A silent Tokyo may suit Hester

CARL HESTER knows very well that the coming Olympic Games will be rather different to his previous five.

Sark and Great Britain Olympian Carl Hester.
(Picture by Simon Cooper/PA Wire, 29655900)
Sark and Great Britain Olympian Carl Hester. (Picture by Simon Cooper/PA Wire, 29655900)

The man with a golden postbox in Sark is very hopeful of being named next week in Great Britain’s dressage squad for the postponed Tokyo ‘2020’ Olympics, beginning on 23 July.

Olympic selection is an honour that very few Bailiwick competitors – with track and field’s Chalmers brothers also contesting selection this cycle – will ever realise.

But 53-year-old Hester, who has had one foot in Japan’s capital since Team GB qualified for the dressage in 2018, feels heading to the Olympics amid the Covid pandemic would be a particularly ‘unusual feeling’.

‘Since they cannot have crowds, it will be very different,’ he said.

‘The whole ethos of the Olympics is about competing in front of big crowds, and it will be interesting to see who can perform really well without that.’

The GB dressage team have much to live up to, given their shining record of team gold at London 2012 and silver at Rio 2016.

‘We are hoping we can continue with those results,’ Hester added.

And it is here that he admits the lack of crowds may be a blessing in disguise.

This time, both he and fellow GB star Charlotte Dujardin will be riding inexperienced mounts, in Hester’s case bay gelding En Vogue.

‘For those that are inexperienced, crowd noise is daunting,’ he said.

‘My horse is not used to noise and those sort of things – it might actually help my horse.’

Adding to the uncertainty are sweltering temperatures – exceeding 30C – which also mean that the dressage will take place at night.

‘It’s very unusual. It will be six Olympics on six different horses, and the one I am riding this year, I have only been riding for 18 months.

‘Very young, very inexperienced – it’s a bit unknown.’

Hester admitted to feeling sorry for first-time Olympians – potentially including the Chalmers brothers – who have not experienced a Games without restrictions like he has.

But he added in consolatory fashion: ‘It’s still a great honour and you are still one of the best in the world.’

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