Olympic countdown finally on: 200 horses and riders ready to do their best

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Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Setagaya will be the venue of most of the equestrian competitions of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Setagaya will be the venue of most of the equestrian competitions of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. © FEI

Fifty countries and 200 horse and rider combinations are expected to take their places for the equestrian events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which get under way later this month.

Running a year later than scheduled and with multiple challenges along the way, the best of the best are now putting in their final preparations ahead of the Opening Ceremony on July 23.

Most of the equestrian events of the XXXll Olympiad will be centred at Baji Koen Equestrian Park in Setagaya. This is a public park owned by the Japan Racing Association, which was also the venue for dressage at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games. This time, Baji Koen is being shared with Olympic rowing and canoeing

Back then, eventing was staged in Karuizawa and jumping took place at the National Olympic Stadium. For the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the fully refurbished Baji Koen will host dressage, jumping and two of the three phases of eventing.

US course designer Derek di Grazia has spent the last five years creating the cross country course on what was previously a landfill site at the waterfront at Sea Forest with a stunning backdrop of Tokyo Bay and the city. Baji Koen will become a public park after the Games.

It has been a difficult lead-in period, with so many interruptions due to the pandemic that has affected the entire world and the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) impacting Mainland Europe. This was followed by this week’s news that there will be no spectators at any of the venues in order to ensure safe and secure Games. Despite all that,  the statistics for equestrian sport show a record number of countries fielding teams and individuals in the three disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping.

As well as the 200 horses and riders making up the definite entries, there are also an additional 48 alternates or reserves.

The new three-member format has changed the dynamic of the team competitions. Not only is the pressure more intense as each individual performance will count for so much, but it has also opened the door for many more countries to take part. In Tokyo 1964, jumping and dressage teams consisted of three athlete/horse combinations but there were four on eventing teams.

US team member Michael Plumb and Bold Minstrel on the cross-country at Tokyo 1964. The US team won silver.
US team member Michael Plumb and Bold Minstrel on the cross-country at Tokyo 1964. The US team won silver. © FEI

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a total of 27 nations lined up in jumping, with 15 of those sending teams, while this time 20 teams and individuals from a further 15 countries will take part to boost the number of National Olympic Committees (NOC) represented in Tokyo to 35. In eventing, the number of participating countries has increased from 24 to 29, with 15 teams compared to 13 in Rio, and in dressage the numbers jump from 25 to 30 nations and from 11 teams to 15.

Olympic facts and figures

In 1912 in Stockholm, equestrian sport once again became a part of the Olympic Games through the vigorous efforts of Sweden’s Count Clarence von Rosen, who served in the Swedish cavalry and had long been associated with horses.

1912 Olympic jumping gold medalist Jean Cariou (France), riding Mignon.
1912 Olympic jumping gold medalist Jean Cariou (France), riding Mignon. © FEI

Count Von Rosen came up with the three discipline set-up still in force today: Dressage, Eventing and Jumping. Von Rosen ignored driving, polo, vaulting and endurance riding. He also discarded the then very popular high-jump competition because it was mostly professional riders who were involved.

Ian Millar at the Barcelona 1992 Games on Big Ben, whom he also rode at the 1988 and 1984 Olympics.
Canada’s Ian Millar holds the record – 10 – for the most Olympic appearances by any athlete in any sport. He first competed at the Munich Olympics in 1972 and his last Olympic appearance was at London 2012 at the age of 65. He won team silver at the Beijing Games in 2008. He is pictured here at the Barcelona 1992 Games on Big Ben, whom he also rode at the 1988 and 1984 Olympics. © IOC

German teams won team gold in both jumping and dressage at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, while Italy claimed the eventing team title.

Reiner Klimke, riding Dux, helped Germany to team dressage gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964.
Reiner Klimke, riding Dux, helped Germany to team dressage gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. © FEI

French star Pierre Jonqueres d’Oriola won individual jumping gold with Lutteur B, Switzerland’s Henri Chammartin and Woerman took the individual dressage title and Italy’s Mauro Checcoli and Surbean were the individual eventing gold medallists.

Italy won the team eventing title at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, with Mauro Checcoli and Surbean winning individual eventing gold.
Italy won the team eventing title at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964, with Mauro Checcoli and Surbean, pictured, winning individual eventing gold. © FEI

At the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, France won team gold in both Jumping and Eventing, while Germany took the Dressage team title for the 13th time.

US rider Lana du Pont was the first female Olympic eventer, riding Mr Wister to team silver at Tokyo 1964.
US rider Lana du Pont was the first female Olympic eventer, riding Mr Wister to team silver at Tokyo 1964. © FEI

Great Britain took individual gold in jumping – Nick Skelton with Big Star – and in dressage – Charlotte Dujardin with Valegro.

Nick Skelton and Big Star on their way to winning individual gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Nick Skelton and Big Star on their way to winning individual gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016. © FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst

Individual gold in Eventing went to Germany’s Michael Jung with Biosthetique Sam.

Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam.
Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam. © Mike Bain
Tokyo 2020 equestrian statistics:

Jumping: 35 countries, 20 teams, 75 horse/athlete combinations

Eventing: 29 countries, 15 teams, 65 horse/athlete combinations

Dressage: 30 countries, 15 teams, 60 horse/athlete combinations

The Tokyo 2020 sport entries (FEI Definite Entries) also include additional reserve horses and riders.

The 50 NOCs represented in equestrian sport at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Latvia, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Republic of South Africa, ROC, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Taipei, Ukraine and USA.

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