Equine sports at 2021 Tokyo Olympics
There were three Equestrian disciplines scheduled for the Olympics: dressage, eventing and jumping.
As the Olympics 2021 came to close in Tokyo, we watched our favourite riders compete at the equine events. The Olympics were played from 23rd July till August 8, 2021. The games, which had already been postponed from last year, were closed to spectators, as only the officials, coaches and athlete’s families were present in the stands. According to the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI, the international governing body for Equestrian sports), over 11,000 Olympic athletes are expected to take part in the Olympics, out of which the total number of Equestrian athletes were 60 in dressage, 65 in eventing and 75 in jumping.
Most of the Equestrian sports were held at the Baji Koen Equestrian Park, built in 1940 for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games. The park is west of Tokyo and it stages dressage and jumping formats. The third format, the eventing cross country element, was held at the Sea Forest Cross Country Course in Sea Forest Park, Tokyo Bay.
As per Tim Hadaway, FEI director of Games and Championships: “The facilities at Baji Koen, which were the site of the Equestrian (competition) during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, have had extensive upgrades, and it was newly refurbished for the Tokyo Games. It’s easy to access and compact, as spectators are closer to the action in the 9,300-seat stadium.” Australian Olympic-medal winning eventer Andrew Hoy, who competed in Tokyo’s Ready Steady Olympic Test Event last August, agreed that the Equestrian venues were outstanding. He said: “I’ve been to various test events but have never seen any venue so ready 12 months before the Games. The Organizing Committee has taken care of everything—fantastic footing, very good stabling—no stone has been left unturned for the welfare of the horses. The arena surfaces are very good, for training and competition, and the grounds at the cross-country course are fantastic.”
In the middle of the year, heat and humidity was a tough challenge in Tokyo. According to FEI, specialist Dr Marlin had been working for the past three years specifically on Tokyo, reviewing historical climate records, analyzed data collected and conducted a research project on horses competing at the Tokyo test events from last August. The FEI had provided feedback to minimize the effects of heat and humidity on horses, athletes and their entourages, officials, media and spectators.
As per the feedback provided, the stables at both the venues had been installed with air conditioners, and training and competitions were scheduled in early mornings or evenings under the floodlights. Apart from this, there were 24/7 veterinary teams monitoring the horses and the availability of multiple cooling facilities. Proper measures were taken to provide comfort to not only the officials and athletes but also to the support staff.
Overall, there were three Equestrian disciplines scheduled for the Tokyo Olympics: dressage, eventing and jumping. What makes competing in equine sports interesting in Olympics is the involvement of horses as team-mates; second, both men and women feature, competing with and against each other and on equal terms. The thing to watch in 2021 was the change in the formats for the team competition where the individual medals were provided before the team medals. Some interesting landmarks were achieved in the Equestrian events at Tokyo Olympics 2020: Steffen Peters became the oldest US Olympic athlete, at 56 to win a medal. The "Dressage Queen" Isabell Werth won her 11th Olympic medal and has now won a gold medal from four different decades. She later broke her own record and won a 12th medal by bagging a silver in Individual dressage.
Germany’s Julia Krajewski won a historic gold medal as she became the first woman in history to win a gold in individual Eventing. The Equestrian events were very highly anticipated, a total of 8 countries took part including Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden and the United States of America. It was the Germans, who dominated the sport with a total of 4 medals, including 3 gold’s as Britain were 2nd with 5 medals including 2 gold’s. As Germany continued their domination in the sport, Sweden bagged gold in the jumping team final on the final day of Equestrian to become the 3rd country with a gold from the Equestrian events. The Equestrian fans are hoping to see more participating nations in the Paris Olympics 2024 as the sport looks to expand its fan base worldwide.