Jappeloup: from Olympic gold to movie stardom

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A movie about 1988 Olympic champion showjumper Jappeloup and his French rider Pierre Durand is about to be released.

jappaloup1The film, titled “Jappeloup” charts the rise of the pair, including their disastrous 1984 Los Angles Olympics. The movie’s synopsis says that after that event, Pierre Durand nearly quit show jumping altogether and would have if it wasn’t for the support of his wife and father, and Jappeloup’s groom Raphaëlle’s unwavering faith in this small but exceptional horse.

The film was shot primarily on the Spanish island of Mallorca, as well as France and Germany. It has its North American premiere on February 28, and will be released in Belgium and France on March 13.

At the start of the 1980s, Pierre Durand abandoned a promising legal career and threw himself into his true passion, showjumping. With his father’s backing, he gambled everything on a young horse who no one else had any faith in: Jappeloup. He was small, stubborn, and impetuous, with many faults – but a remarkable jumping ability.

Jappeloup, who was only 15.2hh, is now considered one of the greatest showjumping horses of all time. He was from unlikely breeding – by the French Trotter stallion Tyrol II and out of the thoroughbred mare Vénérable (by Oural).

He threw Durand into a jump at the 1984 Olympics, his bridle coming off in the process, and Jappeloup galloped back to his stable. “The story could very well have ended there with public humiliation in a global arena,” the films makers say.

Pierre Durand and Jappeluop at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Pierre Durand and Jappeluop at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. © FEI

Durand eventually started afresh, reconciled with Jappeloup, and they triumphed four years later in Seoul to become Olympic champions.

The screenplay was written by actor Guillaume Canet – a top showjumper as a junior – and he plays the part of Pierre Durand. Veteran actor Daniel Auteuil plays Durand’s father, Serge. Among the minor roles are Donald Sutherland playing John Lester, an American who almost buys Jappeloup for his son for $400,000 after the 1984 Olympics, and Noah Huntley has the part of Joe Fargis, who won Olympic gold on Touch of Class that year.

It is directed by Christian Duguay, a former member of Canada’s equestrian team. Lead actor Guillaume Canet has been so inspired that he has bought a horse and intends returning to competition.

When Jappeloup and Durand won at Seoul, Durand tied the gold medal onto Jappeloup’s martingale for their victory lap.

Jappeloup’s retirement ceremony was held at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but only three years later, he died at the age of 16 of a heart attack.

In 1993, a documentary film was made by Christian Chevreuse on the life of Jappeloup and his career with Pierre Durand.

 

 

A scene from the film Jappeloup.
A scene from the film Jappeloup.