BY SHEHAN DANIEL AT EQUESTRIAN PARK, TOKYO
For Sri Lanka’s Mathilda Karlsson it was fine margins of the biggest stage that led to her elimination from the Equestrian Jumping Individual competition at the Equestrian Park in Tokyo yesterday.
In the flood-lit park, Karlsson and her horse Chopin VA had to navigate 14 obstacles on the event’s course – 13 fences and a water jump, each obstacle depicting a piece of Japanese culture or bearing reference to the Olympic Games – with penalties for added time taken and the failure or refusal to clear jumps.
For Karlsson, it was the latter that ended her campaign early, even before she could complete her run, with her Stallion twice refusing to jump over obstacles which, in this sport, incurs automatic elimination for both rider and horse.
The Stallion cleared the first five obstacles, if not unconvincingly at least cleanly, but pulled out on approaching the sixth obstacle, depicting Goldfish, or Kingyo in Japanese, with the significance being that they are said to have been rare and strange pets to the aristocracy in the 16th century.
Despite having got the horse around to make the jump on the second attempt, and leading the horse over the seventh obstacle, the equine’s refusal to leap over the eighth obstacle, a water jump with pictograms of the sports in the Olympic Games, meant that her run was over. Karlsson said that she was at blame for the mistakes that led to the horse’s refusals, adding that she had expected more out of her debut at the Olympics. “For sure, we are very disappointed at this time. I just came out of the ring, and I was expecting much more. For me, I have one of the best horses in this competition. In this kind of big event, you’re not allowed to make any mistakes, and it was definitely my mistake to put too much leg into the triple bar, before
the [first refusal]. Because he went so high and he lost his balance, and I know that happens when you put too much leg. You get a little in the moment and you want to do the best you can,” she said after her event. That mistake effectively compromised her run, she said.
“After that there was five strides, I should have done six, but it’s a millisecond where you can decide what to do and I went with the five, because that is what it should be. I was too far away and after something like that happens, it’s just impossible to get going again,” Karlsson added.
However, she said, that the experience in Tokyo 2020, would hold her in good stead moving forward. “The experience that we got, I know now so many things that I would have done differently, if I could have had another chance. But I definitely know now that I counted on the right horse, because jumping a track like this, you definitely need a horse like I have. It was just really unlucky, and I would say, maybe a little bit of a lack of experience as well which now we will have for the future. I would definitely do something different,” Karlsson opined. For Karlsson, the journey to Tokyo has been wrought with challenges, from having to make a madcap effort to qualify for the Olympics, only to have her points invalidated making her ineligible to participate.
“Our road was a little different, because I was in the Olympics and then the points were taken back, and mentally that is kind of hard to cope with when you don’t know if you’re going to go or not. My horse never doubted it would go to the Olympics. It’s a good thing he never knew. It’s fantastic to be in the Olympics, this is something I will remember for the rest of my life,” she added.