Tokyo Olympics: in horse riding, team spirit first



Before the final event of the eventing – after dressage, cross country, it will be show jumping – Monday August 2, the French are still in the race for bronze, even silver at the Tokyo Olympics. But gold, no doubt promised to the British, seems difficult to imagine for a team united around an objective, the medal, but also by the solidarity linked to the anxiety of an injury.

→ READ. French sportsmen find their colors in Tokyo

“Riding is an individual sport which is practiced twice as a team: there is the one formed by the man and the horse, but also the group spirit between riders. Because everyone knows that everything can stop, for him as for the team, on a veterinary problem ”, explains Sophie Dubourg, director of the France teams in Tokyo.

“My horse has understood everything”

In this sport known as worn, the frame plays a major role, even more important than in other mechanical sports such as motorcycles, cars or sailing. Riders swear by horses, only think about their health. Their first concern when arriving in Tokyo was not their sanitary conditions or the absence of the public, but the way in which their companions traveled (by cargo plane) and are accommodated. “In optimal conditions, with air-conditioned boxes”, reassured Karim Laghouag before the eventing competition. “I am delighted, the horse understood everything, he did everything right”, he said on Sunday 1er August, at the end of the cross, as if he himself had counted the butterflies on the course.

A few days before arriving in Tokyo, Thibaut Vallette’s horse, crowned in Rio in eventing, was injured. And the mount of Thomas Carlile, another major rider of the France team, has developed a disease which forces him and his rider to give up competing. Under these conditions, the bronze would be a great consolation for the French camp and provide an opportunity for Karim Laghouag, initially reservist, to demonstrate this famous team spirit.

“I was at the disposal of the France team but I hoped that they would not need me because there were very efficient pairs at the time of the selection. Being in the team is both a joy and a source of pride, but it also saddens me for Thibaut (Vallette) and Thomas (Carlile) ”, explained the replacement, who finally took to the track.

The team title is the most beautiful

In show jumping (1), the death was less severe, with the exception of the horse health problem of Kevin Staut, member of the Olympic team victorious in 2016. Under the leadership of the very experienced Pénélope Leprévost , the France team is one of the serious candidates for the podium and can even hope to keep its Rio title. In this only 100% mixed sport represented at the games, the Normande is the only one of the jumping team to have already taken part in the Olympic Games, in London and Rio. “I tell anecdotes to my friends, I relax the atmosphere, they are all very strong, in the team event, we can do great things”, she says.

In individual test, the cause seems less understood. The French school has a very good overall level, but the absence of Kevin Staut deprives it of its best chance. Regardless, unlike judo or fencing, the team podium counts more than the individual medal in equestrianism. “Of course everyone wants a medal for them, but our discipline is not just a sport: it is also a sector, breeders, agriculture, underlines the boss Sophie Dubourg. We are nothing without each other and that is why the team title is the most beautiful. “

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