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Olympic rider loses nearly five stone to return to the ring six years after retirement

Ludo Philippaerts is back in the saddle nearly six years after he retired, having lost nearly five stone, and intends to go back into the ring.

The Belgian showjumper, who rode at four Olympic Games and 10 senior European Championships, taking individual silver in 2001, and team gold in 1991 on the legendary Darco, retired in April 2015 aged 51.

Ludo wanted to focus on dealing, and the careers of his sons, twins Nicola and Olivier, Thibault and Anthony. But now, having undergone an operation, and lost 30kg, Ludo is “sharper than ever before”, a spokesman for the family said, and he plans to compete at Oliva, Spain, this week.

“Ludo prefers not to use the word ‘comeback’,” the spokesman said.

“After his physical transformation, he decided not only to pass on his experience by theory, but also in practice to his youngest sons Thibault and Anthony. Even though the love for the sport never disappeared, Ludo just rediscovered the pleasure of riding again a few months ago, causing a drive to compete again regularly at smaller competitions.”

Ludo said a ride last autumn brought back his motivation.

“I don’t want to call it a comeback, but I’m eager to start again,” he said.

“I’ve missed that the past five years. When I got back in the saddle in October, the joy of riding came back straight away.

“I’m just having fun, so much that I’d like to compete again. Not for the top sport, but for the pleasure it gives me. I hope that I can enjoy it for a long time.

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“This way, I can coach my sons not only in a theoretical way, but also in practice. We’ll see if I’m still able to show it on the higher fences, I can’t answer that yet.

“Going to shows with nice horses, enjoying myself and supporting my sons at the same time, that’s the goal I strive for.”

Ludo said the “huge transformation” in his weight played its part in his motivation to ride again.

“By ending my career, everything stopped and I put on weight. Half a year ago, I had enough of it, searched for help and became a different person. I’m glad that I took that step. I’m lighter, I feel better and I’m riding every day. I want to keep enjoying it, there’s no ‘must do’ any more, I only want to have fun. Enjoy myself and improve the horses for my kids, that’s it.”

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