Tales from Tokyo: the rider receiving Instagram good luck wishes from Bill Gates

  • Not many riders will have over 51,000 likes on an Instagram post from their father-in-law wishing them luck at the Tokyo Olympics – but not many have such a famous father-in-law as Egyptian showjumper Nayel Nassar.

    The 30-year-old rider is engaged to Jennifer Gates, daughter of the entrepeneur and philanthropist Bill Gates.

    “I’m rooting for lots of athletes in Tokyo right now – but none more than my soon-to-be son-in-law, @nayelnassar. Good luck, Nayel!” posted Bill.

    Nayel said that medical student Jennifer has not been able to join him in Tokyo.

    “She’s busy doing rotations in the hospital – she has to take some time off in the fall for our wedding, so unfortunately she couldn’t take time off for this,” he said, revealing she had called him as soon as he came out of the ring after jumping clear in the individual qualifier. “She was over the moon and super proud of me and her horse.”

    Talking about the support he enjoys from his parents-in-law, Nayel said: “They’re amazing, we all do this sport together. It’s such a thrill for all of us to share a passion for these horses and to be able to compete at a high level. We’re all sportsmen at the end of the day and I think Bill’s been an unbelievable supporter for me.”

    Nayel’s ride here is the 13-year-old Igor Van De Wittemoere, who he says usually has too much energy.

    He said: “He has so much blood, too much blood. It’s all about trying to keep it managed a little bit. He’s always kind of on the hand, on the bridle. When you’re off him, he’s very sweet. When you can get him to relax, he’s a wonderful horse, but as soon as you start jumping, he definitely lights up and he gets his adrenaline going and it’s hard to kind of keep it all together without letting him shoot at the fences.”

    However, Nayel had three fences down and a time-fault in the individual final and felt perhaps the horse had tired, saying: “It’s been a lot of jumping – my horse was very fresh in the beginning of the week so I had to give him a little jump before the individual qualifier, so he’s coming up on his fourth day of jumping and felt a little empty to me but, in fairness, he tries his heart out. He always gives his best go and I’m happy that I executed my plan.

    “Obviously it’s not the result we hoped for, but it’s definitely a huge stepping stone and a good learning curve.”

    Nayel will now focus on getting Igor Van De Wittemoere in top form for the first round of the team competition on Friday. It is the first time Egypt has had a showjumping team at the Olympics for 61 years.

    “It’s an honour,” he said. “We have an unbelievable group of riders right now who are based abroad and we get to do the sport at a high level, so we really thought that this was our chance and we didn’t want to let it get away from us. We managed to qualify a team, so we’re just going to try to keep it going and keep spirits high and try to do something right in the team competition too.”

    Nayel is based in Florida in the winter and spends a lot of time in New York in the autumn and spring, as well as competing in Europe in the summer.

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