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2020 Tokyo Olympics in 2021


Compiled by Nancy Brannon; photos courtesy US Equestrian, Shannon Brinkman, and FEI/Christophe Taniére

Postponed from the summer of 2020, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games took place July 25-August 8, 2021, with the coronavirus pandemic still casting a pall over the event. According to Tokyo Olympic official data announced on August 18, 2021, there were 28 athletes confirmed positive for COVID-19, in a total of 544 positive cases, which included games personnel, media, employees, contractors, and volunteers. It was extremely disappointing, to say the least, for athletes who could not compete in the games because of their COVID positivity. Find more information on COVID testing here:

The heat combined with high humidity made competing in the Tokyo Olympics difficult for athletes – both human and equine. CNN reported that temperatures during the Olympics were “90 degrees or higher” and with “humidity values ranging from 66 to 84%,” making the heat index in the “triple digits.”

The Washington Post reported heat index values at 105°F or above as the Olympics neared their end. “Oppressive heat and humidity smothered Tokyo on Wednesday [August 4], ‘torturing the Olympians and volunteers,’ tweeted Sayaka Mori, a local meteorologist. The brutal combination made it feel like 109 degrees during the afternoon.”

Still, the games went on. The equestrian competition began with Dressage, followed by Eventing, and finished with Show Jumping.
Dressage was the first equestrian discipline at the Olympics, from the first horse inspection on Friday July 23 to the Individual Grand Prix Freestyle on Wednesday July 28.

Sabine Schut-Kery (Napa, Calif.) and her Hanoverian stallion Sanceo led with the first ride for the U.S. team on Saturday, July 24. Adrienne Lyle (Wellington, Fla.) and Salvino, another Hanoverian stallion, followed in the first group on Sunday, July 25. Team member Steffen Peters (San Diego, Calif.) and the 13-year-old KWPN gelding Suppenkasper rode at the end of Group F.

Team USA had one of its best days ever, winning Silver medal in Dressage Team Grand Prix Special on July 27, the first team silver Dressage medal in 73 years. First to go for the U.S. was Adrienne Lyle with Salvino, “who is known for his excellent Piaffe and Passage,” explained NBC Olympic commentator Melanie Taylor. The pair scored 2504.0.

Next to go was 56-year-old Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper. “Steffen said he planned to step it up a bit in this Grand Prix Special,” explained Melanie. “This test suits his horse a little better with all the extensions since he’s such a big horse and he can really show off his enormous stride. …The judges want the riders to be brave and take those risks. …The pirouette, the circle executed at the canter, has a radius equal to the length of the horse; that’s how small it is, and a diameter equal to the width of the haunches, so it’s a tiny circle for this 18.2-hand horse.” The pair scored 2558.5.

Steffen was followed by the anchor leg for the U.S., 52-year-old Sabine Schut-Kery and her 15-year-old stallion Sanceo. This was the first Olympics for Sabine. “To me they just exude confidence and calmness,” Melanie commented. “Oh, ho – four nines!” Melanie noted her scores. “And a ten from the Swedish judge on the Passage.” The pair scored 2684.5.

 At the end of competition, Team USA won the Silver medal, with Germany taking the Gold medal and Great Britain the Bronze medal. Individual Gold medalist was Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl riding TSF Dalera (total score 91.732%). Individual Silver medalist was Germany’s Isabell Werth riding Bella Rose 2 (total score 89.657%). Bronze medalist was Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin riding Gio (total score 88.543%). USA’s Sabine Schut-Kery and Sanceo finished in fifth place individually (total score 84.300%). Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper finished in tenth individually (total score 80.986%).

View video highlights of the July 27th Grand Prix Special at:
Eventing got underway on July 29 with the first horse inspection, followed by two days of Dressage on July 30 and 31. As might be expected, Michael Jung of Germany on Chipmunk FRH led Dressage on a score of 21.10. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class sat in second with 23.60 penalty points, and China’s Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro were third on 23.90. USA’s Phillip Dutton and Z were 16th with a score of 30.50; Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF were 20th with a score of 31.10; and Doug Payne and Vandiver sat in 30th place on a score of 33.00.

Cross Country was held at the Sea Forest course on Sunday August 1, with some surprising upsets in standings after it was completed. Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class moved in the first position, still holding just their dressage score of 23.60, while Michael Jung dropped to 10th, adding 11 penalty points to his score (now 32.10). Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville moved up to second, adding just .40 penalty points on their score (25.60), and Great Britain’s Laura Collett on London 52 were now in third  on just their dressage score (25.80). That put Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF in 14th place, adding 3.20 time penalties to score 34.30. Phillip Dutton and Z added 4.80 penalty points to their score, now in 17th place (35.30). And Doug Payne and Vandiver dropped to 23rd, adding 6.80 penalty points to now score 39.80.

The really sad news after cross country was Jet Set’s fatal injury. The 14-year-old gelding, ridden by Swiss rider Robin Godel, tore a ligament in his right front leg when he landed in the final water combination. According to the equestrian federation FEI, “Sadly, ultrasound scans revealed an irreparable ligament rupture in the lower right limb, just above the hoof, and on humane grounds and with the agreement of the owners and athlete, the decision was taken to put the horse to sleep.” It was the first Olympic competition for 22-year-old Godel, who was uninjured.

After cross country, the show jumping phase saw yet another re-ordering of competitors in the Team Final and Individual Qualifier rounds. After the Individual Qualifier, Germany’s Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville took the lead with zero jumping penalties to finish with a score of 25.60. Great Britain’s Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class incurred four jumping penalties move into second place on a score of 27.60. And Great Britain’s Tom McEwen and Toldeo De Kerser moved up to third with zero jumping penalties, still clinging to just their dressage score – 28.90. Andrew Hoy and Vassily De Lassos were in fourth with zero jumping penalties and just his dressage score of 29.60.

Michael Jung and Chipmunk FRH finished in 8th place, no show jumping penalties (32.10). USA’s Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg TSF dropped to 15th place after incurring 4.40 show jumping penalties (38.70). Phillip Dutton on Z and Doug Payne on Vandiver finished in 19th and 20th places, respectively. Dutton had 8 jumping penalties, finishing with 43.30, and Doug Payne had 4 jumping penalties, finishing with 43.80 (29.60).

Eventing finished on August 2, with the Show Jumping Team Final and Individual Jumping Final. Great Britain took Team Gold medal; Australia won Team Silver medal, and France won Team Bronze medal. Germany finished in fourth, New Zealand fifth, and the USA team finished in sixth place.

In Individual medals, Germany’s Julia Krajewski on Amande de B’Neville took the Gold (26.00); Great Britain’s Tom McEwen, on Toledo De Kerser, won the Silver (29.30), and Australia’s Andrew Hoy on Vassily De Lassos took the Bronze, finishing on just his dressage score of 29.60.

Read more Olympic eventing news at: and at
Show Jumping
Show Jumping began on August 3 with the Individual Qualifier. The Show Jumping Individual Final and Final Jump-Off were on August 4.

Catie Staszak, writing for Horse Network, described the jumping test: “Course designer Santiago Varela set a tough test for this Individual Final. The track was big and technical, with little room to regroup and great adjustability required. One particularly grueling test led with a careful combination in which riders jumped in over a wall and out over a plank. Riders then headed directly to a 1.70m wide oxer, seven sweeping strides to the triple combination, followed by the open water. The double at Fence 11 led with a triple bar, while Fence 14 was a careful vertical set on a deceivingly difficult angle, just past the in gate and with a sumo wrestler as part of the standard.

“Just six of the 30 finalists—all returning with blank slates—managed a clear performance, advancing to a final jump-off.” The six were the Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten on Beauville Z (85.31), Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann on King Edward (85.48), and Great Britain’s Ben Maher on Explosion W (85.67) in the top three slots, all with 0 penalties and just tenths of seconds separating them. Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and All In were in fourth position with 0 penalties (86.77), and Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Indiana were in fifth position with 0 penalties (87.22). Japan’s Daisuke Fukushima and Chanyou were in sixth with 0 penalties (87.57).

The jump-off determined the medalists. Staszak described the final run: “Maher and Explosion W took a flyer at the first oxer, and while they took a slightly wider track than the leaders, Explosion’s footspeed quickly closed the gap. The pair took another second off the leading time. While Henrick von Eckermann (SWE) and King Edward, followed by Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) and Beauville Z gave great chase, they could not catch the explosive duo.”

Great Britain’s Ben Maher riding Explosion W was the Individual Gold medalist, finishing the jump-off with 0 penalties and a time of 37.85. Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and All In earned the Individual Silver medal, also with 0 penalties in a time of 38.02. Bronze Individual medalist was the Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten on Beauville Z, also with 0 penalties and a time of 38.90.

An exciting jump-off for the team gold medal between the U.S. team and the Swedish team took place on August 7th; the two teams were tied for first with 8 total penalties each and times of 235.65 (SWE) and 237.20 (USA). Team Belgium was in third place with 12 total penalties and a time of 242.02.

 Laura Kraut and Baloutinue went first for USA. “The jump-off of just eight fences favored the big striding horses,” said commentator Melanie Taylor. Laura and Baloutinue put in a clear, fault-free round in 41.33 seconds.

Next to go was 29-year-old Jessica Springsteen and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve. “This horse is naturally a fast horse,” said Melanie. She was slightly slow to the first fence, but made the inside cut to the second fence, taking it fast and at an angle. She picked up the pace to the next few fences and then “flat out galloped” to the last fence, “and he soars through the air!” said Melanie. She made the second clear round for the team in 42.95 seconds.

Last to go for the U.S. was McLain Ward on Contagious. “It’s tricky to that first fence; you have to angle it a little bit to make that inside cut and then angle that big wide oxer,” Melanie explained. He just rolled a rail on the next-to-last fence, but it stayed up. And with a gallop to the last fence, “He’s done it! Melanie exclaimed. “He has put the pressure on Peder Fredericson, who will be next and last to go.” Ward put in a clear round in 39.92 seconds. “A fabulous performance by McLain and Contagious!” Melanie said.

Team results put the Swedish team in Gold medal position: Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward; Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Indiana; Peder Fredericson and All In. Final score 122.90.

Team USA won the Silver medal: Laura Kraut and Baloutinue; Jessica Springsteen and Don Juan van de Donkehoeve; McLain Ward and Contagious. Final score 124.20.

Team Belgium earned the Bronze medal.

Watch a video of their jump-off performances at:

Find more information about and full results from the Olympic equestrian events at:

Find information about the U.S. Olympic teams at:
Sealy, Amanda and Selina Wang, CNN. 2021. “Heat and humidity make Tokyo Summer the worst in history of Olympics.” July 30.
Samenow, Jason. 2021. “Tokyo faces stifling heat and then a tropical storm as Olympics near their end.” The Washington Post. August 4.

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