H&H speaks to Emma Cornish — forge manager at the Tokyo Olympic Games — to find out what goes on behind the scenes at Tokyo, and how she bagged this coveted role…
Emma Cornish is well into her third Olympic Games as forge manager.
“I basically oversee all the farriers,” explains Emma, who works closely alongside Olympic lead farrier Ben Benson, who has been her right-hand man ever since she picked up the role prior to London 2012.
“I run the forge and work with the international farriers, as well as those volunteer farriers who have come over for the Games. The forge is a place for team farriers to touch base, too, and we provide support and assistance whenever is needed. Everything is completely confidential, so the horses can be worked on in a safe, private space.”
The stables open at 6.15am and usually shut at around 10.30pm in the evening, and Emma is on-site for the duration.
“They’re long days, but obviously horses are unpredictable so we need to be on standby,” she says.
Emma got the role ahead of London 2012 “completely by chance”. For the past seven-and-a-half years Emma has been a vet practice manager and was inspired to apply for one of the volunteer positions ahead of the London Games.
“It was something of a fluke,” she explains. “I saw an advertisement on the BBC, which said the Olympics were in need of 70,000 volunteers for the Games so they could put on the greatest show of all time. I was so enthusiastic about it all that I popped an application in.
“I had to provide details about my work experience and relevant history, and suggest everything I could possibly bring to the Olympics. And after a lengthy process they chose me for the specific job of forge manager.
“I still have no idea who chose me for the job. If things had been different I could have been standing on the side of a station ferrying spectators to their seats!”
Compared to London and Rio (2016), Emma says that Tokyo has been different, as you might expect, due to Covid restrictions.
“There was a question mark on if we’d be going for sometime,” she says. “I booked my flights just four weeks before I flew out. I landed here on the 15 July and Ben joined me out here soon after. In previous years we’ve been able to spectate at other sports if we have the time, but this year, due to restrictions, we have to stay in our venue.
“The facilities here are fantastic; they have some amazing permanent facilities, including a vet clinic, and the forge is in a large, temporary marquee-type construction. It’s well kitted out with everything we could possibly need as well as all necessary equipment and supplies. All the team farriers who’ve been around the forge like what they see, too.”
Emma’s day-to-day work is varied and depends on the demands of the day. For Emma, it’s the camaraderie of the games which makes the experience so unique.
“Everything is about teamwork,” she says. “We all have a great bond and are ultimately here with the same aim. I’ve not seen some of the familiar faces you meet and get to know at the big shows for nearly five years now, but you immediately pick up where you left off.
“We have to make sure our communication is clear and concise at all times, though. We’re working with lots of different people from different countries so we need to make sure everyone working on a horse understands everything.
“I’m extremely patriotic so any combination from Team GB get my full support. My favourite Olympic memory was undoubtedly when Team GB won the dressage gold in London; it was absolutely phenomenal.”
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