas Carlile (Birmane), Nicolas Touzaint (Absolut Gold HDC), and Christopher Six (Totem de Brecey) flying the flag for Les Bleus.

The British arrive as reigning world champions with the world number one, Oliver Townend (Ballaghmore Class), number five Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kerser), and number 22 Laura Collet (London 52) in their side, backed up last-minute replacement reserve Ros Canter with Allstar B, the horse she rode to individual gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018. There’s great strength in depth in this selection, while the Irish world silver medallists, and the Kiwi side that includes husband-and-wife Tim and Jonelle Price, also look highly competitive.

But there are further Olympic records hanging in the balance. Australia’s Andrew Hoy, Shane Rose, and Stuart Tinney have 166 years of life experience and eight Olympic medals between them. And 62-year-old Hoy could make Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to win gold medals an incredible 29 years apart. He won his first team gold in Barcelona in 1992 and if he could do it again, he’d break the all-time record set by Hungarian fencer Aladár Gerevich, who triumphed in 1932 and 1960.

Hoy went on to win two more team golds, at Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000, and just by turning up in Tokyo he will set an Australian record with his eighth Olympic appearance since his debut in Los Angeles in 1984 at the age of 25.

Changes

The sport of Eventing has been subject to many changes down the years, and at the Tokyo 2020 Games there will be a new and shorter Dressage test, which will take just under four minutes to complete. The Dressage and Jumping phases will be staged at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre in the city, while the Cross Country action will be held at Sea Forest Park in Tokyo Bay.

Following the Ready Steady Tokyo Equestrian Test event staged at Sea Forest in August 2019, during which an FEI official climate impact study and horse monitoring project took place, the Cross Country course was shortened to approximately eight minutes.

It’s all a long way from the first time Eventing was included in the Olympic programme back in 1912 in Stockholm when the competition began with Phase A, “an Endurance ride over 55km in four hours,” and Phase B, “Cross-country over 5km in 15 minutes with 12 obstacles.”

After a rest day, the all-military competitors then set out to tackle “Steeplechase over 3,500m in 5 minutes and 50 seconds with 10 obstacles,” while on day four there was “Jumping over 15 obstacles up to 1.30m high and 3.00m wide,” before finally finishing up on day five with “Dressage.” From seven starting teams, four completed and Sweden took both Team and Individual gold.

Times have indeed moved on, but the partnership between horse and athlete remains at the heart of equestrian sport, and in Olympic Eventing that partnership is at its zenith.

How it will play out….

The Team and Individual competitions will run concurrently on consecutive days as follows: Dressage test (over two days, 30/31 July), Cross Country test (1 August), and First Jumping Competition (2 August) to determine the Team classification.

The Individual Final Jumping test will take place after the Team Jumping Final on the same day (2 August), with the top 25 battling it out for the medals.

Eventing Dressage and Jumping will both be staged at Baji Koen Equestrian Centre, with horses travelling to Sea Forest Park for Cross Country day.

To enable a finish by just after 11.00, the start time on Cross Country day will be 07.45 JST.

Horses can be substituted for the team competition, and a horse/athlete combination may be substituted by a reserve combination for medical/veterinarian reasons in any of the three tests after the start of the competition.

The top 25 horse/athlete combinations go through to the Individual Final.

The athlete rides the same horse throughout for the Individual classification.

There will be two horse inspections – on 29 July, the day before the Dressage phase begins, and on 2 August before the final Jumping phase takes place.

A drawn starting order will be used for the Dressage and Cross-Country tests but in the final Jumping test horse/athlete combinations will go in reverse order of merit.

The full list HERE.

FEI Olympic Hub HERE.

by Louise Parkes

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – Equestrian Dressage Preview

Celebrating Germany’s 13th Olympic Dressage team gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games: (L to R) Isabell Werth, Dorothee Schneider, Sönke Rothenberger, and Kristina Bröring-Sprehe. (FEI/Richard Juilliart)

Can Germany make it a fabulous 14?

Germany has a long and formidable record in Olympic Equestrian Dressage. Since the team competition was first introduced in Amsterdam (NED) in 1928, when the German side pinned Sweden into silver and The Netherlands into bronze, they have won 13 of the 20 Olympic team contests. And it’s looking very much like gold number 14 is just around the corner.

The loss to Great Britain at London in 2012 was the only blip in an otherwise seamless run that began in Los Angeles in 1984 when the great Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich led the victory gallop. Despite all the disruption of the last 18 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) outbreak in mainland Europe, Team Germany arrive at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as defending champions and strong favourites to do it all over again.

Isabell Werth heads the line-up with the mare Bella Rose and holding the World number one slot. And underpinning the sheer strength of the German challenge, she will be joined by World numbers two and four4, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with TSF Dalera BB and Dorothee Schneider with Showtime FRH. With Helen Langehanenberg and her mare Annabelle in reserve, they seem like an unstoppable force.

However, the three-per team format introduced for this year’s Games could prove highly influential. One off day for just one team member and the story could be very different indeed, because every ride will be critical.

Dynamic duo

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Great Britain claimed silver and The Netherlands took team bronze and this time around the British send the dynamic duo of Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester once again, but both on relatively unexposed horses.

Dujardin’s decision to take the 10-year-old Gio instead of her considerably more experienced 12-year-old mare Mount St John Freestyle, who was in great form at Hagen (GER) in April and who swept all before her at the home international at Wellington (GBR) in May, came as a surprise. But the athlete, whose record-breaking partnership with the now-retired Valegro has helped popularise this sport like few before her, is backed up by the evergreen Hester and Charlotte Fry with Everdale, and she’s always going to be highly competitive.

Edward Gal with Total US and Hans Peter Minderhoud with Dream Boy headline the Dutch team, Patrik Kittel (Well Done de la Roche) leads the Swedish contingent, and Steffen Peters (Suppenkasper) will be a strong anchor for Team USA. Meanwhile, Team Belgium will be making a little bit of Olympic history as they make their first appearance since 1928.

When it comes to the individual honours all eyes will be on Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour and her fabulous horse Bohemian. The pair posted a back-to-back double of wins at the first leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2020/2021 series on home ground in Aarhus (DEN), pinning Germany’s Werth and von Bredow-Werndl into second and third.

But when the Covid cloud broke long enough for another leg to take place in Salzburg (AUT) in January, von Bredow-Werndl showed a whole new level of performance with her 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ gold-medal partner TSF Dalera BB, who has gone from strength to strength ever since. Now this pair looks a real threat to all the rest in the battle for individual Olympic glory.

Less obvious

However, at Olympic Games, the show-stealers are often the less obvious. Australia’s Mary Hanna, whose horse Calanta was the very first to arrive into the stables at Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Tokyo earlier this week, is a case in point. Because equestrian fans all around the world are already putting their hearts behind this mother of two and grandmother of four who, at the age of 66, is tackling her sixth Olympics.

Apart from the Beijing Games in 2008, she has been a member of every Australian Olympic Dressage team since 1996, and that’s quite some record. She’s as proud as ever to be flying her country’s flag alongside Kelly Layne riding Samhitas and Simone Pearce with Destano.

The last time Olympic Games were staged in Tokyo in 1964, Baji Koen was the venue for Dressage, which was a very different sport back then.

In the Grand Prix, the scores were announced after each ride and after the ride-off – which was filmed and then mulled over by judges Frantisek Jandl, Gustaf Nyblaeus, and Georges Margot; the public, the teams, and the media had to wait for two hours before the final results were announced. It should be a bit quicker this time around!

Swiss supremo Henri Chammartin with Woerman was eventually deemed the Individual champion, and the team title went to Germany’s Harry Boldt with Remus, Josef Neckermann with Antoinette, and Reiner Klimke with Dux.

How it will play out….

The FEI Grand Prix test, in which all athletes must participate, will take place on 24 and 25 July and is a qualifier for both the team and individual competitions. The qualification ranking will be decided by the results of all three team members.

Athletes compete in six groups, with three groups competing on each day. The composition of the groups is based on the FEI World Ranking list position of the athlete/horse combination on the date of definite entries (5 July 2021).

The top eight teams in the Grand Prix (and those tied for eighth place) will qualify for the FEI Grand Prix Special on 27 July.

During the period between the Team Qualifier (Grand Prix) and up to two hours before the start of the Team Final (Grand Prix Special), the Chef d’Equipe may substitute an athlete/horse combination. However, the substitute combination will not be entitled to compete in the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.

The FEI Grand Prix Freestyle test is the Individual Final Competition which is open to 18 combinations qualified from the FEI Grand Prix. The qualified athletes will be the top two combinations from each of the six groups and the combinations with the six next highest scores.

The Dressage Tests are the FEI Grand Prix, the FEI Grand Prix Special, and the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Horses Really Can Fly, Even If They’re Not Called Pegasus

Photo: Haneda history-making: the first full cargo load of horses ever to land in Tokyo’s Haneda airport ready for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Equestrian competitions. © FEI/Yusuke Nakanishi.

Can horses fly? Well yes, they can if they’re Olympic athletes!

In a piece of history-making, 36 of them flew into Japan last night – the first full cargo load of horses ever to land in Haneda, the waterfront airport that serves the greater Tokyo area and which is now welcoming a very different group of Olympic athletes.

“To see these horses arriving at Haneda airport is a truly historic occasion, and what makes it even more special is that these are not simply horses; they are Olympic horses,” Administrator of Tokyo International Airport Takahashi Koji said. “It’s a really big night for the airport, and particularly for the cargo team, and we see it as one of the major milestones of the final countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”

The four-legged time travellers are all Equestrian Dressage horses and include some Olympic superstars, among them Bella Rose, the mare ridden by Germany’s Isabell Werth, the most decorated Olympic equestrian athlete of all time.

Also landing at Haneda en route to the stunning equestrian venue at Baji Koen, owned by the Japan Racing Association, is Gio, the ride of double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin (GBR), who will be bidding for a three-in-a-row title in Tokyo.

The 36 equine passengers will be flying the flag for teams from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Portugal, and host nation Japan, as well as individuals from Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, and Morocco. They will be joined by a further group of Equestrian Dressage stars flying into Tokyo.

The first Olympic flight out of Europe saw the horses travelling from Liege in Belgium, where there’s even a special airport horse hotel, flying on an Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777-F to Dubai, a 90-minute refuel and crew change and then on to Tokyo.

From a sustainability perspective, Emirates has implemented a number of initiatives to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions where operationally feasible, including its long-standing operation of flexible routings in partnership with air navigation service providers to create the most efficient flight plan for each flight. The airline, which operates one of the world’s youngest aircraft fleets, also uses advanced data analytics, machine learning, and AI in its fuel monitoring and aircraft weight management programmes.

Like human passengers, all horses travel with a passport. They will already have undergone a 60-day health surveillance period prior to a seven-day pre-export quarantine. They all also have an export health certificate and are thoroughly checked over by veterinarians prior to boarding.

Business class travel

The horses fly two per pallet, or flying stable, which is the equivalent of business class. Their comfort and safety is ensured by flying grooms and an on-board veterinarian. Unlike two-legged passengers, the horses not only get their in-flight meals (including special meal requests of course), but are able to snack throughout the trip, on hay or haylage, except when they are taking a nap.

So as they are flying business class, does that mean the horses get flat beds to sleep in? Although horses might occasionally indulge in a spot of lying down to snooze in the sun at home, they actually sleep standing up. They have something called the “stay apparatus,” which allows tendons and ligaments to effectively lock the knees and hocks (in the hind legs) so that they don’t fall over while they’re dozing off. So there’s no need for flat beds on the flight.

A total of 325 horses will be flown into Tokyo across the two Games and the complex logistics for this massive airlift have been coordinated by transport agents, Peden Bloodstock, which has been in charge of Olympic and Paralympic horse transport since Rome 1960 and is the Official Equine Logistics Partner of the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), global governing body for equestrian sport. Peden Bloodstock became title partner of the FEI Best Athlete Award in 2019.

A convoy of 11 state-of-the-art air-conditioned horse trucks, owned by the Japanese Racing Association, transported the precious equine cargo – and 13,500 kilograms of equipment – on the final transfer from Haneda to Baji Koen where the equine superstars had the chance to settle into their Olympic Athlete Village, a.k.a. the stables.

“Like all the athletes arriving into Tokyo for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the horses are honed and ready to compete on the sporting world’s biggest stage,” FEI President Ingmar De Vos said. “After all the challenges the world has faced, finally we’re almost there and now it’s only a matter of days before we hear those magical words, ‘Let the Games begin!’”

Equestrian sport in Tokyo 2020

A record number of countries – 50 – will be competing in the equestrian events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games following the introduction of new formats that limit teams to three members, meaning that more countries will have the opportunity to compete on the Olympic stage than ever before.

A total of seven countries will be fielding full teams in all three Olympic disciplines, including the host nation Japan. The others are Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, and United States of America.

Unique gender equality

Equestrian is the only sport in the Olympic movement in which men and women compete head to head throughout the Games, making it a totally gender neutral sport. And the FEI doesn’t need a policy regarding transgender athletes as there are no requirements for our athletes to state their gender in order to participate in FEI competitions, or at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Equestrian is not a gender-affected sport that relies on the physical strength, stamina, and physique of an athlete as there are no gender based biological advantages. Success in equestrian is largely determined by the unique bond between horse and athlete and refined communication with the horse.

Sustainability

Sustainability is a key theme across the Games, and equestrian is very much a part of that. In line with Pillar 1 of the IOC Sustainability Strategy: Minimum Environmental Burden, the redevelopment of the Japan Racing Association-owned Baji Koen Park as the equestrian venue for Tokyo 2020 has minimised environmental impact and ensured the legacy of the venue used for the Tokyo Games in 1964.

“The original plan for equestrian put forward by the Tokyo Organising Committee was for a totally temporary venue in the Tokyo Bay area, but when the FEI was consulted on this as an option, we pushed for the alternative which was to re-use the 1964 Olympic equestrian venue at Baji Koen,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez says. “This was the optimal choice from a sustainability perspective as it minimises environmental impact, but it also ensures the legacy of this wonderful venue.”

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic & Paralympic Games (TOCOG) has incorporated a further sustainability initiative into the equestrian venue with the incineration of used bedding from the horses’ stables for power generation.

Aligned with Pillar 2 of the IOC Sustainability Strategy: Urban environment plans harmonising with nature, only native species that integrate well with local flora and fauna have been planted at the Sea Forest cross country venue. This includes the use of a native grass species, Zoysia japonica, for the footing on the course itself.

Click here for more information on Equestrian at the Olympic Games.

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

It’s All Go for Tokyo

Photo: Baji Koen Equestrian Park.

Before the action even begins, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are already unforgettable. Running a year later than scheduled and with multiple challenges along the way, the best of the best are now putting in their final preparations ahead of the Opening Ceremony on 23 July 2021.

It has been a difficult lead-in period, with so many interruptions due to the pandemic that has affected the entire world and the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) impacting Mainland Europe, then this week’s news that there will be no spectators at any of the venues in order to ensure safe and secure Games. But the statistics for equestrian sport are more impressive than ever, with a record number of countries fielding teams and individuals in the three disciplines of Dressage, Eventing, and Jumping.

The Tokyo 2020 sport entries (FEI Definite Entries) reveal that the flags of 50 nations will fly high during two weeks of spectacular sport. A total of 200 athlete-and-horse combinations are listed, along with an additional 48 Alternate/Reserves.

Formats

The new three-member format has changed the dynamic of the team competitions. Not only is the pressure more intense as each individual performance will count for so much, but it has also opened the door for many more countries to take part.

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games a total of 27 nations lined out in Jumping, with 15 of those sending teams, while this time 20 teams and individuals from a further 15 countries will take part to boost the number of National Olympic Committees (NOC) represented in Tokyo to 35. In Eventing the number of participating countries has increased from 24 to 29, with 15 teams compared to 13 in Rio, and in Dressage the numbers jump from 25 to 30 nations and from 11 teams to 15.

Centred

The equestrian events of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be principally centred at Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Setagaya. This is a public park owned by the Japan Racing Association, which was also the venue for Dressage at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games.

Back then Eventing was staged in Karuizawa and Jumping took place at the National Olympic Stadium. For the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the fully refurbished Baji Koen will host Dressage, Jumping, and two of the three phases of Eventing.

Course designer, Derek di Grazia (USA), has spent the last five years creating the Eventing Cross Country course on what was previously a landfill site at the waterfront at Sea Forest with a stunning backdrop of Tokyo Bay and the city. Equestrian shares the venue, which will become a public park after the Games, with Olympic rowing and canoeing.

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad promise to be like nothing that has gone before and equestrian sport is already breaking records.

Media contacts:

Grania Willis
Executive Advisor
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 42

Olivia Robinson
Director, Communications
olivia.robinson@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 35

Shannon Gibbons
Manager, Media Relations & Media Operations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games Competition Schedule for 2021 Confirmed

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) has confirmed the Paralympic Games Competition Schedule for 2021. For Para Dressage, the competition dates have been moved forward by one day so as to mirror the 2020 daily schedule. The Para Dressage events which were due to start on Thursday 27 August 2020 and finish on Saturday 29 August 2020 will now run from Thursday 26 August 2021 to Monday 30 August 2021. There are also some minor modifications to the starting times.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic equestrian timetable for 2021 can be viewed here on the FEI’s Paralympic hub.

Media contact:

Vanessa Martin Randin
Senior Manager, Media Relations & Communications
vanessa.randin@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 73

US Equestrian & USET Foundation Join Giving Games Fundraising Effort Aimed to Support US Athletes

Lexington, KY – US Equestrian and the United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation have announced their joint participation in a collaborative and creative fundraising campaign launched by Olympic & Paralympic National Governing Bodies (NGB) titled the Giving Games. The Giving Games’ ultimate goal is to support and sustain U.S. athletes ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, which have been postponed to the summer of 2021.

U.S. athletes rely heavily on their NGB organizations to financially assist with training and preparation needs, and many athletes are facing financial hardships and challenging obstacles due to the significant number of domestic and international competition cancellations so far this year. Joining 20 other NGBs within the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic movement, US Equestrian and USET Foundation will partake in the multi-week fundraiser beginning Friday, July 24, and running through August 9, 2020, the original window of this summer’s now postponed Games.

The philanthropic effort is multi-faceted with varying donation opportunities, including pooled funds and direct giving opportunities to the USET Foundation. All funds raised will be received via direct donation or equally divided among participating organizations in order to support their athletes’ needs as they prepare for an additional year of training as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic postponement.

Fans and supporters of U.S. equestrian high performance athletes, US Equestrian, and USET Foundation can contribute to the Giving Games in the following ways beginning Friday, July 24:

  • Donate directly to the USET Foundation to help support our equestrian athletes. Every dollar raised up to $50,000 will be matched by a generous supporter of the Foundation, doubling the amount that our equestrians will receive in their quest for the podium in 2021. In addition, donors will have a chance to be entered into the “Medal of Giving” awards, recognizing the top three cumulative donors based on donations received by August 9, 2020.
  • Donate to the Giving Games pooled funds by participating in Giving Game promotions and events which will be launched throughout the promotion period and divided equally amongst participating NGBs.
  • Text ‘GIVINGGAMES’ to 243725.

The Giving Games effort has partnered with notable brands, corporations, and businesses including BuzzFeed and Omaze to create unique and exciting ways for fans and supporters to continue contributing to the Giving Games effort, which will be announced in the coming week.

To learn more about the Giving Games, please visit giving-games.com.

Learn more at www.uset.org.

Contact: Jennifer Wood
jennifer@jumpmediallc.com

FEI Tribunal Dismisses Athlete Appeals on Villeneuve-Loubet Decision

An appeal against the FEI decision to annul results from competitions held in France where Olympic and Longines Ranking points were on offer has been dismissed by the FEI Tribunal.

The appeals by Sri Lanka’s Mathilda Karlsson and Romanian athlete Andrea Herck, which were consolidated by the FEI Tribunal, resulted from the international governing body’s decision in February of this year to retrospectively remove six competitions from three FEI Jumping Events held in Villeneuve-Loubet in December 2019 and a further six competitions from three events at the same venue in January 2020.

The decision was based on the findings from an investigation launched by the FEI after concerns were raised about the integrity of these events. The investigation established that, contrary to the FEI Rules (Article 110.2.3 of the FEI General Regulations), two competitions counting for the Olympic and Longines Rankings were added at each of the three December 2019 events after the respective Definite Entries deadlines. The updated Schedules for these events were submitted by the French National Federation and were mistakenly approved by the FEI.

As a result, and in accordance with Article 112.3 of the FEI General Regulations, the FEI retrospectively removed these additional competitions, meaning that athletes who participated lost their ranking points from these competitions. The decision meant that the Olympic and Longines Rankings were updated, resulting in Mathilda Karlsson dropping from second to seventh in the Group G Olympic Rankings and Sri Lanka losing its Olympic individual quota slot.

Additionally, the FEI established that three of the six events at Villeneuve-Loubet in January 2020 also had two classes counting for Longines Rankings points added after the Definite Entries deadline, again contrary to the FEI Rules. As a result, these additional competitions were also removed retrospectively and athletes that participated lost their ranking points for these competitions. Andrea Herck’s appeal was based on the loss of Longines Ranking points following the removal of the additional competitions at Villeneuve-Loubet.

In its Final Decision, the Tribunal found that the integrity of the sport had been jeopardised and therefore ruled that “justified circumstances” existed which allowed the FEI Secretary General to make the decision to remove the competitions and annul the Olympic and Longines ranking points from these competitions.

The FEI Tribunal, which is an independent body, ruled that the FEI’s decision of 17 February 2020 to remove the competitions was “rightfully taken” and dismissed the appeals. Each party will pay their own costs in the proceedings.

“This is an important decision to ensure the integrity of the sport, and particularly the Olympic and Longines Rankings,” FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibáñez said.

The parties have 21 days from the date of notification (16 June 2020) to appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The full Decision is available here.

FEI media contacts:

Grania Willis
Director Communications
grania.willis@fei.org
+41 787 506 142

Olga Nikolaou
Media Relations Officer
olga.nikolaou@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 56