India will have its first participant in the sport at the quadrennial event after 21 years.
Equestrian is a unique Olympic sport. In this sport, a horse is as much an athlete as its rider. In fact , it is the only existing event at the games that involves an animal. Not only that, but it is also the only Olympic sport where men and women compete together in the same event. Therefore, it is a distinct sport in many ways.
Germany have been the most successful nation at Equestrian. The Germans have claimed a total of 52 medals, including 25 gold. Sweden have won 17 gold medals, whereas France have registered 14 to their name.
Plenty of chances but no finished product
At the Tokyo Olympics, 50 different nations will be participating at the event. Estonia, Israel, Latvia, Luxembourg, Singapore and Sri Lanka will make their Olympic debuts in Equestrian events. The venue for the equestrian events will be the Baji Koen Sea Forest Cross-Country Course.
Types of Events
The Equestrian events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will feature three disciplines for both individual and team events. Let’s take a look at the events that will feature at the mega event.
The Olympic dressage takes place in a flat 20x60m arena. Dressage is the systematic training of a horse to carry a rider with ease and grace. Dressage competitions demonstrate the level of training a horse and rider have attained together.
During the event, the horse is ridden at different paces and different speeds within the arena. The horses will be instructed to fluidly move in straight lines and circles. They will also be instructed to move smoothly and obediently sideways, diagonally and in place. In brief, it is the ballet of horseback riding. The score is based on the accuracy of the movements and artistic impression.
Also known as Showjumping, it tests the ability of the horse and rider to jump over a series of obstacles inside a riding ring. At this event, the horses and riders will be seen jumping over a pre-set course of 10 to 16 jumps that are up to 6’6″ high or wide.
Courses are designed with many tricky turns and colourful obstacles. It is carved out in such a way that it challenges both the mental and physical agility of the horse and the rider. The horse and rider teams must finish within a pre determined time.
Penalties are given for knocking down rails and for other faults. Scores are based on the number of jumps knocked down, falls, touches, refusals to jump and time penalties. The rider with the fewest penalties wins.
Eventing is a test of the skill, versatility, courage, and endurance of the horse and the rider. It takes place over three days and consists of as many disciplines: cross country jumping, dressage and stadium jumping.
The cross-country phase takes place over a course of natural and man-made objects. There can be up to 40 obstacles that horses must jump or go through over the course that is up to four miles long. Scores are based on refusals, coming in under or over a set time and falls of the rider.
Let’s take a look at some of the historic figures in Equestrian at the Olympic Games.
Isabell Werth is the most successful Equestrian of all time. She holds the record for the most Olympic medals won by any Equestrian athlete. The German has six Olympic gold medals and four silver medals in her collection.
She also has five World Cup gold medals, nine World Championships gold medals and 20 European Championships gold medals – which makes her one of the most stellar riders of all time.
Shortly after World War II, Josef Neckermann was sentenced to one year in a military prison. However, he recovered from it and went on to bag six Olympic medals in four different Olympic Games.
Not only that, Neckermann became a member of the West German National Olympic Committee. The West German government also went on to issue a stamp in his honour in 1969.
Hans Gunter Winkler
Hans Gunter Winkler was one of the most popular German athletes during the 1950s and 60s. He is the only showjumper to have won a total of seven Olympic medals (five gold) and to compete and win medals in six different Olympic Games.
Winkler later published numerous books on riding and in 1991 founded the HGW-Marketinggesellschaft, a sports marketing firm that have helped produce various equestrian competitions.
Anky van Grunsven
Anky van Grunsven is a Dutch dressage champion and is the only rider to record three successive Olympic wins in the same event. She achieved the feat when she won the individual dressage events at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 2004 Athens Olympics and 2008 Beijing Olympics.
She also has five silver medals and a bronze medal to her name, taking her total tally to nine Olympic medals. Furthermore, nine dressage World Cup victories confirm her place as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
Voted Rider of the 20th Century by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, New Zealand’s Mark Todd is an inspiration for many across the globe. He is famed for his achievements in eventing and has been inducted into his country’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Todd won his fifth Olympic medal at the 2012 London Olympics. In doing so, he equaled the Olympic record for the longest gap between the first and final Olympic medals, 28 years.
Interesting Olympics trivia
- The equestrian portion of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics took place in Stockholm, Sweden due to Australia’s strict six-month pre-shipment quarantine rules for horses.
- No maximum age limit for the equestrian events makes it an intriguing sport. Due to this, 72-year-old Arthur von Pongracz of Austria is the oldest rider to take part in the Olympics, when he participated in the 1936 Berlin edition.
- Canadian rider Ian Miller holds the record for the most Olympic appearances by any athlete in any sport (10).
- 16-year-old Luiza Almeida of Brazil became the youngest rider of all time, when she took part in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
- Princess Royal was the first member of the British Royal Family to have competed in the Olympic Games when she rode The Queen’s horse, Goodwill, in the three-day equestrian event at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Riders from India at the Olympics
Equestrian is not a very popular sport among Indians. Despite this, some of them have managed to represent the country on the world’s grandest stage. Indrajit Lamba created history when he became the first-ever Indian rider to qualify for the Olympic Games.
He took part in Atlanta in 1996. However, Lamba along with his horse Karishma failed to achieve any ranking. This was followed by Imtiaz Anees, who qualified four years later for the Sydney Games. Anees and his horse Spring Invader finished the contest in the 23rd position.
At the Tokyo Olympics, India will have only its third-ever participant in equestrian sports. 29-year-old Fouaad Mirza is all set to end the long drought. Just like his predecessors, he will take part in individual eventing. However, the 2018 Asian Games silver-medalist will be hoping for a good showing and is aiming to bring back glory to the nation.
He had recently performed admirably well in Baborowko, Poland. The hopes of a nation will be on Mirza as he will try to showcase his equestrian skills, with the entire world watching on.
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