I Thought Olympic medals would help more: Rio Medallist Speaks Out

Credit : Scoopdyga

Friday 01 March - 23h02 | As told to Lucas Tracol

"I Thought Olympic medals would help more": Rio Medallist Speaks Out

Team gold medal winner and individual silver medalist at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, team bronze medalist at the Malmö Europeans, winner of the 2017 world championship for seven-year-old horses and bronze medalist last year, France's Astier Nicolas wants to shake things up in his sport. The 30-year-old rider based near Deauville in the Normandy region would like to have a stronger string of horses to be able to ensure a constant place at the highest level. GRANDPRIX offered Astier Nicolas a platform to express his views. 

Astier's situation

"Thank-you for giving me a forum to express things which are necessary for a positive continuation of my career. I am indeed looking for an experienced mount at the high level that I could take with me to challenge for the podium at the next Olympic Games and World Championship.

As we know, Vinci de la Vigne was sold in December. We have no regrets; this was a good sale that was planned. Apart from that, there have been no major transfers in my stable this winter, except for some young horses certainly who are extremely promising, but still too inexperienced for major events. I need to attract strong and experienced horses to my stable, to remain among the best. I came back from Rio de Janeiro with two medals (Team Olympic gold and Individual silver), I brought a horse up to the seventh place at the World Equestrian Games (Vinci de la Vigne, in September in Tryon – ed.), but despite this tremendous record, the situation remains complicated. Frankly, Lewis Hamilton did not become Formula 1 world champion last year with a two-horse-power car ... That being said, I would not denigrate the horses I currently have, because I have an extraordinary team... but young! My string today is almost exclusively composed of young horses, of which ten compete in SHF (young horse - ed.) circuit, and four others who are between seven and nine years old." Continued below.

Dreams in sport require investment

"Heading into the Olympics in 2016, I knew I would have to face a renewal of my horse team eventually, but I thought the Rio medals would help me more. I could clearly sense the interest of different owners, some of whom have become real allies in my quest for the very high level. I above all do not want to denigrate what we have built, but excellence is demanding and has a cost.

Our sport costs more and more. Admittedly, eventing is ten years behind show jumping, but are going in the same direction. We are more than ever obliged to work with people who have substantial means to invest. Big titles, a stable that works well, young horses who have performed well – in particular, with a gold and bronze at the Mondial du Lion Young Horse World Champonships – are no longer sufficient. For the very high level, we need financial partners. I am now 30, and at that age, one does not find a million euros under one's pillow.

Very good horses cost money and we must stop making people believe that we will build dreams with a few euros... This is no longer the reality. To be at the highest level, I need an experienced mount that I can take to the top. Such a mount is, despite my titles, inaccessible without the accompaniment of a financial partner.

In France, we have seen stables successfully accompany high level riders in jumping, such as the Clarbec stud farm or the Coudrettes stud farm. We should be inspired by this model for eventing. Moreover, I do not think that we can talk about large differences in profitability between these two disciplines, as ticket prices for the high level in jumping are very high. It is necessary now to turn to people who are passionate about the sport sport if we want to receive support to compete at a very high level. Horse racing can be profitable but sport much less when it not focused on the business side. The price of eventing horses has exploded in recent years. While some countries are always ready to invest for the high level, in France, with the importance of breeding, we are more focused on promotion and marketing. The Anglo-Saxons have a culture of 'pleasure investing' in all sports. They are looking for the thrill of victory and not necessarily profitability. They also understood the benefits in terms of public relations and sports communication."

"It is essential that the Federation is concretely involved"

\"Every winter, I integrate four three-year-old horses into my system, in order to put the odds on my side of having home produced generations. While I started (I\'m only 30 years old), I must obviously be able to rely on horses of high level, and so teach them the skills they lack. Even this system offers no guarantee, as there are sales, injuries, and some horses may disappoint.\"

In this quest for high level horses, the French Federation (FFE) must also mobilize. Among the personalities who follow us closely, I spoke to the national technical director in charge of eventing Michel Asseray and if he lent me a listening ear, it does not fit for the time being, into the scope of the mission which was given to him. The FFE must become more involved, I call on its President and its governing bodies. France must keep ambitions.

I note for example that in Germany horses belong to the federation. This has existed in the past in France, and it could be part of the solution. And without being able to invest, the federation must play with its relationships and its influence to help us more. Although it has sometimes been involved when there have been crises between important owners and riders. who could defend the flag, it is essential that the Federation is concretely involved in this issue more often.

My most experienced horse is Alertamalib\'Or, who is only nine, just like Arpège du Mancel, whom I gained last year. I will try to qualify the first for the European championships by competing at Bramham or Saumur. I also have Babylon de Gamma, bronze medalist at the Mondial du Lion last year. He is an exceptional horse, which I would like to qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo at the end of the year. He would be only nine years old for this deadline, which shows that I\'m in a hurry because I could not give this horse the chance to grow as serenely as he deserves. Thinking of such a young horse for the Olympics shows that I do not have the optimal pick for my career and goals.

I obviously want to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful people who have supported me and continue to help me. But high-level sport is becoming more demanding and success is now based on the notion of team. After Rio, many have reached out to me, especially in Calvados. There was Aliette Forien, a breeder of racehorses and manager of the stud farm of Montaigu who owns half of the shares of Alertamalib\'Or, Pascal Ravery, the owner of Arpège du Mancel, or Jean-Louis Bouchard, a racehorse owner who has four horses with me. Christophe Soumillon also has half of one of my horses, without forgetting Mr. and Mrs. Grivot. I want to thank these great professionals who are first of all great fans of trusting me and continuing to trust me.

I will continue to bring horses to the highest level, but to win the Holy Grail of the Olympic Games or world championships, I need to find this partner ready to give himself,  the means to live the thrill of victory Supreme! \"

To move forward, I must stay in the movement and constantly question myself. In show jumping, my neighbors Penelope and Kevin have changed their horizon (Leprevost and Staut, last year remodeled their systems with new owners, ed) and have not disappeared from the elite. For my part, I did not take part in a CCI 4 * (now called CCI 5 * -L, ed) for a little over a year, and the time I do it again it will be possible to be past two years. My awareness is recent: I want to have an influence on my future, not to suffer. I try to democratize my sport and show its attractions, hoping to touch the sensitivity of a potential partner. Because we are not footballers, and we can not rely solely on traditional sponsors.

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