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Jessica Springsteen of the US won a silver medal at the Tokyo Games. Picture: REUTERS
Jessica Springsteen of the US won a silver medal at the Tokyo Games. Picture: REUTERS

Paris — Germany and Britain look set to resume their horseback rivalry in the equestrian events at the Paris Olympics with other nations left hoping to pick up the crumbs at the iconic Palace of Versailles.

The two dominant nations of a sport featuring three disciplines — dressage, show jumping and eventing — claimed five of the six titles in Tokyo and London, as well as half of the medals on offer at both Games.

They bagged four of the six golds at Rio in 2016, with France claiming the other two. Germany is the top nation in dressage, while Britain, whose riders occupy eight of the top 10 spots in the world rankings, will be the hot favourites for eventing gold.

They suffered a late setback however, with Oliver Townend, a team gold winner in Tokyo three years ago, withdrawing his main ride Ballaghmor Class due to a lack of fitness after an abscess earlier in the season.

Townend will not make the trip to Paris.

His Tokyo Olympics partner and 2023 Badminton champion Ros Canter, who took over from Townend as world No 1, will instead spearhead the squad with the aim of becoming the first British team to successfully defend the title since 1972.

In dressage, powerhouse Germany are targeting a third consecutive title in the team event with individual defending champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl spearheading their challenge.

Von Bredow-Werndl, who has been performing superbly all season on mare Dalera, earned an automatic spot for the Olympics by winning the German championships in Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle.

“It’s perfect like that. I’m grateful that this decision has been taken for me, so we can really go on the road to Paris,” the World Cup winner said.

The quality of the mounts are vital to success in equestrian events and the best can change hands for tens of millions of dollar.

A reported budget of $500m helped Saudi Arabia secure prized British horses for the 2012 Olympics, where the oil-rich nation won bronze in the team show jumping.

A similar project for Paris allowed the Saudi Equestrian Federation to snap up top British mare Equine America Spacecake at the end of 2022 for Khaled Almobty, who qualified with three teammates for the same event at Versailles.

Since women were admitted to all events in 1964, equestrian has been the only entirely mixed-gender sport at the Olympic Games.

One individual and one team gold medal are up for grabs in all three disciplines and tickets to watch the action play out against the backdrop of the spectacular former royal residence were gone by mid-June.

The one title that might escape the clutches of Germany and or Britain is in showjumping.

Swede Henrik von Eckermann is the clear favourite to win a competition that will again feature Tokyo team silver medallist Jessica Springsteen, the daughter of rock star Bruce Springsteen.

Reuters

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