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Equestrian sport at the YOG: from family rivalry to unfamiliar horses

Nanjing 2014 Equestrain IOC/Mine Kasapoglu
11 Jun 2018
Olympic News, YOG, Equestrian
From the two sets of twins hoping to represent their country to the riders competing on horses they don’t know, we unveil some of the more unusual facts about the equestrian competition at the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Buenos Aires 2018

Equestrian sport is one of the mainstays of the Olympic Games, and has appeared in every edition since 1912. While there are three main forms of equestrian competition, namely jumping, dressage and eventing, jumping will be the sole discipline at the YOG Buenos Aires 2018; and that’s not the only thing you might need to know before the competition starts…

Riding on borrowed horses
Unlike Olympic equestrian competitions, the athletes don’t get to choose their own horses and instead compete on borrowed animals supplied by the Organising Committee. The horses are assigned by a random draw, and riders have only a few days to forge a partnership, putting the emphasis on pure horsemanship and the athletes’ ability to adapt.

Equal odds

Equestrianism is one of the few sports in which men and women compete on equal terms all the way up to Olympic level. In fact, in the two previous editions of the YOG, the six medals on offer in the individual competition have gone to three female and three male athletes, each gender claiming one bronze, one silver and one gold. It seems equestrianism at the YOG has a history of leading the way when it comes to gender equality. At the inaugural YOG in Singapore in 2010, the equestrian competition provided the setting for Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female Olympic athlete to participate. Not only did Dalma Rushdi Malhas take part in the competition, she returned home with a bronze medal. 

Dalma Rushdi Malhas Dalma Rushdi Malhas - IOC/Richard Juilliart
One-horse town
Each National Federation is allowed to enter only one rider, meaning 30 riders from 30 different National Olympic Committees (NOCs) will compete in Buenos Aires – and 11 of those nations, including Bolivia, Haiti, Jordan and Zambia, will be making their horse-riding debut at the competition, reflecting the increasing accessibility and reach of the sport across the globe. 

Family affair
With only one spot available for each NOC, the competition for selection can be fierce. Imagine, then, how it would feel to be up against your twin brother or sister, which is exactly the challenge facing not only the Kersten twins of the Netherlands, Lars and Niels, but also South Africa’s Hannah and Oliver Garton. This isn’t the only time equestrianism at the YOG has had a twin thing. In 2010, Guatemala’s Stefanie Brand won a bronze medal in the team equestrian event, while her twin sister Isabel competed in the modern pentathlon. 
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