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‘We’re only here for one life’: rider who spent weeks in a coma this spring aims for Tokyo Olympics

Spanish dressage rider Juan Matute Guimón, who spent almost a month in a coma this spring having suffered a brain bleed, is targeting the Tokyo Olympics next year.

The 22-year-old was airlifted to hospital in Madrid on 5 May after collapsing while riding at home, and underwent two operations and doctors fought to save his life. He remained in a coma for 25 days, but was able to return home at the start of July, and get back in the saddle on 31 July.

“The Tokyo Olympics is the goal for sure,” Juan told H&H, adding that he also aims to compete at the Spanish championships in September.

“There’s nothing stopping me now, I’m picking up full speed.”

Juan, the son of three-time Olympian Juan Matute snr, represented Spain at the World Equestrian Games in 2018 riding Quantico, the then 12-year-old Fighting Fit gelding with whom he also won individual bronze at the under-25 European Championships in 2017.

He also rode the gelding to a career-best score of 80.51% at the World Cup qualifier in Mechelen, Belgium, in December, and will campaign him for the Spanish Olympic team.

“I had a great winter season – I was getting new personal bests, beating my own records. Quantico is my main horse now and we are aiming for more super results. I’m doing amazingly well at the moment, riding three or four horses each day, going to rehab and physio about four times a week, and it’s looking like I’ll be back to full steam very soon,” said Juan, who grew up in Wellington, Florida, but relocated to Spain in 2018 to be near the hub of the sport in Europe.

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“I’d like to go out to Wellington to do the World Cup shows with a couple of horses. It’s still not easy to travel so we don’t know if we will be able to do as much as I’d like, but that’s the idea. I want to show and prove that we are at that level and of that quality, then I want to shoot for Tokyo, and also compete at Aachen next year.

“I have so many people around me supporting me and reaching out, and sending me messages of motivation; what I can do now is fight to build up strength and go back to doing what I’m best at.”

“It’s important to keep life full and exciting,” he added. “We are only here for one life, and we should never cancel our options.”

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