Italian Casadei wins equestrian gold with faultless performance
Italian rider Giacomo Casadei won gold on a thrilling day at the Club Hipico Argentino on Saturday 13 October as the young riders make plans to stay united after the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018.
Casadei’s triumphant day ended with a ‘victory bath’ after the gold medallist was carried to the water hazard at the individual jumping course, and thrown in by his opponents.
The quality of riding in the Buenos Aires 2018 individual jumping event had left no margin for error. Sixteen-year-old Casadei had entered the competition ring on Saturday knowing that to win gold his performance had to be both perfect and fast. He delivered.
Thirteen of the 30 athletes had ridden clear in the first round of the competition on Friday, and five, including Casadei, remained perfect after the second round on Saturday, leading to a timed jump-off to decide the medals.
Casadei, riding Darna Z, rode clear, finishing more than two seconds faster than his closest competitor, United Arab Emirates’s Omar Almarzooqi, riding La Corina Lala.
“I am super happy,” Casadei said. “I really didn’t expect this at all.”
His parents had saved for months to make the trip from Bologna to watch their son compete, and the teenager, who had won a silver medal with Europe in the international team event earlier in the Games, acknowledged their support.
Casadei had to endure a nervous wait as both Argentina’s Richard Kierkegaard, on Legolas I and Pedro Espinosa, Honduras, riding Llavaneras Genquina, followed his ride, and he was overwhelmed upon realising he had won.
Silver medallist Almarzooqi was not perturbed about missing out on the gold despite a faultless three rounds. The 15-year-old admitted to being “crazy about horses”, and the opportunity to experience elite competition in Buenos Aires has inspired him to chase other goals in the sport.
It’s taken a really big effort to get here, for my parents and family who support me, but now it feels like everything is worth it.Giacomo Casadei Italy
“I can’t stop. I won’t stop. It’s in my blood,” he said. “If I don’t go to the stable every day, I get worried about why I am not there. I finish school, I go home, and then I go to the stables. I am there every day for three or four hours.”
Espinosa won the bronze medal having collected team gold with North America. Honduras had never won an Olympic medal before this week.
“I hope this does inspire people in Honduras and shows everyone that we can compete in sport at this level. We can achieve great things,” he said.
Espinosa explained many of the riders have now joined a shared WhatsApp group to stay in touch and continue to exchange jokes, jibes and training tips. One day, he hoped, they may meet again at an Olympic Games.
“We were all able to connect, despite us coming from so many different cultures,” he said. “We are all now friends. Even Luciana (Portuguese Athlete Role Model and Olympian Luciana Diniz) is in our WhatsApp group and has been really kind to us. She explained how our mind should work before, after and during competition. I really used what she taught me when competing today.”
The team jumping event earlier in the week in which Casadei and Espinosa had won medals had also gone to a jump-off, with Africa claiming bronze.