“The small flame did not lose hope, and just like the cherry blossom buds that are ready to bloom, it was waiting for this day.”
With these words, Seiko Hashimoto, chief of the Tokyo Games’ organising committee, opened the inaugural ceremony of the 2021 Olympic games.
As tough as 2021 will be, watching the torchbearers run through the empty streets of Naraha was a powerful image of hope. A moment to signal that life carries on. The Olympic Games originated in Greece in the 8th century A.D., but it wasn’t until 1894 when the modern version of the games as we currently know them were conceived.
Equestrian sports have been an integral part of the games since the first modern Olympic Games in Paris in 1900, although it wasn’t until Stockholm 2012 when it officially debuted. Only men with military training could participate in equestrian sports back then. It took fifty years for that pre-requisite to be abolished, allowing females and riders without military training to participate.
Following the traditional programme, equestrian sports are divided into three categories, each one with an individual and team competition: Dressage, Jumping and Eventing. Let’s take a look at the top riders to watch in each category at Tokyo 2021…
Tokyo 2021 riders to watch
Yes, we admit, we have a soft spot for Charlotte Dujardin. How could we start a post about top dressage riders to watch without mentioning the reigning champion? Dujardin will run for her third consecutive individual dressage gold with her new mare, Mount St John Freestyle. We wish her the best in these very special Olympic Games.
It won’t be an easy ride for Dujardin (pun intended). She will be competing against Isabell Werth, a legend of dressage since the Olympic Games at Barcelona 1992. Werth carries more Olympic medals than any other rider in Olympic history with 10 medals (six gold, four silver) at five Games.
Lovers of eventing will surely keeping a close eye on Michael Jung. Like Dujardin, he will be seeking his third consecutive gold medal after winning the top prize in London 2012 and Rio 2016. Jung’s equine partner Sam is a wonder. The connection between the horse and the rider is obvious and has yielded outstanding results. Talking about Sam, Jung said: "He is a special personality and a very good friend of me. I think no horse is better than him.” Along similar lines, former German team trainer Christopher Bartle said. “Sam’s heart counts for a lot. He wasn’t born with exceptional ability, but he tries his heart out.” As horse lovers, we relish on stories like this. We can’t wait to see what Jung and Sam are capable of this summer.
Jumping will be thrilling to watch. There are several top riders across multiple nations competing in that discipline who can reach the podium in Japan: McLain Ward, Beezie Maden, Peder Dredricson, Simone Blum, Ben Maher or Martin Fusch, to name a few. Nick Skelton’s retirement in 2017, shortly after winning the individual gold medal in Rio, makes these games particularly exciting for show jumping lovers. Who will take his place as champion remains one of the biggest questions of these games.
Tokyo 2021 events to mark in your calendar
The competition in Equestrian disciplines will take place from 24th July to 7th August 2021. Don’t worry, we’ve listed all events below so that you don’t miss your favourite riders. Don’t forget to bookmark this page!
Sat 24 July
• Dressage Grand Prix Team and Individual Day 1
Sun 25 July
• Dressage Grand Prix Team and Individual Day 2
Tue 27 July
• Dressage Team Grand Prix Special
• Dressage Team Victory Ceremony
Wed 28 July
• Dressage Individual Grand Prix Freestyle
• Dressage Individual Victory Ceremony
Fri 30 July
• Eventing Dressage Team and Individual Day 1 - Session 1
• Eventing Dressage Team and Individual Day 1 - Session 2
Sat 31 July
• Eventing Dressage Team and Individual Day 2 - Session 3
Sun 1 Aug
• Eventing Cross Country Team and Individual
Mon 2 Aug.
• Eventing Jumping Team Final and Individual Qualifier
• Eventing Jumping Individual Final
• Eventing Team Victory Ceremony
• Eventing Individual Victory Ceremony
Tue 3 Aug.
• Jumping Individual Qualifier
Wed 4 Aug. 19:00 - 21:40
• Jumping Individual Final
• Jumping Individual Victory Ceremony
Fri 6 Aug. 19:00 - 22:05
• Jumping Team Qualifier
Sat 7 Aug. 19:00 - 21:30
• Jumping Team Final
• Jumping Team Victory Ceremony
For more detail and updates, visit the official Olympic Games website https://tokyo2020.org/en/schedule/equestrian-schedule