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Looking back at 2021 – with Henrik von Eckermann: “Our success in Tokyo has been great for the status of our sport in Sweden”

Monday, 27 December 2021

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ
“The Olympic Games were of course a highlight for me," Henrik von Eckermann tells about 2021. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Text © World of Showjumping



Olympic team gold medallist Henrik von Eckermann reflects on 2021, a year that the Swedish rider won’t forget any time soon.

“I believe that 2021 is a year that always will be remembered,” von Eckermann says. “The Olympic Games were of course a highlight for me. Winning a gold medal was special, but the way we won it made it even more remarkable – with all the circumstances surrounding us.”

“First of all, it was the first time with the format of three riders per team, so every round counted. During the individual competition, our horses had been jumping clear round after clear round and we were all three in the individual jump-off – and we were all clear in the team qualification that followed. To continue that success to the last day was incredible. There was a little bit of a drama too, when Peder had the last fence down and France suddenly could win it – but then Penelope had a stop, and we had to go into a jump-off against the US as we did at the World Championships in Tryon. But this time, we were last to go and in the end we could bring the gold home.”


Winning a gold medal was special, but the way we won it made it even more remarkable


“You could for sure say that 2021 was the year of King Edward, but I think he has an even better year to come,” von Eckermann says about the incredible chestnut gelding that wrote his name into the history books at the Tokyo Olympics – being one of only three horses that have ever jumped through the Games without knocking down a single pole. “If both he and I can stay healthy, I think there is more in store for him, he has just gotten started. Even if he becomes twelve now, he has not been in the top sport for long. He has still been at a stage where he has been developing; for example, four months ago, in the jump-offs, I could not have approached a wall in full speed, now he takes something like this with all the confidence. Touch wood, if he stays sound, this year was just the beginning for him.”

“Going forward, I did not yet think about how it will feel entering a new year after all that has happened in 2021,” von Eckermann says. “However, there will always be new goals and in 2022 the World Championships are coming up. For sure that will be one of those big goals for the coming year, but I will take it all week by week.”


As riders, we have been fighting for our sport’s status in Sweden


Von Eckermann tells that 2021 marked a year of great change in the general attitude towards equestrian sports in his home country Sweden. “As riders, we have been fighting for our sport’s status in Sweden,” he explains. “When Rolf-Göran Bengtsson won the Jerring Award back in 2012 [Editor’s note: The Jerring Award is a prize for the best sport performance of the year, established by the sport section of the Swedish Radio, decided by an audience vote], there was a huge public discussion about it. Everyone was sort of laughing, making fun of riding – saying how it is not a real sport and that the horses should have the prizes instead. Even in the media, they were making a joke of it. Then Peder won the Jerring Award in 2016 and 2017, and it was still pretty much the same – but there was a small shift, and the attitude started to move slowly in the right direction. Now, with our Olympic team gold, the general attitude in Sweden has changed dramatically: To be fair, I think with our team receiving Bragdguldet this year [Editor’s note: One of the most prestigious annual sporting awards in Sweden, for the most significant Swedish sports achievement of the year], turned it around for good. The press has been writing in a whole new tone, making it sound as if those people who have been making fun of our sport should be ashamed. Even reading the comments, they were mostly positive. All in all, our success in Tokyo has been great for the status of our sport in Sweden.”


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