Looking back at a very different Olympics we took the opportunity to sit down with Stierna Team riders Rafael Losano and Amanda Brieditis and listen to their thoughts after coming home after their first Olympic experience.
When did you get the information that Rafa was selected to compete at the Olympics?
Rafa got selected to represent team Brazil at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games about a month before the games began. Falula was in great form and we were delighted about the news.
Did you change anything in your training once you got the notice?
However, much you try to keep the same routines in the training and change as little as possible, the last few weeks leading up to the Olympic Games will be different. There is tension in the air, and you want to get every single bit as sharp as you can. You want to gallop the horse that bit faster and further to get them really fit, nail all those dressage moves. It’s a very fine line between doing enough but not too much.
“It’s a very fine line between doing enough but not too much.”
How was the journey over?
The actual journey to Tokyo was long. The horses traveling to Japan needed to be in quarantine for 10 days before flying. Due to COVID-19, our quarantine plans got changed a few times. Plan A was to go to Aachen, Germany, but due to restrictions, the team ended up quarantining at another Brazilian’s gorgeous farm, just up the road from where we live. After a hectic 10 days of training, driving back and forth, running the yard at home, doing multiple Covid tests and vet checks, and of course, lots of barbecues we were finally off. Falula left late one Friday night. We waved them off at around one o’clock in the morning. The horses traveled by truck to Liege, Belgium, where they had nearly 24 hours of stopover before flying to Tokyo. They arrived safely at the Equestrian Park in Tokyo early morning on the following Monday (local time). I, who was grooming for Falula, arrived at the park a few hours after her, after a very smooth and much quicker journey. Another one of the Brazilian horse’s grooms traveled with the horses and took very good care of them on the trip. Rafael and the rest of the riders followed about a day later.
How was the setup once you arrived?
The Equestrian Park was incredible. I don’t even know what to mention first. Every single part of it was amazing. The training facilities were fantastic. There were 5 huge training arenas, one indoor school, a grazing, and cross-country schooling area, a surfaced gallop track, and of course, the main arena. The stable blocks were just as impressive. Huge stables, all floors covered in rubber, washing machines and drying areas in each barn, freezers, toilets, multiple wash bays. Every single building, including the stables, was air-conditioned. As grooms, we were very fortunate with the accommodation provided. Our rooms were brand new, like everything else, and they were located between the stable blocks and the main arena. From our window, we could just about see the main arena and most of the stables. There was a ping pong room, a huge riders lounge, massage rooms, offices, restaurant all within a couple of minutes from our accommodations.
Were you able to move around outside the Olympic Village?
Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed anywhere apart from the Equestrian Park and the Olympic Village. Which meant no opening ceremony and no watching of other sports live. In the rider’s lounge, there were always a few TVs showing sports, so we managed to stay somehow updated anyway.
How was the organization?
We were very impressed with the organization of the part of the games that we got to be a part of. The whole place was always extremely tidy, everything ran very smoothly and there were always very helpful people to ask. A solid proof of great organization was the days when the event horses got shipped out to the Sea Forest the day before cross country. 18 trucks came and picked up all horses plus us grooms. I thought beforehand that this was going to be a right nightmare, but I was completely wrong! Everything was precisely on time and there were always extra hands wherever you looked. The whole movement of around 60 horses to and from Sea Forest went super smoothly.
Two jumps from home Rafa chose to retire, why?
Rafa had done everything he possibly could to arrive at the Games prepared. He set off out of the start box to be competitive. He and his mare started off amazingly in the cross country. He was on the minute markers and Falula was jumping incredibly well. As he was jumping the final water Falula ran out of stamina and Rafa chose to retire. The day of cross country was probably the hottest of the two weeks we were out in Tokyo, if you haven’t been to a hot AND extremely humid place it’s very difficult to understand how it feels. I had no idea until I arrived there myself. 35 degrees hot, no wind, and extreme humidity make it feel like you’re inside a sauna. Even just standing outside in the sun is close to unbearable. After going amazingly well there was not much Rafa could do when he felt his mare dropping behind him. Without the horse there is no sport and Falula’s health is the most important thing. It’s a dangerous sport on the best of days but even more so when the horse is knackered. There was simply no other choice for Rafa than to pull her up.
“Without the horse, there is no sport, and Falula’s health is the most important thing.”
What went thru your mind at that moment?
These games have been Rafa’s dream for many years. I have been lucky to be next to him for the last few and have seen his commitment and hard work from close by. Every single day, he’s had a plan and followed it strictly, he’s been eager to learn more and been a true horseman the whole way. For me, standing on the side, being his biggest fan, it is always a relief to know that he and the horse are safe and sound, but I couldn’t help myself feeling extremely sorry for him. It’s a tough sport and there are so many things that can go wrong.
You did a Vet check both at the Equestrian Park and back home, how is Falula now?
Falula recovered well after the cross country and traveled well back home to the UK. She’s just coming back in to work after a few weeks out in the field with her friends.
Looking back, what are your thoughts now?
Although we didn’t travel home with the end result, we were wishing for we both got a real kick from the games. We learned a lot and are so excited to carry on working hard for the next one! There is nothing else like the Olympic Games.