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At the end of March 2016, with his horse Corbinian, Steve Guerdat won the FEI World Cup Jump-ing Final in Gothenburg (Sweden) with a faultless triple, thus achieving a magnificent double after his victory in the same event in 2015 in Las Vegas, riding Paille de la Roque.
The Swiss rider is now preparing to defend his Olympic title at Rio 2016, preparations that would appear to be going well judging by his victory on Corbinian at the 2016 FEI World Cup Jumping final in Gothenburg.
The son of Philippe Guerdat, a former Olympian himself and France’s current national jumping team coach, the Jura rider’s love for horses dates back to his childhood: “As a young boy, I remember being absolutely fascinated by them,” he said.
Athens 2004 - © Getty Images
He promptly followed in his father’s footsteps, making his Games debut at Athens 2004, where he partnered Olympic as Switzerland finished fifth in the team competition, the same position achieved by Guerdat Sr and his team-mates in Los Angeles 20 years earlier.
Still in his early 20s, the young Swiss rider then began to cement his place in the elite, scoring his first FEI World Cup victories, including an emotional win in front of his own fans in Geneva, and becoming the youngest rider to break into the world top ten at the age of 22.
Riding Jalisca Solier at his second Games at Beijing 2008, Guerdat partnered Christina Liebherr, Pius Schwizer and Niklaus Schurtenberger as Switzerland took bronze in the team event behind USA and Canada. Guerdat then placed tenth in the individual competition.
Beijing 2008 - © Getty Images
A European team champion in 2009, Guerdat switched to the bay-coloured French gelding Nino des Buissonnets two years later. After just missing out on a medal in the team event at London 2012, the partnership clicked in the individual final.
One of only five competitors to go clear in the first round at Greenwich Park, Guerdat then went fastest in repeating the feat in the second round, taking the gold in stunning fashion from the Netherlands’ Gerco Schroder and Cian O’Connor of Ireland and becoming his nation’s first Olympic show jumping champion since Alphonse Gemuseus at Paris 1924.
“It’s a dream come true; it’s something that we’ve worked long and hard to achieve,” he said afterwards. “I was ready to devote even more years to accomplishing my goal, so to have actually done it now is absolutely amazing.
“There’s nothing greater in the world of sport. This is the pinnacle of my career, as becoming Olympic champion was always a dream of mine. It’s fantastic, but I wouldn’t want it to change my life completely. I want to remain the same person, and keep working with my horses so as to enjoy further success.”
An Olympic champion at the age of 30, Guerdat has stayed right on top of his game since his London triumph, and will no doubt be a contender once more when he competes at his fourth Games in Rio in August.
London 2012 - © Getty Images