Tales from Rio: Zimbabwe’s trailblazer and the horse she was not convinced by

  • Camilla Kruger has become the first person to represent Zimbabwe in an equestrian event at the Olympics Games. She was “excited and proud” after her test on Biarritz, which scored 59.4 penalties for 30th place at the half-way stage of the dressage competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

    It’s been an emotional week already for the 29-year-old, who burst into tears during the opening ceremony.

    “It was an unbelievable feeling to be there and be part of it,” she says. “It was electric and there was so much energy. It was inspiring and it lifts you up.

    Camilla is sporting bright patriotic colours; a tailcoat with loud green lining and a hat with her nation’s flag on it. She also has natty nails.

    camilla kruger

    Camilla Kruger’s patriotic nails

    She is now based in Britain at a swanky yard in East Sussex, but she was born in Zimbabwe and spent six years living there.

    As the country has no formal Olympic equestrian structure in place, horse sport’s governing body, the FEI, played a pivotal role in her road to Rio.

    “The FEI were incredibly helpful to develop south African nations in equestrian sports and I got put forward.

    “My focus was Tokyo 2020, so this is just a bonus. Biarritz is green though and he was a bit overwhelmed out there,” she adds.

    Camilla Kruger ZIM riding Biarritz, during the dressage phase of the Eventing Competition of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Equestrian Eyestrain Centre in Deodoro near Rio, Brazil on 6th August 2016

    Camilla Kruger’s helmet at the Rio Olympics

    “I had to work hard out there. He’s never seen anything like this before though. He’s seen grass arenas, like Blenheim, but nothing with grandstands like this.”

    The horse was sourced by Camilla’s friend Sarah-Jane Knight, who also found Kitty King’s ride Ceylor LAN.

    “I wasn’t actually 100% convinced about the horse when I first saw him,” admits Camilla. “But I thought I’d produce and sell him, but then my other horse, had an injury, so Biarritz stepped up to the mark.

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    “He’s still getting his bearings at this level but he’s such a friendly horse.”

    Looking to the cross-country ahead, Camilla is confident about the track, which is big but technical.

    “I’m going for a fairly steady clear round,” she says. “And Biarritz is good with technical fences. He may not be a Burghley horse, but he’s a technical horse.”

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