Par Rohith Nair
(Reuters) – The postponement of the Olympic Games for a year has turned out to be a disguised blessing for the French equestrian team whose horses were not quite ready to defend their crown at the Tokyo Games this year, said French rider Kevin Staut.
The International Olympic Committee has moved the Games from 2020 to July-August 2021 after the coronavirus pandemic put virtual sport on hold, forcing organizers to cancel, postpone or suspend sporting events scheduled for this year.
Staut, who led France to the team that won gold at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, is locked out in Normandy and the 39-year-old said the additional 12 months gave the team the time to train and prepare their horses for a high level competition.
“To be honest, participating in the Olympics this year was going to be difficult and the horses that had to go were not really ready. It’s a good thing that we have another year to prepare, “Staut told Reuters.
“In France, we are rebuilding our team. We have to stay positive, we still have a year to build a stronger team. The horses that were to leave this year will be the same next year.
“For France, it’s even better because we will have another year of experience. “
It’s a sentiment shared by fellow French equestrian Astier Nicolas, who won gold in the all-around team competition and silver in the individual competition at the Rio Olympics.
“I am one of the lucky ones because my horse is young and strong, so it will only get better next year,” said Nicolas, 31.
Staut says the lockout also gives the horses a little respite, which is used to competing almost every weekend during the busy show jumping season.
“I train horses normally, in flatwork and jumping a bit,” he added. “I won’t say it’s a vacation for the horses but we can slow down a bit and they are also happy. I am lucky to have horses with experience.
“When we know that the first show on our return (in competition) is in two or three weeks, we will improve their training, jump a little higher at home.
“Then we can travel to other stables … to train and skip a class and prepare them. We can return to the normal level of competition we need after one or two shows. “
Staut has 13 horses in his stable near his house, which allows him to work with them on a daily basis.
“Athletes who compete at a high level have their own stables or rent stables … They have enough space to train horses,” he said.
“I am in contact with pilots in other small countries, such as Belgium and Holland. They don’t have as much space as here but it’s okay at the moment.
“We don’t know when the situation could be normal, it could be June or July. We have to be patient. “
(Report by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, additional report by Shadia Nasralla in London; edited by Pritha Sarkar)