Olympic Riders Say Sumo Statue Is Spooking Horses

Life-size statue is next to obstacle No. 10
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 4, 2021 1:06 PM CDT
Sumo Statue May Be Spooking Horses in Tokyo
Britain's Harry Charles, riding Romeo 88, competes during the equestrian jumping individual qualifying at Equestrian Park in Tokyo at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Equestrian jumpers aren't keen on surprises. Neither are the horses, and it takes years of training to keep them from getting spooked. But no horse in Tuesday night's Olympic jumping qualifier had ever seen anything like obstacle No. 10. "As you come around, you see a big guy’s (butt)," British rider Harry Charles said. "There's a lot to look at," Ireland's Cian O'Connor added. "It is very realistic," echoed Israel's Teddy Vlock. Riders say a life-size sumo wrestler positioned next to the 10th obstacle on the 14-jump Olympic course may have distracted several horses in qualifying Tuesday night for the individual jumping final, the AP reports. A few pairings pulled up short of the barrier, accumulating enough penalty points to prevent entry into Wednesday's finals.

The statue is positioned to the left of a jump placed in the corner of the arena. Hunched over and seemingly ready to attack, the wrestler is facing away from approaching riders, meaning that when they complete a sharp turn to take on the jump, the first thing horse and human see is the wedgie created by the wrestler's mawashi. "I did notice four or five horses really taking a spook to that," Charles said. Most of the course’s hurdles are decorated with a distinctly Japanese feel—geisha kimonos, a miniature Japanese palace, taiko drums. Vlock said he made a point of trotting his horse to the 10th jump before the runs so the animal could look it over. "It is very realistic," Vlock said. "It does look like a person, and that’s a little spooky. You know, horses don’t want to see a guy, like, looking intense next to a jump, looking like he’s ready to fight you.”

(Read more Tokyo Olympics stories.)

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