Switzerland’s supreme showjumper
On 8 August 2012 at London’s Greenwich Park, Swiss showjumper Steve Guerdat and his mount Nino des Buissonnets produced two stunning fault-free rides to claim Olympic gold.
Following in his father’s footsteps
“As a young boy, I remember being absolutely fascinated by horses,” said Steve Guerdat, who was
born in the Swiss canton of Jura in 1982. His father Philippe, who competed at the Olympic Games of 1984 and 1988, and has since gone on to coach the Belgian and French show jumping teams, encouraged his son’s interest from an early age. The gifted youngster later began his Professional jumping career in 2000, impressing on the young rider circuit, where he obtained his first significant results.
Olympic debut in Athens
In 2002, Guerdat’s career received a considerable boost when he was invited to join the renowned Dutch stable run by Jan Tops, winner of a team gold medal with the Netherlands at Barcelona 1992. He was then selected for the 2004 Athens Games, where, riding Olympic, he was part of the Swiss quartet that finished fifth in the team jumping event, just as his father had done 20 years before in Los Angeles. Gradually gaining a reputation as one of the world’s most promising equestrians, he enjoyed several successes in the FEI World Cup, the highlight of which was an emotional victory in Geneva in front of a raucous home support. At the age of 22, he became the
youngest jumper to break into the world’s top 10.
Team bronze in Beijing
After having parted ways with Tops, Guerdat switched to Jalisca Solier, the mare upon which he participated in the 2008 Beijing Games. Alongside Christina Liebherr, Pius Schwizer and Niklaus Schurtenberger, he picked up a team bronze medal on 18 August at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, as Switzerland finished behind Canada and USA, who took silver and gold respectively. In the individual jumping, he finished in 10th position.
Part of the Swiss team that emerged victorious from the FEI European Championships in 2009, Guerdat joined the Rütihof stable in Herrliberg (Zurich canton), riding the French gelding Nino des Buissonnets – bought by the stable’s owner, Urs Schwarzenbach – from 2011 onwards. At the London Games the following year, he and his bay-coloured mount got off to a solid start, helping his country to finish fourth in the team event. On 8 August, the Bassecourt native was one of five competitors to incur no penalties in the first round of the individual final at Greenwich Park. In the second round, Guerdat was the only rider to repeat that faultless performance, and having recorded the fastest time to boot, he won a well-earned gold medal, finishing ahead of Gerco Schroder (NED) and Cian O’Connor (IRL), who had to be separated by a jump-off.
Realisation of a dream
In doing so, the Swiss athlete secured his nation’s first Olympic show jumping title 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 in London. “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.”
Title defence in Rio
Having been crowned Olympic champion at just 30, Guerdat still has plenty of years of him. Since his London heroics, he has continued to put in world-class displays, and will undoubtedly be among the favourites at Rio de Janeiro 2016, where he will go in search of a second successive title.