south african rider Victoria Scott-Legendre almost didn’t make it to the Tokyo Olympics, not because of a lack of talent, but of money.
Olympic organizers pay to fly in the hundreds of horses participating in the Games. But in the most expensive sport of the Games, it’s up to the athletes to shell out the money for the grooms, food for the animals, airport accommodation and vets for the horses.
“Our sports federation and our equestrian federation cannot afford to give too much to sport like some other federations do, so of course it’s a huge expense for us personally to get here,” said the 32-year-old. years.
In the end, she took the reins to get to Tokyo in an unconventional way. She reduced her team to a trainer and a groom and did not bring a vet.
It also used crowdfunding.
“We were really, really stressed about this and someone offered to do a GoFundMe,” Scott-Legendre said. “We offered 8,000 euros ($ 9,455) and we did it with worldwide support.”
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Equestrian sports are known for their high society followers, such as Queen Elizabeth’s daughter Anne, who represented Great Britain at the 1976 Games in Montreal. This year’s Olympic competitors include Jessica springsteen, daughter of singer Bruce Springsteen, who represents the United States in show jumping.
Two horses from the Swedish team, also contenders for showjumping medals, belong to Charlotte Söderström, daughter of Stefan Persson, billionaire shareholder of the H&M fashion chain.
Others, like the British dressage superstar Charlotte dujardin, have worked their way up the ranks to become high-performance, well-paid athletes. But it can be a financial struggle.
The German Olympic Equestrian Committee is training young riders so that they can meet their financial needs within five years. Julia krajewski, the first woman to win all-around gold at the Tokyo Games, benefited from this program.
Riders generally don’t own their horses, which can sell for five figures or more depending on their level of training.
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Many riders teach horseback riding and train other people’s animals and rely on cash prizes to help with the thousands of dollars for transporting and housing horses and equipment.
“Most of the time, we don’t recoup our expenses just to attend (one) event. So we rely on sponsors or owners. And being a small nation, I’m really struggling to get both,” Scott said. -Legend.
For some, a lucrative day job is the answer. Argentinian obstacle rider José Maria Larocca is a major oil trader for global commodities giant Trafigura and owns three of the four horses his country competes with in Tokyo.
“I need the work to be able to help me support my sport. Argentina is a bit far from the center of sport which is in Europe, it is not so easy to have horses and it would be a bit more difficult [without my job],” he said.
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