The British squad has never looked stronger but there’s some serious opposition – not to mention the new format – to battle against in Tokyo, says H&H’s showjumping editor Jennifer Donald
AFTER a six-decade long barren spell, British showjumping supporters have been treated to a gold rush at recent Olympic Games, first with the team’s success in London 2012 followed by the emotional scenes of Nick Skelton being crowned individual champion on Big Star in Rio five years ago. But who are our Olympic showjumping medal predictions for Tokyo?
Well, the British Olympic showjumping team is one of the strongest squads we’ve ever seen, with three of the world’s leading riders matched with a heavyweight artillery of horsepower that has become the envy of the world.
This new Olympic three-man team showjumping format where there is no drop score adds a whole new dimension to the sport, making reliability, experience and the ability to keep a cool head under pressure the prerequisites to claiming a medal. There could also be some tactical advantages playing out, with the team medals being decided after the individual honours for the first time. So who will that favour?
Nations such as the US, who are the reigning world champions, Belgium, the recent European gold medallists, and the mighty Germans have the strength in depth to be able to field a trio of top-ranked riders, even though some leading names have been ruled out of this year’s Games.
The Irish Olympic showjumping team heads to Tokyo full of fighting spirit and an enviable camaraderie. They have some new partnerships in the mix, but could well be serious medal contenders.
The Netherlands and Switzerland, too, can boast some of the world’s top riders among their squads and Sweden always seems to come to the fore at championship level. The reigning Olympic champions France will, somewhat surprisingly, come into this year’s Olympics as slight underdogs, missing some of their top performers from recent years. But they should never be underestimated.
But this could well be a year for surprises, thanks to the unpredictability of the new scoring system. Keep an eye out for Brazil, Israel and Egypt; many of their riders are big winners on the US or European circuits. We all saw what the home advantage did to spur on the British contenders in London 2012, so Japan could also finish with one of their best Olympic results.
Without doubt, this year’s Olympic showjumping competition is going to be an intriguing week of top-class sport. And let’s just hope it provides us with plenty to cheer about.
Who are the individual Olympic showjumping medal contenders?
Ben Maher: The reigning European individual silver medalist is heading to Tokyo following a record eight LGCT grands prix wins, plus a brilliant five-star grand prix at Royal Windsor last month. An incredibly reliable pair for the big occasion, Ben believes Explosion W is “one of the best horses of our generation” and who would disagree?
Steve Guerdat: The 2012 Olympic champion thrives in the championship environment and, although recently losing his grip on his long-time reign as the world’s number one, the Swiss rider is in with a shout of a medal on Venard De Cerisy.
Daniel Deusser: The world number one is an exquisite horseman and, with the exceptional mare Killer Queen, they make for formidable opponents. Daniel was part of the German team that won bronze in Rio 2016 but, despite a rich vein of form in grands prix, he has yet to win an individual medal at a championship. He’s in the form of his life right now, though.
Maikel van der Vleuten: The Dutch rider was part of the silver medal-winning team in London 2012 and has plenty of big grands prix to his name, but his top ride Dana Blue was ruled out of the Olympics with a serious injury earlier this year. However, he has more-than-adequate back-up in the form of his brilliant mare Beauville Z, who looks to have found top form again in recent weeks, taking the Netherlands to Nations Cup success in Rotterdam. This pair could spring a surprise.
Edwina Tops-Alexander: Australia’s leading rider is a familiar face on the European circuit and one of the most successful grand prix riders in the world, but has yet to add a championship medal to her glittering CV. She says her 13-year-old mare Identity Vitseroel gives her a “great feeling”. “A gold medal would be amazing, and is certainly on the bucket list,” she says.
Martin Fuchs: The brilliant Swiss rider is the reigning European champion and claimed the individual world silver in 2018, riding his great grey gelding Clooney 51 on both occasions. That kind of record in the major championships makes him a clear favourite. He’s a top-class horseman and appears to bat off pressure.
Laura Kraut: The US team stalwart was part of the squad that won gold at WEG in 2018, as well as being part of the gold medal-winning quartet from the 2008 Olympics. There is always fierce competition for a place on the US team and Laura only teamed up with the brilliant gelding Baloutinue earlier this year, but they hit immediate form, winning a grand prix in Florida, and have been catching the eye ever since. Definitely a combination for the big occasion.
Horse & Hound’s Olympic showjumping medal predictions
For more key stats, plus other riders to look out for, don’t miss Horse & Hound’s ultimate guide to Tokyo, on sale Thursday 15 July
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