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Looking back at 2021 – with Peder Fredricson, part two: “I really wish that we could all come together to build our sport to the best it can be”

Thursday, 30 December 2021
Interview

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "For me it is important to think about where we see our sport in the future – where do we want to be in ten or twenty years?" Peder Fredricson says. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

2021 has definitely been Peder Fredricson’s year. The Swedish rider was crowned Olympic team champion, Olympic individual vice-champion, took an individual bronze medal at the European Championships, and, finally, became world no. one. In November, he also received the FEI Best Athlete Award for 2021. 

In the first part of our conversation with Fredricson, the Swedish world no. one spoke to WoSJ about blessings, hard work, goals and how he really benefited from the Covid pandemic, while in this second part, he shares his thoughts on the Olympic format, horse welfare and the future of the sport. Read the first part of the conversation with Fredricson here.

“For me it is important to think about where we see our sport in the future – where do we want to be in ten or twenty years? We have a super chance to build this sport into something great. We are in the unique position that we have the partnership with our fantastic horses, as well as an exciting sport. What we need to address though, is how to make our sport the best in the world. We need to have a goal for where we are heading, a plan on how to get there and of course the welfare of the horses needs to be the main priority on that journey. 

The way I see it, an issue is – like in several other sports – that many of the rules we have today were made for the sport in the landscape it was in ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago, but the world is different now. Everything has changed; not only how we look at sports, but also how we follow the news. Today, the news flow is not what it used to be; there is a demand for instant information and most people don’t take the time to read anymore. With this in mind, I think we need to build a product for today’s media consumption. For television productions, we have to think about factors such as the length and the graphics." 

If we want our sport to grow, we have to make sure that everyone can understand it easily and straight away.

"I have some new horse owners that really love horses, but they are having difficulties to understand and follow our sport. There are competitions in two phases where you take your faults with and sometimes not, winning rounds where you can qualify with faults – or not, sometimes there is a jump-off, and with the team there are sometimes four riders with a drop score, sometimes three riders with no drop score, at the Europeans you have coefficients and for the Globals – is the final in Samorin or in Prague? For us, who are in the sport all the time, it might not be that hard, but for new people it can be really difficult to understand with all the different competitions and formats. 

If someone turns on the TV and jumping is on, they need to instantly be able to understand what is happening – we need commentators that are really good at explaining, easier rules, good graphics – if we don’t, only the very dedicated will watch and we lose new followers and viewers."

If you for example are watching the Europeans, it should not be necessary that you at the same time need a computer to look up the results and make the math for yourself. 

"If we can make our sport easy to understand and exiting to watch, we will have the possibility to sell broadcasting rights, get new horse owners in, new sponsors, so our sport can grow and get up to the level of other sports such as football or tennis. More money would come into the sport, which would benefit not only the riders, but everyone involved – the horses included – and we could bring everything forward. We have to put it all into a bigger perspective. 

In other sports, many high-level athletes have an account with everything settled when they retire – and they retire way earlier than we do. In our sport, we have several riders that have been the best in the world for long periods of time and still they have to work extremely hard every day to survive financially. It is a huge difference between sports that can sell their product and not.

In my vision, I see a sport that is way easier to understand, where we use the same competition rules as often as possible and have a product that suits today’s world to attract more people to watch and join the sport."

So, let us look at all the fantastic possibilities we have and work together towards that goal – not just look at where we are now; we need to look forward and considerall the strengths we have, so we can grow in a positive way. 

"To reach such a goal, we have to make sure that all the changes we are making in our sport are taking us in this direction. With this in mind I think it is extremely important that jumping stays in the Olympics. 

Personally, I’m in favour of the three-rider format for the next Olympics. It makes the sport more interesting to watch and is more fair; the best team onthat day wins. I also like the fact that you can change horses for the second team competition if one horse is not feeling well. It also encourages the Chef d’Equipe to pick horse-and-rider combinations that are able to finish the course in a safe way, which is good for our sport.

What I would like to see though, is a maximum amount of penalties allowed at the Games; if you have four poles down, the judges should ring the bell and the rider would have to leave the ring – just in the same way as the bell ring if you have two refusals. More faults are not good for the horses, the riders, the teams and definitely not for our sport. 

Furthermore, I think we need to change the qualification rules. Riders who can’t jump a 1.60m course with a representative result should not be at the Olympics, and I think this is very important. If you can’t do it before the Games, you can’t do it there!"

To have riders at the Olympic Games who haven’t proven themselves continuously at 1.60m level is not in the advantage of the sport; it makes it impossible to present our sport in a good way. 

"However, to raise the level of the qualification system, we need to find a way so that riders living in countries that don’t have 1.60m competitions, or that can’t get in to four- or five-star shows, actually can test themselves and qualify. It’s a challenge.

The number one priority with everything we do with our horses has to be their welfare."

It doesn’t matter if you ride as an individual, at the GCL with two riders, at the GC Prague Playoffs with three riders or in a Nations Cup with four riders – no matter what you do, the welfare of the horse has to come first, and this is always the responsibility of the rider. 

"In my opinion, the riders can’t blame anyone else or any other factors. 

At the moment everyone is pulling in different directions, and I really wish that we could all come together to build our sport to the best it can be.”

 

 

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