Top Olympic medal contenders ruled out of Tokyo: ‘this is very hard’

  • Leading Olympic showjumping medal contenders Jos Verlooy and Igor have been ruled out of the Tokyo Games owing to injury.

    The pair won individual bronze and were part of the gold medal-winning Belgium team at the 2019 Europeans.

    Jos, 25, who is ranked 18th in the world, said it was the “toughest downer” of his career, but added that he will instead be the Belgian Olympic team’s “biggest supporter”.

    “This is very hard,” said Jos. “If you put everything on the Olympics and then have to cancel less than two months before, you understand that the world is standing still for a while.”

    The pair were part of the Belgian side at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, and British fans will have also seen them in action at Hickstead and Olympia, including a top-10 finish in the 2019 King George V Gold Cup.

    “Everything had gone according to plan so far,” Jos added. “Two weeks ago I competed Igor for the first time [this year] in Sentower in Oudsbergen. I just let Igor soak up the atmosphere there again.

    “The aim was to get him into the rhythm a little more every week, so that he would be fully ready for Tokyo. But then this, out of nowhere. It cannot be grasped.”

    Tokyo would have been Jos Verlooy’s first Olympics and he is now looking ahead to Paris for his debut.

    “I don’t know if I’ll ever have such a top horse again, a horse with which I could certainly have been on the podium,” he added. “I am convinced that Igor should be able to make it to the Paris Games, also because it is close, but by then he will be 16 years old. That’s the [age] limit, after all.”

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    Jos will be competing in the Global Champions Tour at Valkenswaard this week with his other top ride, Varoune, with whom he will also compete in the Polish leg of the Nations Cup (17-20 June).

    “With Varoune we will do everything we can to contribute to a strong performance of the Belgian team,” he added.

    “It is a great pity that Tokyo is not going through for us, but Belgium has an unprecedented wealth with top riders such as Devos, Bruynseels, Guéry and others. I wish the riders who do go to Tokyo every success. I will be their biggest supporter.”

    In a statement on his Facebook page, Jos said this is a difficult time, but they will “never give up and we will never lose hope”.

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