Rio: Family ties

Not only is there a huge range of ages of Olympic equestrian competitors, there are many family connections as well!

Tim and Jonelle: our eventing power couple (Image: Libby Law)
Tim and Jonelle: our eventing power couple (Image: Libby Law)

Horses are often said to be in your blood, and the riders’ entry list for the Rio Olympics proves this to be true; family connections abound, with husbands and wives, life-partners, brothers, sisters and cousins all taking part in the three equestrian disciplines.

Brothers Micheal and John Whitaker have clocked up 12 Olympics between them
British show jumping brothers Micheal and John Whitaker

Brothers Michael and John Whitaker who, after Rio, have between them competed at 11 Olympics, are in the British jumping squad, while the young Brazilian dressage team includes brother and sister Luiza and Pedro Tavares Almeida, with Pedro’s twin Manuel in as the team reserve.

For Switzerland, brothers Ben and Felix Vogg are both in the eventing team, and the Italian eventing brothers are Luke and Pietro Roman.

The German show jumping team have named a brother and sister-in-law: Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Ludger Beerbaum.

There are cousins in the Australian dressage team: Kristy and Lyndal Oatley.

Our very own eventing power couple leads the list of husband-and-wife duos going to Rio: Jonelle Price is on the team and Tim is there as reserve.

Dressage's power couple: Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhoud
Dressage’s power couple: Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhoud from the Netherlands

Dressage and show jumping each have their own power couple; long-time partners Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhoud are both in the Dutch dressage team, and Kevin Staut and Penelope Leprevost are both on the French jumping team.

Show jumping's glamour couple, Penelope Leprovost and Kevin Staut, are on the same team, for France
Show jumping’s glamour couple, Penelope Leprevost and Kevin Staut, are on the same team, for France

But at least they are supporting the same flag; it can’t be easy when your significant other is riding for another nation! This is the case for British dressage rider Fiona Bigwood, who is married to one of the members of the Danish Olympic dressage team, Anders Dahl.

Dressage riders and married couple Anders Dahl (Denmark) and Fiona Bigwood (GBR) will compete against each other
Dressage riders and married couple Anders Dahl (Denmark) and Fiona Bigwood (GBR) will compete against each other

And it’s just as fraught in the Algotsson-Ostholt family – sisters Sara and Linda ride for Sweden in eventing (Linda as reserve), and Sara’s husband Andreas rides for Germany.

There are more family connections yet: Nicola Philippaerts is in the Belgium team for show jumping; his twin brother Olivier was on the long list but didn’t make the cut. The twins’ father, Ludo, competed for Belgium at four Olympics.

German eventer Ingrid Klimke is another rider following the family Olympic tradition; her father, of course, is the legendary dressage master Dr Reiner Klimke.

Amy Millar is riding for Canada in the show jumping. She is the daughter of ‘Captain Canada’ Ian Millar, who had to withdraw from contention due to his horse being injured. Amy is riding at her first Olympics, but has a long way to go before she catches up with her dad – he has ridden at 10 Games!

One of the many things we love about equestrian sport is that not only do men and women compete as equals, but it also brings together athletes of all ages. There are some young riders competing at Rio: the standout is the Brazilian dressage team which has all four members below the age of 25. One of them is the youngest of all the equestrian competitors; Giovana Prada Pass is just 18.

Brazilian dressage rider Luiza Tavares de Almeida is one of the youngest equestrian in Rio (Image: EPA/JOCHEN LUBKE)
Brazilian dressage rider Luiza Tavares de Almeida is one of the youngest equestrians in Rio (Image: EPA/JOCHEN LUBKE)

She will be competing against the oldest equestrian competitor in Rio, our own 62-year-old Julie Brougham, who has set a New Zealand record as a result. Australia has two sexegenarians (that means, people in their 60s!) in its dressage team: Mary Hanna (61) and Sue Hearn (60).

A total of 200 athlete and horse combinations from 43 countries will be competing for the Olympic medals.

Of the three disciplines, the jumping competition is the largest, with 27 countries represented. There are 15 teams, and the individuals bring the total up to 75 combinations.

Eventing has the fewest nations represented with just 24 countries competing. There are  13 teams and 65 combinations.

Dressage has 25 countries represented but the smallest number of teams (11) and combinations (60).

Not long now until it all gets under way!