Five Riders Who Won Despite the Pain

Karim Florent Laghouag and Entebbe De Hus
Credit : Scoopdyga

Wednesday 11 January - 15h37 | Johanna Zilberstein

Five Riders Who Won Despite the Pain

You could call them ‘terminators.’ When the chips are down and victory is on the line, they have the killer instinct. Not even an injury, however uncomfortable it is, can stop them from rising to the occasion. Over the years, there have been different examples of riders whose fractures, fatigue and viruses were just another obstacle to be overcome in the heat of competition. Today, GrandPrix-Replay highlights five elite athletes who battled adversity to shine at big moments. 

Michael Jung and Eric Lamaze

Michael Jung and Eric Lamaze - Five Riders Who Won Despite the Pain

Eric Lamaze and Hickstead
Credit : Scoopdyga

1. Michael Jung (Eventing)

September 6, 2015. Riding La Biosthétique Sam, Michael Jung claims his first victory at the CCI 4* of Burghley in the United Kingdom. The German champion, who had already won almost everything there is to win, had set his sights on adding the British competition — a classic stage of the Grand Slam Eventing circuit — to his collection of titles. 

After falling in the cross-country with FischerRocana, Jung remains unperturbed and goes on to capture the Burghley title with ease before flying off to Blair Castle in Scotland, where the European Championships would take place a few days later. There, Jung takes his chances on the young FischerTakinou (ex-Takinou d’Hulm) and the pair pulls of imperious back-to-back wins in the team and individual competitions. Both gold medals are pocketed without the slightest sign of fatigue or weakness. And yet…

On his return to Germany, Michael Jung, suffering from pain in his tibia bone since his fall at Burghley, is examined by an orthopedist, who discovers that a piece of the bone had been displaced during the accident. A fracture that did not stop the German from conquering Europe, but did send him to the operating room…

2. Éric Lamaze (Show Jumping)

In 2010, as with every year, the best riders on the planet come together at Aix-la-Chapelle in Germany in pursuit of the mythical Grand Prix. Among them, Éric Lamaze. Riding his fabulous Hickstead, the Beijing Olympic Champion of 2008 has a perfect first round before doing it again in the jump-off, taking home the prestigious title.

But Lamaze had certainly had a little accident along the way… “I heard a big crack after the triple in the first round and it really hurt, but I didn’t have time to worry about the pain and my boot fit well,” he explains after his victory. But then the diagnosis comes a few days later: a foot fracture, for which the Canadian star needs an operation. “We’ll put a few screws in and I’ll be back riding in three weeks!”, he insists.

Just in time for the World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky, where Lamaze reaches the final with horse rotation. And his new metallic implants won’t stop him from pocketing the bronze. “My foot is being held in place by a tight band”, comments Lamaze, for whom nothing seems too big of an impediment. 

Nick Skelton and Karim Laghouag

Nick Skelton and Karim Laghouag - Five Riders Who Won Despite the Pain

Nick Skelton and Big Star
Credit : Scoopdyga

3. Nick Skelton (Show Jumping)

La Baule, France, May 2013. The first round of the Grand Prix has just finished. The combinations with clear rounds come back for the jump-off. Among them, Nick Skelton and Big Star. The rider is already known to be gifted, and his horse powerful. The two of them have all the qualities to triumph at the French event. And yet, something seems wrong: the British rider does not give his all out on the course, contenting himself with third place behind France’s Patrice Delaveau on Orient Express*HDC and the Netherlands’ Frank Schuttert on Winchester HS.

At the awards ceremony, Nick Skelton is nowhere to be seen. The truth comes out later: paralyzed in pain, Skelton has been taken to the hospital. It must be remembered that he had broken his neck in a bad fall in 2000, almost leaving him in a wheelchair. Thirteen years later, however, he is competing and still competitive at the highest level. A state of mind which leads him to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where his long comeback would culminate in the most precious medal, gold.

4. Karim Laghouag (Eventing)

Still at the Rio Olympics. The equestrian competitions begin with eventing. Karim Laghouag, a member of the French team, finishes his reprise routine (with Entebbe de Hus) happy for the most part. Yet everything could have gone differently just an hour earlier. 

“Forty-five minutes before taking to the course, I had a minor heat stroke,” Laghouag says. “I had to apply ice, take a shower and get into the shade to cool myself down as much as possible. I also took advantage of the fans in the horse stalls. After fifteen minutes, I already felt a bit better. After, I took Entebbe in the riding school structure where it was bit cooler. I came back out into the sun only ten minutes before competing." 

"This [malaise] happened to me while I was watching other riders. I think I wasn’t aware that I was out in the full sun. It was just a little heat stroke. It’s the first day that has been this hot since our arrival. Normally, it is a little less hot and there is some wind.” 

That being said, the weather conditions would not stop the French Eventers from eventually securing the gold in Rio!

Pénélope Leprevost

Pénélope Leprevost - Five Riders Who Won Despite the Pain

Pénélope Leprevost and French Team in Rio
Credit : Scoopdyga

5. Pénélope Leprevost (Show Jumping)

Another rider crowned Olympic champion this summer in Rio despite an injury. Pénélope Leprevost, a pillar of the French team in spite of worries about the health of her mare Flora de Mariposa, has to have a good ride in the first round as the results will count in the individual competition.

But after a too-strong jump over an oxer by the daughter of For Pleasure, the native of Normandy, France takes a spill. And while the fall is not that dramatic-looking, it will have repercussions. Leprevost ends up contributing to the gold medal victory of the French team two days later, she will learn on her return to France that she is suffering from a thigh tear.

“My fall left me with a strong pain in my right thigh. The medical exams show that I had a muscle tear which will unfortunately keep me out of competitions for several weeks. A bit of rest, and we’ll come back in great shape!” Fortunately a few weeks later, the injury was just a distant memory.


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