The Equestrian events in the 2012 Olympics will be held between July 28 and August 9 at Greenwich Park Venue in London; the oldest Royal Park. The three different categories of Equestrian Olympic Games are Dressage, Show Jumping and Three Day Eventing. Hiroshi Hokestue, Ian Millar, and Peter Barry are just some of the notable Equestrian Athletes over the age of 50, competing in Equestrianism this summer. Each of these athletes have the possibility to break world records, and to inspire other older athletes that anything is possible at any age.
This summer, at the age of 71, Hiroshi Hokestu will be one of the oldest Olympians ever to compete at an Olympic Games. The record of the Oldest Olympian goes to Oscar Gomar Swachn, who was 72 years and 10 months when he won a silver medal in Shooting at the 1920 Olympic Games. Hokestu is the oldest Japanese Olympian ever, and he will be the oldest competitor at this Summer Olympic Games. He will be competing against world-class athletes 30 to 40 years his junior in the Equestrian Sport of Dressage. Hiroshi and his horse Whisper qualified for the Olympics this last March, when they won an international Dressage meet in France.
This summer will be Hiroshi’s third Olympic appearance. He competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games in Show jumping (no medals), and was the oldest competitor at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where he finished ninth in the team, and 34th in the individual dressage events. Hideki Yamauchi, executive director of the Japan Equestrian Federation says that, “He has a strong will to improve himself and is never self-satisfied. Hiroshi has never won a medal in any Olympic Games, and he is up against tough competition this summer. The Global Dressage Analyses have predicted Britain, Germany, Holland, Denmark and USA as the top Dressage riders coming to London 2012 based on their past performances.
Hokestu is open to the possibility of competing at the 2016 Games when he will be 75, to become the oldest-ever Olympian. However, it is based on the contingency that he can find a perfect replacement for his horse Whisper, who will be too old to compete in 2016. In a message to motivate older Athletes, Hiroshi says, “Keep the motivation, and you will keep young.”
At the age of 65, Canadian Ian Millar will be entering his 10th Olympic Games this summer which is the record for most Olympic appearances ever. Millar will be the oldest competitor in his Equestrian Division of Show Jumping. Despite participating in 8 previous Olympic Games, Ian Millar won his first Olympic medal in 2008, a team silver. Outside of the Olympics, Millar is a nine-time winner of the Canadian Show Jumping Championship, and has captured six Spruce Meadows Derbies, having won a record 2.2 Million in prize earnings there.
Ian Millar has been a life long lover of horses. In 1971, Millar became a member of the Canadian Equestrian team. He is also Canada’s most medaled equestrian, which includes nine Pan Am Game medals; more then any other show jumper worldwide. He brings extensive experience and skill to the 2012 Olympic Games, as he knows how to read a horse, and figure out the most technical jumping courses.
However, this year the competition will be fierce as there will be 15 countries in action. New nations have joined the sport in recent years, and have taken their place at the top. According to a Jumping Preview, Ukraine and Saudi Arabia appear to be teams to be reckoned with, as well as the British and American teams who have shown to be very strong competitors in the past. Other Show Jumping Professionals have predicted that Great Britain will most likely be in the top six, with Germany,France and the US most likely to fill in the medal places.
When asked if the 2012 Olympic Games will be his last, Millar replied, “I like the idea of Rio in 2016…Its horse dependent, health dependent and desire dependent, but if I’m healthy, strong, and have a good horse, they aren’t going to get rid of me quite yet.”
The challenging sport of Eventing is an Equestrian event that combines Dressage, Show Jumping and Cross Country. At the age of 56, Peter Barry of will be competing with the Canadian Equestrian Team for Eventing at the London Olympic Games. This will be his first major games experience with the team.
Peter Barry lives in Quebec, where with his wife and two children own and operate Maple Hill Farms. Peter got involved in the sport later in life by chance, due to his love of horses, the outdoors and nature. Despite the late start, Peter has excelled quite quickly in the sport. In 2010, Peter and his horse Kilrodan Abbott ended up with a fourth place finish at the CCI Fair Hill International Three Day Event. It was based on that performance that they were added to the 2012 Canadian team short list.
According to a Three Day Eventing Superior, “Peter is one of the few true amateurs left in this sport…He and Kilrodan Abbott continue to improve and it is expected that they will have quite a clear round cross country, and the smile on Peter’s face as they gallop across the finish line will be better than any placing.” Other Equestrian Sport professionals have noted the strength and determination of the British, German and New Zealand teams, and have predicted that they will be in the top three placements.
When asked how he felt being in his fifties and at the top of his game he replied, “You appreciate it more…you realize time is limited, ability is limited…and it makes you appreciate being here more.”
American Equestrian Olypic Competitors
The American Equestrian Team has some notable competitors over the age of 50 that will be competing this summer at the Olympic Games.
At the age of 54, Karen O’Conner will be making her fifth Olympic appearance this year competing in Show Jumping. At one point in her riding career, she was ranked top Equestrian Rider in the world. Along with that she has also been named U.S Female Equestrian Athlete of the year ten times. In the 1996 Atlanta Olympics she won Team Silver, and in the 2000 Olympic Games she received Team Bronze. In 2007, Karen and her horse won Individual Gold, and lead the U.S into Team Gold at the Pan Am Games.
Rich Fellers will be entering his first Olympic Games this year at the age of 52, after finishing fifth in the Olympic Show Jumping team selection trials. Although, he was an animal lover and athlete all his life, he never planned on pursing the Equestrian sport as a career, until his father told him that he would be more successful as an equestrian than building houses as a contractor. Rich will be riding his talented, Irish bred horse named Flexible.
Tina Konyot is a fifth generation horse trainer, and will be competing in Dressage at the age of 50 this Summer Olympic Games. Tina was short listed for the Olympics back in 2000 and 2004, but never made it passed the trials making this her first Olympic Games. She and her horse Calecto V have been a high ranking team since 2007, coming first in eight Grand Prix in 2010.
Jan Ebeling will be competing in Dressage this Summer Olympics at the age of 53, and will be riding a very special horse, named Rafalca. Rafalca is part owned by Ann Romney, the wife of the presumptive Republican candidate for president. Last July, Rafalca and Ebeling came in 28 at the Grand Prix event in Germany, and in April they placed 15, 16 and 17 in a series of Grand Prix events. Quite a few Dressage Professionals consider Rafalca a long shot for the American team, however Rafalca finished third at the Olympic trials, earning a first Olympic spot for 53 year old Jan Ebeling.