olympics_Equestrian - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA


The Summer Olympics are home to the equestrian events, the only Olympic events where an animal plays a key role. Equestrian is also one of only three Olympic sports where men and women compete against each other.

This popular sport was first featured in the Olympics during the 1900 Paris summer games. At that time, only the individual jumping competition took place, but in 1912, team jumping, team and individual eventing and individual dressage were all added.

Originally, only men were permitted to compete in the events because the riders were required to be commissioned officers. Before the 1932 Olympics, Japan's Takeichi Nishi competed throughout Europe in jumping events riding his favorite horse, Uranus. Nishi spent time in Los Angeles where he became part of the Hollywood social scene. At the 1932 Summer Games in Los Angeles, Nishi earned a gold medal in the individual jumping competition. With strong connections to America, he was devastated when his home country bombed Pearl Harbor. He still felt compelled, however, to serve as an imperial officer in the Japanese Army during World War II and was assigned to Iwo Jima. He died defending Iwo Jima, but there are many different accounts of how he died. Oddly enough, Uranus…his favorite horse, died one week later.   

The restriction banning women and civilian men from competing was lifted just in time for the1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Denmark's Lis Hartel captured the silver medal in spite of the fact that she suffered a polio attack eight years earlier which had left her paralyzed below the knees. The world witnessed the softer side of the competitive games when the gold medalist, Henri Saint Cyr of Sweden, helped Hartel onto the stand to receive her silver medal.  

Greenwich Park will be the site for all of the equestrian events at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Dating back all the way to 1433, it is hailed as the oldest enclosed Royal Park.

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