Belgian show jumper Nicola Philippaerts is making his mark in the equestrian world, nine years on from riding to a gold medal in the team event at the YOG Singapore 2010.
The 26-year-old finished third overall on the 2018 Longines Global Champions Tour, which included victories in Portugal and France. The wins qualified Philippaerts, along with 15 elite riders, for the GCL Super Grand Prix final in Prague (Czech Republic), where he finished 11th.
What went so well for you in 2018?
“I had two unbelievable horses in H&M Chili Willi and H&M Harley vd Bisschop – who we sold not so long ago – but I think these two were amazing and we had a great season. Hopefully, we can do the same in 2019, although I think it will be very hard.”
What have you learned from your father Ludo, a four-time Olympian?
“He has always been there for me and my brother. We started very young with some good horses. He has given his experience that he learned over 30 years to us in just a few years. He still comes to important shows, helps us with every detail and gives advice at the right moments.”
What did it mean for you to win gold with Team Europe at the first-ever YOG?
“It was an unbelievable experience. The Olympic Games are the biggest thing that you can achieve in our sport and I’m very happy it turned out so well in Singapore. Martin Fuchs [Switzerland] and I were on the same team with Team Europe and again we’re on the same team now with the London Knights. We’re very close friends. I believe the friendships that you forge at the YOG are friendships that last throughout your careers.”
What did you learn at the YOG?
“If you go to any Olympic Games and watch all the top sportsmen and how dedicated they are to their sports, you can learn something special. Whether it is tennis players or runners, you can observe their attention to detail where centimetres here and there can make a big difference. You admire athletes and watch everything they do. Even simple things like what they eat for breakfast – you see these 2m-tall basketball players eating plates and plates of food. It’s unbelievable, while us riders are really just shrimps there.”
What was the Rio 2016 experience like and what did you take from the YOG in Singapore that helped you?
“After the first experience at the YOG, you are motivated to go to more Olympic Games. Any Olympic Games is just an unbelievable experience. I was in Rio for two to three weeks and it’s amazing how you can see all these different sports at the highest level. You make the time to go and see Usain Bolt run or Michael Phelps swim. Seeing these athletes compete is something special.”
What will it take to qualify for and succeed at Tokyo 2020?
“We first need to qualify for the European Championships and try to get three riders. That will be very difficult. We’re already looking at young horses for Tokyo. Hopefully, I will be there at the start with a good horse. For me and [my brother] Olivier, it is the biggest goal to be there.”