Defending Olympic champion Steve Guerdat says he will defend his title at Rio on Nino des Buissonnets, the same horse on whom he won gold at London 2012.
The Swiss rider made the declaration just days after winning his second consecutive World Cup Jumping title, this time riding Corbinian, a horse he described as “very talented but still very green”.
While Usain Bolt hopes do the ‘triple-triple’ in Rio and Mo Farah has targeted a ‘triple-double’, Guerdat is aiming for a more modest sounding ‘double-double’ at this year’s Olympic Games. But should he manage to win a second consecutive gold medal this August, he will be able to boast a unique achievement: defending his Olympic title on the same horse.
Guerdat told reporters at the World Cup Final in Gothenburg in Sweden that he was saving Nino for Rio.
“I’m resting him for the Olympics and that’s why he’s not here,” Guerdat said. “It’s hard not to take your best horse to the World Cup Final, but this is an Olympic year.
“Nino is feeling as good as ever, but he will have special preparation for the Olympic Games, which is the big goal,” Guerdat said.
Frenchman Pierre D’Oriola is the only rider to have won the Olympic individual jumping title twice, but he did it on different mounts, Ali Baba in 1952 and Lutteur in 1964. Guerdat’s three biggest wins have come on different rides: Olympic gold on Nino in 2012, the 2015 World Cup Final in Las Vegas on Albufuehrens Paille and now the World Cup again on the young Corbinian. But he is in no doubt as to which is the best horse.
“Nino is a special horse. You can see it every time he performs,” Guerdat said.
“He doesn’t just win, he wins in a way that only a few horses can win. He over jumps the fences. He’s going to be a legend after he stops competing. I think he’s already a living legend, which is rare in sport. He has a special personality and everybody loves him.”
But, for Guerdat, it is important not to spoil Nino. In his eyes, all horses are equal, and none are more equal than others.
“I try to not do anything different with Nino than with the other horses, because the horses don’t really know what they are, so I want them all to feel good in my stable. Some of them are born with more quality, some of them are born with less, but it’s not their fault. It’s our job to get the best out of them, but the main thing is to take the best care of every single one.”
Guerdat and Nino, who will return to action in the next four to five weeks, had a difficult period last year when the horse tested positive for banned substances, However, a subsequent investigation by the FEI cleared them of any wrongdoing.
Guerdat is now focused on creating Olympic history, and says German duo Christian Ahlmann and Marcus Ehning were among his principal rivals.
“This is a sport in which so many people can win, you see a different winner each week. If I can be at my best and bring the best out of my horse, and have a bit of luck, I’m sure we can beat at least a few of them.
“I know that if I have Nino at his best, I have a chance. But a lot of others also have a chance.”
Having won the Athina Onassis Horse Show in Rio in 2009 and 2012, Guerdat is pleased to be returning to the city for the Olympic Games. And, with or without a gold medal around his neck, he seems certain to enjoy the event.
“I really like Brazil and Rio, I feel good there and I think it’s a lucky city for me,” he said. “I see Brazil as a happy country and I really like the personality of Brazilians. But everybody loves Brazil, they don’t need me to motivate them to go.”